The Building Equity Decision Support Tool

What is the vision for the equity tool?

Autocase – in partnership with Stantec, HOK, Jacobs, Quinn Evans, Page, the LFRT, NAACP, and NOMA – plans to develop a free online map-based environmental justice tool to help support more equitable decisions in the built environment.

How will this be different from other tools out there?

This tool will be different to other EJ screening tools in two key ways:

1. It will be directly applicable for the design community – built with their input, and the metrics will be applicable from early stage project planning; and

2. It will quantify the impacts of high level design decisions to communities at – and beyond – the project boundaries, rather than simply score existing site conditions.

What indicators will the tool look at and how will it work?

The tool’s key functions, indicators of interest, and workflow are outlined in the graphic below.

Basic information:

Users will be able to enter a project location, along with some basic information like how big the project is.

Site characterization

This will take users to a map-based dashboard providing location-specific data and insights where they can understand visually how communities compare on a number of important topics/indicators, from urban heat island, access to green space, how close they are to a power plant, etc..

For example, it may show the number of people within a ¼ mile of green space, as well as future days over 90 degrees, alongside demographics.

The above gif is from Autocase’s existing free Insights page to give an illustrative example of how it could look.

Select goals

The user can then choose to select high-level design goals, like natural gas reduction targets.

The above gif is from Autocase’s existing free Insights page to give an illustrative example of how it could look.

Quantify impacts

The dashboard will then quantify the impacts of those goals – both at the site level, as well as to upstream and downstream communities. For example, electricity reduction on a project may have a positive air quality impact on communities near the power plant that generates the power.

Support more equitable decisions

The theory of change is that by centralizing important EJ-related data, as well as providing a means to quickly quantify impacts to communities, it will enable the design community to make more equitable decisions.

What is the scope for Phase 1?

Phase 1 will focus around building an insights dashboard on environmental justice indicators related to demographics, energy, carbon, air pollution, and access to green space, and urban heat island.

A key differentiator of this tool will be the ability to understand impacts of high level design decisions (what the impacts are, how large they are, where they happen, and who they affect).

What is the scope for future phases?

We want this tool to evolve over time. Based on user feedback, future modules may include topics such as food deserts; transit access; water quality; flood risk, among others.

Will the tool be free?

Yes – the tool will be free and available online.

How much funding is needed and how long will it take?

In order to commence Phase 1, and be able to offer the tool free of charge to all users, we need to secure $150,000 of sponsorship. Autocase will match $150,000 with in-kind development hours. 

The tool will be hosted and maintained by Autocase, as well as leverage a lot of existing data and infrastructure in their existing sustainable business case tool, which will save on costs.

Once funding is secured, we will conduct stakeholder engagement with our partners, develop the tool, and release it to the public to get feedback within a 9-month timeline.

Who will decide what goes in the tool?

The tool will be stakeholder-driven to ensure that it is trusted, useful, and reflects community needs & values. An advisory group will be formed from stakeholder groups to oversee the governance of the tool and be the primary decision-making body.

Who will build it, maintain it, and own the data?

  • Autocase will create, host, & maintain the equity dashboard. 

  • Autocase commits to maintain and update methods, data, and models for at least two years from the release date, after which more co-funding may be required. 

  • Autocase will make the methodologies open to the public. 

How do I get involved?

We encourage you to join us in this venture. Involvement can take many forms – financial sponsorship, organizing or attending stakeholder workshops, and testing the tool.

To get a sense of what the equity dashboard may look and function like, try Autocase’s new free Insights page (currently in Beta).

To learn more please contact:

simon.fowell@autocase.com 

rachel.bannon-godfrey@stantec.com 

Stakeholders & partners