Grace Farms Launches Design for Freedom Movement to Remove Forced Labor from the Built Environment

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  • Grace Farms Launches Design for Freedom Movement to Remove Forced Labor from the Built Environment

Published Report, Design for Freedom, Calls for Industry-Wide Ethical Lens on
Forced Labor in the Building Materials Supply Chain and
New Interactive Website Streamlines Access to Essential Tools and Resource

Initiative Includes Partnerships with Leading Colleges and Universities to Educate the
Next Generation of Architects and Designers and
Free Public Webinars Presented in Partnership with Pratt Institute

Face Mask Partnership with Herman Miller to Support Call to Action

October 26, 2020, NEW CANAAN, Conn. ꟷ Sharon Prince, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Grace Farms Foundation, announced today Design for Freedom, a new movement to eradicate modern slavery from the built environment by addressing the systemic use of forced labor in the building materials supply chain.

Design for Freedom includes the publication of a new report providing analysis and data on how slavery is cemented into the very foundations of our buildings; the launch of a dedicated website with tools, resources, and original content; and partnerships with several prestigious academic institutions to educate future architects and the public about this pressing humanitarian issue.

Design for Freedom began in the fall of 2017, when CEO and Founder of Grace Farms Foundation, Sharon Prince, and the late Bill Menking, Founding Editor-in-Chief of The Architect’s Newspaper, discussed the fact that acknowledging forced labor in the building materials supply chain or what could be done to eliminate it was not on the industry’s agenda.

From their initial conversation at the SANAA-designed Grace Farms, they convened leading principals across the architecture, engineering, and construction sectors for the Design for Freedom Working Group (formerly the Grace Farms Foundation Architecture + Construction Working Group). Since then, an expanding group of more than 60 experts and leaders from sectors that actualize or influence the built environment joined to raise awareness of modern slavery across industries and to create outcomes that will ensure a clean, ethical building materials supply chain.

The public is also invited to participate in the Design for Freedom movement through a two-part webinar series presented in partnership with Pratt Institute, or by purchasing an ethically manufactured face mask designed by Shohei Yoshida and Peter Miller, project architects who created the award-winning Grace Farms River building. The mask will be sold exclusively through a partnership with Herman Miller, a Design for Freedom Working Group member, and will become available soon at Design Within Reach online.

“Examining our building materials supply chain is a moral and legal imperative,” said Prince. “Almost all modern construction projects are subsidized with slavery, due to unchecked forced labor that permeates thousands of raw and composite materials sourced both locally in the United States and globally. While initial attention concentrated on developing ethical labor practices on construction and job sites, we now seek to extend these regulations to the building materi­als supply chain, including oversight of sub-contractors, manufacturers, and commodities-level providers in such areas as forestry, fiber, and mining.”

The Report: Design for Freedom
Although slavery is now illegal in every country, it persists in various forms, from human trafficking to forced labor. Almost all modern construction projects around the world are subsidized with forced labor because building material supply chains are largely unquestioned. The Design for Freedom report, available at, asks the industry to take a closer look at the materials it builds with and who makes them – and design a more humane future. The report is a call to action from more than 30 leaders at the forefront of innovation in the built environment, including action steps for various stakeholders, encouraging the industry to apply an ethical lens to their daily roles.

Design for Freedom is written and edited by Sharon Prince; Luis C.deBaca, former Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and Sr. Justice Advisor, Grace Farms Foundation; and Chelsea Thatcher, Founding Creative Director and Chief Marketing Officer, Grace Farms Foundation. The report opens with a new poem by internationally acclaimed artist Carrie Mae Weems, who was an artist-in-residence at Grace Farms in 2019, and includes contributions from thought and industry leaders such as (in alphabetical order): Phillip Bernstein, Associate Dean, Yale School of Architecture; Christian Benimana, Senior Principal & Managing Director, Kigali, Rwanda, MASS Design Group; Bill DuBois, Construction Specifier, Gensler; Gabe Guilliams, Principal Lighting Specialist, BuroHappold; Michael Green, Principal, MGA | Michael Green Architecture; Harriet Harris, Dean of the School of Architecture, Pratt Institute; Jing Liu and Florian Idenburg, Founding Principals, SOL – IL; Joseph Mizzi, President & COO, Sciame Construction; Nat Oppenheimer, Executive Vice President, Silman; Fiona Reynolds, CEO, Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI); Ann Rolland, Partner, FXCollaborative; Adam Saltzman, Director, Boston, MASS.Build; Christopher Sharples, Founding Principal, SHoP Architects; Hayes Slade, Co-founder and Principal, Slade Architecture; Franca Trubiano, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, Weitzman School of Design; Brian Ulicny, Founding Member, Thomson Reuters Labs, Boston; Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation; and Claire Weisz, Principal-in-Charge, WXY Studio; among others.

