Exploring Equity in Design

KPFF's Design Matters is an event series to deepen our understanding of equity in designing the built environment. The goal is to learn to meaningfully engage as AEC professionals and community members in the rapidly changing landscape in Portland. In an effort to look at equity in our firm, our practices, and our projects, KPFF acknowledges the intersection of our expertise in civil engineering with that of planners, artists, community leaders, and citizens who also contribute to and live within the environments we design. So far, events have been: an inclusion learning lab with Joy Alise Davis of Design Culture Lab and the PAALF, an exercise with James Rojas of Place It! Community Planning, an outing to see the short film “Sista in the Brotherhood” hosted by the Open Architecture Collaborative. The Design Matter series was founded and is curated by Brenan Dwyer of KPFF Civil + Survey.

dm1---cartoon.jpgJoy Alise Davis of the Design Culture Lab
(and now of the PAALF)

November 2, 2016, 12:00 - 1:30pm
Inclusion Learning Lab

Joy presented on the challenges and opportunities of our changing demographics in America, and locally in Portland. By 2060, the country will be roughly 43% white, 13% black, 31% Hispanic, and 8% Asian and 5% labeled “other.” Her presentation centered on ways that planners and designers can use their work to plan for a more harmonious future by being an “Ally for Difference.” She presented three strategies. First, the co-construction of identity, which asks affected groups to imagine and help forge the parameters and their wishes to help them thrive in Portland.  Secondly, the co-design of the public realm, which aggressively advocates supporting difference, especially in the use of and value of public space. Thirdly, she presented the co-configuration of the material environment, which is an aggressive strategy to involve community members, businesses, and minority populations in the design process as stakeholders both with insight and expertise, not as token consultants. Takeaways from this conversation were reminders to identify and include the people for whom we design, use and share data on populations and their needs, and develop long-term relationships. Connect with Design + Culture Lab here.

Joy presents in the KPFF Civil conference room to a packed house of KPFF staff and guests

Some activating phrases and questions from Joy's presentation

James Rojas of Place It! Interactive Community Planning Workshop

April 5, 2017, 4:00 - 6:00pm

James introduced us to a community engagement and visioning tool that provides participants a process to reflect on their values as they relate to a material world or built environment. By using small toys and knick-knacks, we “built” our first memories, and in teams worked to create a “genderless” city. The process gives every person a voice, and every piece of input value, and helps us realize our human attachment to place. The workshop allowed us to find common ground and brought, an emotional, meaningful experience into creating an object. To schedule your own Place It! workshop visit

Principal Curt Vanderzanden poses with James Rojas
and his materials at our Place It! workshop.

A team presents on their "genderless city" design.

Sista in the Brotherhood with Open Architecture at Ankrom Moisan Architects

May 25, 2017

A small group from KPFF attended a screening of the short film “Sista in the Brotherhood” about an African American woman in construction. The director, Dawn Jones Redstone, who is a gay Latina filmmaker and former tradeswoman was in attendance with another tradeswoman, who answered questions about the industry, their experiences, and the film. Learn more about the film here.

AIA ForWARD Conference 

Images from the day of speakers, activities, and networking at the AIA Future Vision Conference.

As a representative of KPFF, Brenan attended a one-day conference hosted by the AIA ForWARD committee that presented the results of the 2016 Equity in Architecture Survey and asked why women are underrepresented in the A/E industry. Programming focused on pinch points for growth in leadership for women, and how those pinch points more dramatically affect women and other people of color. Some important takeaways illuminated that firm leadership can dramatically increase retention of women and people of color by articulating clear evaluation criteria, providing mentorship and career guidance, valuing entry- and lower-level professionals, and committing to transparency in areas such as pay, promotions, and hiring. The conference also featured fascinating discussions by local area architectural firms on positive changes they’ve made to support more women and people of color in their industry, an introduction to unconscious bias, and crowd-sourced resource guide. More information on the survey that was presented is available here.

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