Emergent Structures

LOCATION: Savannah, Georgia, USA

SUMMARY: Emergent Structures has developed a multi-pronged strategy for construction and demolition waste transformation with localized wealth creation resulting from these material flows. Through on-ground iteration, inclusive design practices, and multi-stakeholder collaboration, we’ve developed the tools, knowledge, and capacity to facilitate the successful application of this process in other cities.

PROBLEM SPACE: “As estimated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, over 230,000 public housing units will be demolished in the next few decades in the U.S. alone. Large municipalities are confronted with managing the material streams resulting from this expensive and destructive endeavor. Along with the significant environmental impacts that this scale of devastation creates, the further disenfranchisement of chronically disadvantage communities will result if the demolition is handled in a business-as-usual manner. Considering a wider angle, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates there are 84 million tons of demolition waste being landfilled in the U.S. annually. This number does not include waste from renovations or construction. And, while the U.S. can be said to have a tragically unique relationship with its built environment, many other countries lack regenerative strategies for managing demolition debris. Governments confronted with these material streams make poor use of them, creating liabilities rather than assets. Everyone suffers the consequences.
Emergent Structures aids municipalities in creating strategies that increase material yields even as they decrease overall costs, all the while enriching public, private, and community interdependence. This consulting endeavor focuses on optimizing the systems within and surrounding the construction industry through innovating relationships.”

SOLUTION: “Ascribing to the emerging Social Labs approach to dealing with complex social challenges, Emergent Structures acts with a focus on generating physical capital, human capital, social capital, and intellectual capital. Over the last 6 years, we have prototyped a suite of multi-stakeholder interventions on a redevelopment project in Savannah, Georgia, then expanded these efforts throughout the city. We have transformed waste streams into structures for low-income communities, tools for vocational training, and objects of wonder (physical capital). We have used deconstruction and construction events to train under-employed people and teach entrepreneurs (human capital). We have brought diverse communities together through the physical manifestation of commonly held values (social capital). And we have co-designed and shared new operational processes with construction companies and municipal agencies (intellectual capital).
Our portfolio (organized within the 3-tier model attached) serves as an a la carte menu for wealth generation and community development, and we run workshops to build capacity and create partnerships that result in tangible assets for numerous stakeholders. We are in the process of co-creating a cloud-based Enterprise Resource System that will make this process more efficient and productive.”