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Sustainability, regeneration must be co-designed

Jody Rechenmacher hopes to see more interdisciplinary facilitated workshops for collective decision-making

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If urban planning and engineering professionals are going to advance sustainability and regeneration, the planning of public infrastructure will need to incorporate more collaborative, interdisciplinary processes into projects from their outset, says Jody Rechenmacher, community infrastructure consultant and professional engineer.

“It’s not just what we’re doing, but how we’re communicating as project teams and how we’re coming up with project designs and making decisions with our clients. That really makes a difference with the outcome,” she says.

Jody, co-founder of the Engineering Leadership Council, hopes to see more integrated design processes utilized in public infrastructure planning. This means that interdisciplinary professionals participate in facilitated workshops for collective decision-making. She stresses the importance of engaging these different perspectives early and in ensuring that it is an intentional, facilitated process. Traditionally, more linear approaches are utilized; after the work of one professional is complete, the project is passed on to the next individual or team. An integrated approach would mean that diverse professionals incorporate their perspectives at multiple stages of the process.

“All of the experts are still bringing their expertise, but all of the decisions are made in a co-design process, which allows iteration through ideas to figure out what’s really the optimal way of doing things,” she says.

“There are lots of different ways that we can influence a system and a lot of different impacts that can instigate. In order to incorporate sustainability into our public infrastructure, we need to have representatives that understand different parts of that system all working together,” she adds.

Jody’s encouragement for convening people as a powerful and effective way to identify and solve complex problems is palpable in her work at Urban Systems and as a board member of the Engineering Leadership Council, which aims to host resources and develop a community of practice for engineers who are among leaders of the movement for sustainability and public infrastructure. Such communities are currently emerging with the council in Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal.

Every project, no matter how big or small presents an opportunity to contribute to a community’s transformation towards resilience and sustainability, Jody says.

“My question is: How would we approach infrastructure projects differently if our ultimate objective was the regeneration of our community’s social, environmental, and economic systems beyond their current state?

“Hopefully we can find a way to continue the conversation.”

Share your thoughts with Jody on Twitter via @JodyErin and the larger Urban Systems community at @spirit_of_urban

Read Part I of this Series here >>

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