One of the built environment’s responsibilities is to enable a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion through design and planning decisions.

There are many ways by which architectural and urban design can unlock and promote social inclusion. The UN-Habitat Strategic Plan 2020-2023 includes gender, children, youth and older persons, and people with disabilities in the social inclusion spectrum, underpinning its classification with a human rights based approach. Including diverse stakeholders in the decision-making process from an early stage, specifically sensitive or vulnerable groups that get to benefit of the project, triggers participatory design and more democratic design practices.


Community consultation enhances the capacity of the design team to identify and more sufficiently understand locally significant factors, and encourages design solutions that address the distinctive elements of each specific context. This Community Structure project in Cepogo in central Java uses the process of building a structure to enhance a traditional form of Indonesian social cohesion.

Demographic shifts and aging populations

Ageing population has become a stark demographic theme across the globe, especially in Asia and Europe, where there is an urgent need to cater for housing needs of the elderly. Maintaining them integrated into the care system, but also in society at large, is both a responsibility and an opportunity for intergenerational enrichment. Intergenerational housing is a new living model by which people of different ages live together in the same community, sharing both space and skills for mutual benefit.

Sustainable Development Goal 5 aims to “Achieve Gender Equality and Empower All Women and Girls” and expresses the need to achieve equal rights of education, labor, access to healthcare, family planning rights and opportunities for women across the world.

When you educate a girl, there is a ripple effect that goes beyond the return on a ‘normal’ investment. When you educate a girl, you educate a village. Mariam Kamara

Strengthening the community

Legacy Restored, a project for a religious and secular complex in Niger exemplarily tackles gender equality and education, while also leveraging on traditional construction knowledge and local communities and turning religion into a catalyst for sustainable communities.

The independent Holcim Awards jury praised the project for “providing civic space for both genders and promoting the education of women and their presence within the community”. Jury member Alejandro Aravena noted a new, unexpected dimension of sustainability: “Sustainability has gone beyond the environment, beyond the economic, the social and the political, to the cultural. And the role and flexibility of religion in creating a community that will be fair for the next generation, is a new dimension that we hadn’t seen before”.

Legacy Restored in Niger

Legacy Restored in Niger engages with the community on multiple levels and was recognized with a Holcim Awards Gold for Middle East Africa in 2017 and the Global Holcim Awards Silver in 2018.

Access to education

A project that addresses children and epitomizes the concept of “right to education”: the White Rabbit Home for marginalized children in Thane, India won the Holcim Awards Gold 2017 for Asia Pacific. The home, which is a passive house exemplary project, also provides facilities for senior citizens and women on the lower floor. The architecture caters for children and their carers, with a dignified and comfortable environment designed specifically for the scale and perception of children.

Because women tend to the children more, they are the key to our future. Muhammad Yunus

Supporting indigenous populations

Catering for minorities and vulnerable groups is essential to ensure human rights in respect of cultural rights. The specific needs of vulnerable indigenous populations are specifically addressed in Indigenous Wellness in Canada, a project that won the Holcim Awards Silver 2020 for North America. The holistic building stands for a perfect integration of place, culture and community, in that it fulfils for the needs of the indigenous community, while seamlessly integrating with the local Artic habitat, in what is a “respectful physical and visual integration”.


The centre provides cultural, educational and health and wellness services to an estimated 22,000 people from seven indigenous groups living in Canada’s Northwest Territories. It is built around the cultural needs for traditional indigenous medicine and intergenerational knowledge transfer. Built on a rock, the project conforms to the local geomorphology and does not alter the habitat, which is in se a value of utmost importance to the community it addresses.

Designing a future beyond conflict

A construction training and community engagement project in rural Sri Lanka re-trains a military workforce so they are equipped with skills for their future livelihoods beyond the military. Post-War Collective in Sri Lanka won the Global Holcim Awards Silver in 2015 for a building, made of rammed-earth walls and recycled materials that was built by young men coached in building techniques throughout the construction process, with the support of the local army.

There is significant value in the basic message of the scheme – and the construction of a library that builds both the physical and social fabric of a community. Mohsen Mostafavi

Member of the independent Holcim Awards jury, Mohsen Mostafavi, explained that the value of the project centers on transforming a discharged army without mission into a motivated workforce at the service of society using a set of concrete measures including the introduction of an educational program and the deployment of particular construction techniques.

Further updates on diversity & inclusion