Benjamin Prosky, Executive Director, AIA New York Chapter, Center for Architecture, said, “The Design for Freedom report is essential reading for everyone involved in the design and construction industry. As a complement to the AIA Code of Ethics, which asserts that members should uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors, this report provides invaluable perspectives that underscore an architect’s obligation to enhance and facilitate human dignity and the health, safety, and welfare of everyone who uses, as well as creates, their buildings. AIA New York is a proud participant in the Working Group that has created this report, and through this work, we will continue to encourage AIA members to understand their pivotal role in ending forced labor.”

The Website:
Launched today, is an online resource and tool to eradicate modern day slavery from the architecture and construction industry. Providing digital resources, original content, and tools and checklists for five key audiences: architecture/design teams, owners/investors, construction teams, manufacturers/importers, and academia.

Partnerships with Leading Universities
Recognizing that lasting change will be driven by generations to come, Sharon Prince and members of the Working Group have organized a series of symposia, lectures, and classes at prominent architecture schools, colleges, and universities. Since 2019 and continuing over the course of the next year, members of the Working Group will speak with students at Cooper Union, IE (Madrid), Illinois Institute of Technology, New York University, Parsons, Pratt Institute, and Princeton University. This fall, a first-of-its kind class examining forced labor in the building materials supply chain is being taught at Yale School of Architecture by Associate Dean Phil Bernstein and Ambassador (ret.) Luis C.deBaca.

Frances Bronet, President, Pratt Institute said, “The academy has a critical responsibility to ensure the next cadre of industry professionals are prepared to innovate and enact achievable solutions that are committed to creating an ethical future.”

Co-presented by Grace Farms and Pratt Institute, a series of free public webinars will feature members of the Design for Freedom Working Group discussing modern slavery in building design, new tools to ensure ethical building material supply chains, and what we can learn from other industries that have made conscious efforts to combat forced labor. Continuing education credits from the AIA are available to those who attend these free programs.

The series will kick off on October 29, 2020 with Innovative Tools in the Movement Toward Slave-Free Buildings featuring Sharon Prince; Dr. Harriet Harriss, Dean of the School of Architecture, Pratt Institute; Susan Jones, Principal Architect and Founder, atelierjones; Chris Sharples, Principal, SHoP Architects; Michael Green, Principal, Michael Green Architecture; and Phillip Bernstein, Associate Dean, Yale School of Architecture. The panel of leaders at the forefront of architecture will begin to explore how design and construction can use digital models, design-to-construction integration tools, big data, and analytics to ensure ethical building materials supply chains.

On November 17, 2020, Lessons Learned from Other Industries in the Fight Against Forced Labor will explore how several industries are farther along in ensuring ethically sourced materials and labor practices and what the construction and design industry can learn from them. Participants will include Carolyn B. Schaeberle, Assistant Director of the Center for Sustainable Design Strategies, Pratt Institute; Tara St. James, Founder and Designer, Study NY; Julie Klinger, Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences, University of Delaware; and Kiel Moe, Professor and Gerald Staff Chair of Architecture, McGill University.

Design for Freedom Face Mask
To help raise awareness and funds for the Design for Freedom movement, Grace Farms has partnered with Working Group member Herman Miller to retail a custom-designed, reusable face mask manufactured at a woman-owned facility with the highest standard of labor practices in the industry. The creation and distribution of the Design for Freedom face mask also furthers Grace Farms Foundations efforts to provide PPE during the pandemic.

Designed in a pro bono collaboration by Shohei Yoshida, Principal of shohei yoshida + associates / SYA and formerly of SANAA, and Peter Miller, Founding Partner of Palette Architecture and formerly of Handel Architects (project architects of Grace Farms), the Design for Freedom silver face mask is inspired by the roof of the SANAA-designed River building, which reflects light differently throughout the day and in response to the weather. The fabric of the outer layer of the mask will be woven in a custom gradation pattern and will have a soft luminescent appearance that will shift according to light, direction and the texture of the weave.

“At Herman Miller, we design for the good of humankind. We believe in using business as a force for good and throughout our history have been at the forefront of creating industry standards for a better world. We’re proud to be associated with Design for Freedom and are committed to working with our stakeholders to ensure the development of an ethical supply chain, within the ecosystem of the built environment,” said Debbie Propst, President, Herman Miller Retail.

The masks will be available to purchase soon on Design Within Reach online, and 100% of the proceeds will help advance the Design for Freedom movement. Additional details will be announced at a later date.

In addition to lead support from Grace Farms Foundation and the pro-bono time and effort contributed by each of the members of the Working Group, Design for Freedom has received additional support and pro bono services from GoodFolk, Herman Miller, Geometry Global, Holland & Knight, Palette Architecture, shohei yoshida + associates / SYA, Pentagram, and ExtraVega.

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Grace Farms Foundation
Grace Farms Foundation’s interdisciplinary humanitarian mission is to pursue peace through five initiatives—nature, arts, justice, community, and faith—and Grace Farms, a SANAA-designed site for convening people across sectors. Our stake in the ground is to end modern slavery and gender-based violence, and create more grace and peace in our local and global communities.


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