Grace Farms’ Third Annual Design for Freedom Summit Brings Together Industry Leaders to Tackle the Humanitarian Crisis of Forced Labor in Building Materials

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Five New Design for Freedom Pilot Projects Announced

With Every Fiber Exhibit to Open May 4 at Grace Farms

On Tuesday, March 26, Design for Freedom by Grace Farms held its third annual Design for Freedom Summit, which brought together more than 550 leaders of the built environment and 75 students from 30 universities, to tackle the humanitarian crisis of forced labor in building materials. The day kicked off with live jazz from Marcus G. Miller & The Hummingbirds and welcoming remarks from Grace Farms CEO and Founder Sharon Prince, followed by a presentation from featured speaker Lisa Kristine, a humanitarian photographer and activist who uses photography to document the stories of those enduring modern slavery in countries around the world.

Sharon Prince, CEO and Founder of Grace Farms Foundation said, “As a society, we have a moral and ethical obligation to end this human right violation that subsidizes the bottom line of all residential, commercial, government, and cultural construction projects across the world. To be clear, right now projects generally favor accepting the ‘slavery discount,’ where goods are cheaper as a result of forced labor, versus verifying and paying fair labor pricing for our raw and composite materials, particularly when squeezed to meet budgets and timelines. Instead of flipping our decisions on a dime when we find the cheapest suppliers, we need to make our decisions even faster when we see fair labor, bolstered by material circularity and reuse.”

Sharon Prince opening the 2024 Design for Freedom Summit (photo by Jacek Dolata)

In her remarks at the Summit, Lisa Kristine said, “We all participate in the issue of slavery, knowingly or unknowingly, by what we choose to purchase and consume every day.”

Shared at the Summit were details about the Design for Freedom exhibit With Every Fiber, which will open at Grace Farms on May 4, offering insights into the issue of forced labor in the building materials supply chain. Through a series of material studies, including timber, steel, concrete, and textiles, the exhibit proposes strategies and practices to address the issue. Curated by Chelsea Thatcher, Chief Strategy Officer and Founding Creative Director of Grace Farms, with exhibition design by Studio Cooke John Architecture + Design and Pentagram, With Every Fiber will feature information about new, innovative building materials, including a tapestry of bio-based materials designed by the Yale Center for Ecosystems + Architecture and a section on “ethical decarbonization.” Also on view are contributions from poets, photographers, theologians, and others who remind us to consider the questions central to Design for Freedom: where do our building materials come from and are they made with fair labor? Large suppliers including MillerKnoll, North American Stainless, Nucor, Sherwin Williams, and Delta Light provided many of the exhibit’s major materials.

Chelsea Thatcher, Chief Strategy Officer and Founding Creative Director of Grace Farms Foundation said, “To value each element of the exhibit design started a chain of care that goes beyond the building material chain of custody. It models to the next person, to all of us, that the choices we make matter. And that is empowering.”

The event also featured a panel on Realizing the Just Transition with Leonardo Bonanni, CEO & Founder, Sourcemap, Tim Conway, VP Sustainability, Shaw Industries, and Claire Weisz, Principal-in-Charge, WXY architecture + urban design, and moderated by Grace Farms’ Ethical Materials Director Nora Rizzo. Experts Fiona Cousins, Director, Americas Chair, Arup, James Kitchin, Director of Engineering and Performance & Provenance, MASS Design Group, John Schultz, EVP & Chief Operating and Legal Officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Hind Wildman, Co-Founder, Yale Center for Ecosystems + Architecture (Yale CEA), with moderation by Sharon Prince, discussed “ethical decarbonization,” a new term that recognizes the direct and inseparable relationship between the  carbon in our building materials linked to climate change and the suffering of forced labor in extracting and manufacturing our building materials. The final panel, the Financial Case Against Forced Labor, featured Preeti Bhattacharji, Head of Sustainable Investing, JP Morgan Chase, Maha Khan, Financial Sector Lead, Financing Against Slavery & Trafficking, United Nations University, Ed Marcum, Managing Director, Working Capital Fund, Dave Wildman, Global Head Facilities, Workplace Experience, MEP Infrastructure, Bloomberg, and was moderated by Grace Farms’ Senior Program Officer Karen Kariuki.

Adam Thatcher, Co-Founder of Grace Farms Foods, presented how certified B Corp Grace Farms Foods educates the public about transparent supply chains through its ethically sourced coffees and teas, and highlighted the brand’s corporate partnership program.

Participants also had the opportunity to engage in breakout sessions featuring roundtables, conversations, and presentations that ranged from a focus on building materials to adapting for our future climate. “From Proposal to Practice | Navigating to Yes” featured Design for Freedom Working Group members Kai-Uwe-Bergmann, Partner, BIG, Jennifer Downey, Director, ESG, Turner Construction, Steven Garcia, Associate Principal, SHoP, Leslie King, Attorney at Law, Construction, Carlton Fields, and Claire Weisz, Principal-in-Charge, WXY architecture + urban design, with moderation by Nat Oppenheimer, Senior Principal, TYLin, Silman Structural Solutions and structural engineer of Grace Farms, and Sharon Prince.

The Summit featured remarks from Nasreen Sheikh, a survivor of modern-day slavery, leader, author, and founder of the Empowerment Collective which works to empower women and girls who have endured exploitation and address forced labor and environmental harm.  Ms. Sheikh also serves on the Global Commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking.

