The architecture and engineering professions lag significantly in representing the constituents they serve. Women, people of color, and people with disabilities continue to be underrepresented in a field where diverse perspectives and ideas are invaluable to the work.
The challenges are varied and potential solutions virtually limitless, but as one architectural firm that values diversity and strives to do better, we are always looking for ways that we can have an impact in our industry and support diversity efforts locally.
Our efforts with the City of Worcester to make the construction of the new Doherty Memorial High School into a “Living Laboratory” is one way to expose a diverse population of students to architecture, engineering and construction. Perhaps the first barrier to entry into the field is a lack of awareness about the opportunities and a general lack of understanding about what the work of architects and engineers actually entails. As a major publicly funded project, Doherty seemed like a perfect opportunity to open the gate to view all that goes into building design and construction. The Living Laboratory initiative that LPA|A is undertaking in partnership with the City of Worcester, Fontaine Brothers Construction, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and others, is providing site tours, programming, and internships to engage students who might not otherwise have exposure to the array of careers across the industry.
We hope that by seeing what the team does and engaging directly with people in various roles designing and building a school in their city, that students can see the possibilities for their own career paths. Bringing diverse perspectives and voices to the industry is a priority for the firm that we know requires commitment and investment.
When we assemble a team for a new project, we draw on our diverse in-house staff and bring in consultants from women- and minority-owned businesses with whom we have long-standing successful relationships. While targets for women and minority owned businesses are a requirement on many of the publicly-funded projects we undertake, we see firsthand how having a diverse team on a project has direct benefits, and have developed excellent working relationships with a highly talented and diverse group of consultants who bring value through their breadth of experience, individual perspectives, and expertise.
There is still so much work to be done to make this industry as diverse and equitable as it needs to be in order to truly reflect, represent, and uplift our communities. Our challenge is to keep pushing forward and finding new ways to get there. The Doherty Living Lab Initiative is one step in the right direction.