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Concordians will play a key role in an $8.6M research partnership to improve the built environment

Stakeholders across civil society, academia, and public and private sectors will collaborate to upgrade quality norms for millions of Canadians
July 21, 2022

Five Concordia researchers are part of a multidisciplinary group that was awarded a combined $8.6 million from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and other partners. Their unprecedented research project will help increase the quality of Canada’s built environment.

Carmela Cucuzzella, professor of design and computation arts, Ursula Eicker, professor of building, civil and environmental engineering, Cynthia Hammond, professor of art history, Meghan Joy, associate professor of political science, and Carly Ziter, assistant professor of biology, make up the university’s team members.

They join researchers from 13 other universities and 68 public, private and not-for-profit organizations from across Canada, as part of the partnership titled Quality in Canada’s Built Environment: Roadmaps to Equity, Social Value and Sustainability.

“Concordia’s involvement in the partnership has been crucial to building this network,” says Cucuzzella, Concordia University Research Chair in Integrated Design, Ecology and Sustainability for the Built Environment and founding co-director of the Next-Generation Cities Institute.

“Our team of five women scholars is a true model for interdisciplinary and critical approaches on issues of quality in the built environment.”

The project will examine new ways to promote equity, diversity and inclusivity in the built environment, identify potential impediments to meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and create clear roadmaps that can help redefine quality in a manner that enhances social value.

On the left, a smiling woman with long, curly, red hair, wearing a white jacket and blue shirt. On the right, a smiling woman with long, curly, blonde hair, wearing red-rimmed glasses, a grey jacket and a blue top. From left: Professors Carmela Cucuzzella and Ursula Eicker.

A unique collaborative format

In addition to university researchers, the partnership brings together citizen groups and representatives from diverse communities, as well as actors in public procurement at all levels of government and quality-assessing organizations such as professional associations and award-granting institutions.

Cucuzzella, who also serves as the partnership’s site coordinator at Concordia and as a member of its steering committee, thinks the project’s record number of participants and its inclusive approach sets it apart from other initiatives.

“Only a partnership process can address such a complexity without falling back into the circles of fragmented expertise,” she says. “Without this cross-sectoral collaboration, we don’t see how the concerns and ideas of a greater variety of citizens can be heard.”

Stakeholders will explore four distinct themes: promoting conversations on spatial justice and quality of life; inclusive design; processes and policies for reinvention; and integrated resilience, material culture and adaptive reuse.

A triptych showing three smiling, young women. From left: Professors Carly Ziter, Cynthia Hammond and Meghan Joy.

Sharing knowledge and resources

The fruit of this collaborative effort will be a bilingual Living Atlas on Quality in the Built Environment, offering open access to “roadmaps to quality” in the form of guidebooks, case studies and other practical resources to be hosted on a digital platform. This partnership is led by the Canada Research Chair in Architecture at the Université de Montreal.

In doing so, the initiative hopes to further strengthen connections, training and collaboration between students and communities of practice across Canada.

While more work remains to be done to address the range of challenges that impact Canada’s built environment, Cucuzzella believes the partnership is an important step in the right direction.

“This is a real start in bringing the concerns of quality in the built environment to the fore through a transparent process and a broad, open debate.”

Find out more about 
Concordia’s Next-Generation Cities InstituteSocial Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Partnership Grants and the Concordia University Research Chair in Integrated Design and Sustainability for the Built Environment.

Learn more about the Atlas of Research on Exemplarity in Architecture and the Built Environment.

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