In her presentation, when remarking on creating a future without forced labor and exploitation, Nasreen Sheikh said, “This dream is alive through all of us today, and millions of people around the world are dreaming together towards peace of a unified world of balance, harmony, joy, strength, security, and hope. The interconnected nature of society is directly related to how transparent our supply chain is and how that affects our global economic system. Could you imagine a world where every person had opportunity through transparency to purchase without harm? Do you think that you would take that opportunity? I believe you would.”

Grace Farms announced a new slate of Pilot Projects at the Summit. Grace Farms developed the Design for Freedom Pilot Project Program to model more transparent and ethical supply chains. These projects engage project teams, yield new research and partnerships, and uncover challenges and opportunities of how to build more humanely. The process also challenges each team to verify their supply chain for fair labor and galvanize change to create new outcomes for the industry.

There are now 12 Pilot Projects across three continents, including Shadow of a Face, a monument to Harriet Tubman in Newark, NJ and The Brij, an arts and cultural center in New Delhi, India. Collectively, the newly announced projects focus on:

  • Interior spaces that can present opportunities for consumers to ethically source products;
  • The reuse of materials with a focus on circularity, reducing the risk of exploitation;
  • Design groups that are committed to Design for Freedom principles; and,
  • Opportunities for students and faculty to advance Design for Freedom through engagement and research.

These projects are:

  • The Karsh Institute of Democracy (Karsh IOD) at the University of Virginia (UVA), Charlottesville, VA. The project team includes Working Group Member Höweler+Yoon, Hanbury Architects, and Hourigan Construction.
  • A new facility for Hunger Busters, in Dallas, Texas, is designed by Design for Freedom Working Group Member HKS.
  • The Carnegie Global Ethics Hub in New York, NY, designed by MBB Architects.
  • Humanscale’s Showroom, in Chicago, Illinois, designed in collaboration with renowned architectSuchi
  • The Bigfork Library, located in the rural community of Bigfork, Montana, designed by Cushing Terrell.

More information about the new Pilot Projects is included at the end of the release.

Grace Farms also published four case studies of completed Design for Freedom Pilot Projects available at

In conjunction with the Summit, Grace Farms released an “Insights” paper summarizing key findings and action steps from a Design for Freedom Ethical Supply Chain Workshop hosted by Grace Farms Foundation, U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO), and Turner Construction Company in November 2023. At the workshop, more than 80 public and private sector participants including contractors, large manufacturers, developers, technology partners, designers, academics, and government agencies shared strategies to navigate the global building materials supply chain and the forced labor that may be embedded within it.


The 2024 Design for Freedom Summit is supported by lead sponsor Assa Abloy. Additional sponsors are ARUP, Carlton Fields, CPG Architects, Extravega, HKS, Mafi, Nucor, Sherwin-Williams, Tarkett, and Turner. Certified B Corps Grace Farms Foods, Tony’s Chocolonley, and Greyston Bakery provided in-kind donations.

Design for Freedom Pilot Project Details


  • The Karsh Institute of Democracy (Karsh IOD) at the University of Virginia (UVA), Charlottesville, VA. Karsh IOD and UVA’s Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy will be housed in this new building, that is envisioned as a vibrant, active place for faculty, students, staff, practitioners, community members, policy makers, and scholars to convene, study, learn, and collaborate on democracy related work. The eastern façade of the structure features a subtle curve that both signals the main entrance and acts as a beacon to the rest of the site. The building is anchored by large, carved cornerstones that visually ground the building and share in the curve of the façade. The project team includes Working Group Member Höweler+Yoon, Hanbury Architects, and Hourigan Construction. It is the first Design for Freedom University Pilot Project.


  • A new facility for Hunger Busters, in Dallas, Texas, is designed by Design for Freedom Working Group Member HKS. Hunger Busters is a partnership with Citizen HKS, the firm’s public design initiative, that harnesses the power of design, volunteerism, and financial philanthropy to uplift communities and drive positive change. The design of the new headquarters serves as a model of circularity by utilizing excess food from local sources to provide nutritious meals for students while minimizing waste, generating energy, and integrating a rainwater collection system for native landscapes and a chef’s garden.


  • The Carnegie Global Ethics Hub in New York, NY, renovates two connected Manhattan townhouses currently occupied by Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. For over 100 years, Carnegie Council has worked to empower ethics by identifying and addressing the most critical ethical issues of today and MBB Architects will reconfigure the townhouses’ interiors to create a dynamic gathering and public event space, which will foster collaboration, and improve accessibility. Existing infrastructure will be maintained to the extent possible including notable historic elements to preserve the unique character of these buildings.


  • Humanscale’s Showroom in the Fulton Market District of Chicago, IL, is located at street-level and features a diverse range of office solutions that elevate work life. Led by Working Group Member Humanscale, and designed in collaboration with renowned architect Suchi Reddy, the showroom is a reflection of the company’s commitment to doing more good than harm. The Living Building Challenge-certified space is a destination for the design community, as well as an immersive experience for the public. Humanscale is serving as both the owner and the manufacturer of traced products within the Pilot and modeling transparent supply chains for the design industry.


  • The Bigfork Library, located in the rural community of Bigfork, Montana, near Glacier National Park, is designed by Cushing Terrell. The focus of this Pilot Project will be on the Library’s interior spaces. Interiors provide an accessible entry point for both businesses and consumers to ethically source products.