Kitchener’s architecture industry needs to fix its diversity problem

This information shows that the industry still has a long way to go.

Despite the backwardness of the architecture industry, government and private agencies have made significant strides to ensure that women and / or minority company (W / MBE) companies receive a higher percentage of construction projects.

Uchenna Okere is teaching an introductory course in visual scripting at the Kitchener Dynamo User Group’s launch event for 2020. (Courtesy Uchenna Okere)

When Kitchener published the RFP for the Kitchener Public Services Building, the city needed a little less than half the project budget to be awarded to W / MBE firms. However, the prime contractor who won the project struggled to meet this requirement due to a lack of qualified companies in Kitchener. My company, RevitGods, was able to earn a small portion of this contract because we were able to resolve a significant technical problem that was delaying construction.

Although there is a shortage of women and people of color in architecture, there are a plethora of other roles outside of architecture that could help companies stay competitive in an industry they are slowly being pushed out of. Positions such as technical writers, programmers, data engineers, digital project managers, animators, and 3D generalists could all be involved in the building design process, helping companies instantly increase diversity while increasing long-term income potential.

Gensler has always been one of the best companies bringing in a mix of different talents from different backgrounds. Every year Gensler organizes scholarship competitions for architecture students from different backgrounds to give them the opportunity to earn money and an internship in one of their offices. When I was in school, I became a finalist in one of their competitions, which earned me an internship at their Morristown, New Jersey office. There I was able to learn Revit, an architecture design software, and accompany your project managers in customer meetings and presentations. I’ve seen firsthand how Gensler used architecture as a tool to help companies thrive in their respective industries. That experience eventually led me to start a consulting firm called RevitGods where I could use design technology as a tool to lower the barrier to entry into the building construction industry.

Screenshot of a promotional video produced by Okere for PhilaNomas Project Pipeline, a summer program aimed at introducing colored middle and high school students to the field of architecture. (Courtesy Uchenna Okere)

If architects worked to help middle and high school students from different backgrounds understand what an architect does, how to become an architect, and the admission requirements for an architecture program at a university, the industry would just be by introducing new ideas and transcend perspectives. As stated in a 2016 AIA round-up, industry professionals would need to increase their reach for K-12 color students through school curricula, after-school clubs, and weekend or summer programs.

If the field of architecture successfully became more diverse, buildings would finally reflect the backgrounds and cultures of the people who live in this country.

Uchenna Okere is the founder and CEO of RevitGods Inc, an architectural technology architecture firm based in Kitchener.

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