Priority Green for Community Benefit: A Framework for Tailoring Real Estate Entitlement Concessions to Neighborhood-Specific Priorities Around Climate, Health, and Equity

Houghton, Adele.   Harvard University ProQuest Dissertations Publishing,  2023. 30420553.

Abstract (summary)

Background: Real estate development contributes to the two greatest public health challenges of the 21st century: noncommunicable disease and climate change. The green and healthy building industry was founded to reverse that impact. Unfortunately, it has fallen short of its promise, because regulations and best practice guidelines reward strategies equally, regardless of their context.

Aims: This project seeks to demonstrate that a single real estate project can create a significant positive ripple effect if it deploys green and healthy building design as a strategic intervention specific to the environmental health needs of the surrounding neighborhood.

Methods: Three early-stage real estate development projects participated in a two-step, mixed-methods participatory action research study. The first step, a health situation analysis (HSA), produced a short list of high priority environmental health topics for the neighborhood (i.e., census tract) surrounding the project, related evidence-based design strategies, and key performance indicators in local plans that would benefit from the design practices. The second step used the HSA as a boundary object to facilitate development of a common vision for the project among three stakeholder groups (community, development team, and local government) who are central to the public approvals process. Boundary objects help groups with misaligned interests work together without reaching consensus.

Results: The participatory stakeholder engagement process, which emphasized equitable participation across stakeholder groups, successfully deployed the HSA as a boundary object. Stakeholders worked together to develop aligned project visions advancing neighborhood environmental health priorities. Participants overwhelmingly reported receiving more value from the intervention compared with the typical real estate public approvals process in their community.

Recommendations: Green and healthy building regulations and best practice guides should use tools like HSA and the participatory community engagement process piloted in this study to create neighborhood-specific priorities for building design and operations.

Conclusion: Neighborhood-scale data should be integrated into a structured community engagement process that centers equity across stakeholder groups. Relying on only one component or the other (data or participatory community engagement) is not sufficient. When combined, they can convert every real estate development project into a driver of community and planetary health.

Indexing (details)

Business indexing term
Public health;
Climate change;
0729: Architecture
0573: Public health
0404: Climate Change
Identifier / keyword
Big data; Climate change; Community benefit; Green building; Healthy building; Stakeholder alignment
Priority Green for Community Benefit: A Framework for Tailoring Real Estate Entitlement Concessions to Neighborhood-Specific Priorities Around Climate, Health, and Equity
Houghton, Adele  VIAFID ORCID Logo 
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 84/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Siegrist, Richard
Committee member
Samuelson, Holly; Kaboolian, Linda
Harvard University
Public Health
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertation or Thesis
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL