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A new group of experts wants to eradicate modern slavery in the built environment

Led by Sharon Prince and Bill Menking, a working group of industry professionals is raising awareness on forced labor and aiming to build a LEED-like score sheet to evaluate its role in buildings and products.

The Grace Farms Foundation Architecture + Construction Working Group aims to expose modern slavery within architecture, construction, and manufacturing. (Courtesy Petros N. Zouzoulas/Creative Commons)
The Grace Farms Foundation Architecture + Construction Working Group aims to expose modern slavery within architecture, construction, and manufacturing. (Courtesy Petros N. Zouzoulas/Creative Commons)

By Sydney Franklin

This article appears in the September print edition of The Architect’s Newspaper.

The 2018 Global Slavery Index estimated that 24.9 million people around the world are enslaved in forced labor. Although the practice underpins much of the global 21st-century building economy—for example, the index noted that of all imports to the United States that are at risk of being produced under conditions of modern slavery, timber was the fifth largest by value—its invisibility to many in the U.S. has kept the issue from attracting widespread professional attention.

But as consumers become more concerned with where their pants are being made, who grows their coffee beans, and their electricity use, it’s reasonable to expect them to demand that the architecture they inhabit is realized without slave labor, too. The U.S. garment industry—which last year imported $47 billion worth of slave-produced pieces from China, India, Thailand, and Vietnam, among other countries—has been slowly responding to awareness around its corrupt supply chains, and the New Canaan, Connecticut–based Grace Farms Foundation (GFF) wants the building industry to be next.

Sharon Prince, CEO and founder of Grace Farms, and AN‘s Bill Menking are building a group of experts in the industry to raise awareness and fight against forced labor in the U.S. and abroad. (Courtesy GFF)
Sharon Prince, CEO and founder of Grace Farms, and AN‘s Bill Menking are building a group of experts in the industry to raise awareness and fight against forced labor in the U.S. and abroad. (Courtesy GFF)

The design world was recently clued in to the grave issue of labor justice when the late Zaha Hadid said she had “nothing to do” with the hundreds of migrant workers who died on the construction sites of World Cup facilities in Qatar. Many were outraged. Ambassador (ret.) Luis C.deBaca, a senior justice adviser at GFF with expertise in disrupting contemporary slavery and a Robina Fellow at Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, said the initial activism that stemmed from controversial megaprojects in the Gulf States shed light on a broader problem in the industry.

Read on >>>> Source: ArchPaper A new group of experts wants to eradicate modern slavery in the built environment

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