Although human rights advocates have begun to raise awareness of the prevalence of forced labor in construction projects around the world, relatively little attention has been paid to date to the closely related problem of the use of raw and composite materials produced by forced labor. Modern-day slavery will not be suppressed economically until building contractors can identify, and refuse to purchase, timber, steel, iron, stone, glass, bricks, electronics, and other materials and products manufactured with forced labor.
Sharon Prince, President and Founder of Grace Farms Foundation, today announced a first-of-its-kind initiative to expand efforts to eradicate modern slavery by focusing on the supply chain in the architecture and construction industries. The Foundation has established the Grace Farms Foundation Architecture + Construction Working Group and convened experts and industry leaders within the ecosystem of the built environment to use their wherewithal for significant humanitarian impact.The working group comprises principals of architecture and engineering firms, designers, construction companies, owners and developers, supply chain auditors and industry associations, as well as scholars, activists, artists, and architecture journalists.
The Grace Farms Foundation Architecture + Construction Working Group will work to build awareness and initialize institutional responses, including pilot projects and the development of tools to illuminate modern-day slavery in the global construction industry, one of the largest industrial sectors in the world. Taking an integrative approach, the group is exploring ways to bring together data, digital modeling, industrialized construction methods, and alternative approaches to project delivery to coordinate the relatively disparate members of the architecture, engineering and construction fields to help eliminate materials from sources that use slave labor. As part of this combined effort, the group is developing a list of “slave-free” project specifications and metrics. The group will also outlineadditional criteria for responsible sourcing of building materials in the specifications and procurement processes.
The new initiative continues Grace Farms Foundation’s ongoing work to convene public, private, and government sectors and develop comprehensive strategies and partnerships to disrupt and combat all forms of contemporary slavery and gender-based violence through effective policy, training, and advocacy.
“Grace Farms Foundation is committed to disrupting modern slavery worldwide,” Prince said. “The construction industry has not yet grappled with the impact of modern slavery on labor and products in design and construction. The use of slave labor in our global supply chains is used to subsidize increased returns on investment. The Grace Farms Foundation Architecture + Construction Working Group emerged as one of our new cross-sector models that will have an impact on this multi-billion-dollar criminal industry. We aim to create a movement through multiple channels—initiating a radical paradigm shift toward ethical building material supply chains in the design and construction sector, akin to the industry’s attention to the environment. We are taking cues from the highly successful green building movement and hope to use that industrywide muscle memory to create new policy and standardsto eliminate forced labor.”
“Men, women, and children are kept in involuntary servitude to produce materials that range from gravel to rare earth minerals, from glass to fiber,” said Ambassador Luis c.deBaca (ret.), Senior Justice Advisor at Grace Farms Foundation and former United States Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. “The same integrated sourcing advances that allow you to specify a particular Brazilian hardwood or Turkish marble are also bringing the underlying conditions of the workers into your project.”
“Millions of men, women and children are currently enslaved and subjected to horrific working conditions,” said Rod Khattabi, Director of Global Justice Initiative Trainings and Risk Officer at Grace Farms Foundation. “In 2016, the United States implemented the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, which prohibits all forced labor-produced goods from importation. Now is the time to educate our population, so that enforcement of this law becomes a moral imperative.”
In support of the initiative, Deborah Berke, Dean of the Yale School of Architecture, will launch a guest speaker series at the university in spring 2020, details to be announced at a later date. In addition, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has begun to review material procurement policies and pledges. On October 6, Sharon Prince will participate in a panel discussion at the Top1000Funds Fiduciary Investors Symposium at Harvard University on the topic “Can the Finance Industry Help Impact Modern Slavery?” On November 15, the public will be invited to attend a panel discussion at Grace Farms on the outcomes to date of the working group’s activity.
The announcement of the formation of the Grace Farms Foundation Architecture + Construction Working Group coincides with the September 4-6 convening of the 2019 International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering Congress (IABSE) in New York City. Working Group members Nat Oppenheimer, PE, LEED AP, Executive Vice President at Silman, and Amb. Luis C. deBaca (ret.), Senior Justice Advisor at Grace Farms Foundation, will present their abstract “Designing Freedom: Ending Modern Slavery in the Built Environment” at the congress.
Led by Sharon Prince, and initially formed with Bill Menking of The Architect’s Newspaper, AIA and a number of firms that designed and built Grace Farms, the Working Group has to date involved the participation of (institutional affiliations are for identification purposes only): Kadambari Baxi, Who Builds Your Architecture?, Barnard; Deborah Berke, Yale School of Architecture & Deborah Berke Partners; Phil Bernstein, Yale School of Architecture; Dr. Frances Bronet, Pratt Institute, Alissa Bucher, Rogers Partners; Madeline Burke-Vigeland, Gensler; Kaley Blackstock, Gensler; Cliff Champion, Deborah Berke Partners; Jill Crawford, Type A Partners; Dirk Denison, MCHAP & Dirk Denison; Laura Diamond Dixit, Who Builds Your Architecture?; Sarah Dodge, AIA, Senior VP of Advocacy & Relationships; Bill DuBois, Gensler; Carl Elefante, AIA, President Emeritus; Sydney Franklin, Architect’s Newspaper; Deborah Gans, GANS Studio; Jared Gilbert, CookFox Architects; Jay Gorman, Sciame Construction; Michael Green, MGA; Gabe Guilliams, BuroHappold; Brad Guy, AIA, Materials Knowledge Working Group; Dr. Harriet Harriss, Pratt Institute; Jhaelen Hernandez-Eli, NYC Economic Development Corp.; Florian Idenburg, SO-IL; Leslie King, Murtha Cullina; Andy Klemmer, Paratus Group; Jing Liu, SO-IL; Brad Lynch, Brininstool + Lynch; Shawn MacDonald, Verite; Cathleen McGuigan, Architectural Record; Bill Menking, Architect’s Newspaper; Joe Mizzi, Sciame Construction; Patricia Natke, Saldaña UrbanWorks; Nat Oppenheimer, Silman; Adrian Parra, Vitra; Ben Prosky, AIA-NY, Executive Director; Alan Ricks, MASS Design; Antonio Rillosi, Extravega; Rob Rogers, Rogers Partners; Ann Rolland, FXCollaborative; Victoria Rose, AIA; Carolyn Schaeberle, Center for Sustainable Design, Pratt Institute; Chris Sharples, SHoP; Paula Seidel, AIA, Senior Director, Industry and International Relations; Hayes Slade, AIA-NY, President-Elect & Slade Architecture; Darren Walker, Ford Foundation; Dr. Brian Ulicny, Thomson Reuters Lab; Claire Weisz, WXY Studio, and Grace Farms Foundation: Louis C. deBaca, Rod Khattabi, Chelsea Thatcher, Kate Maloney and Kenyon Victor Adams.