We are pleased to announce the three price winners of the Pittsburgh Platform competition 2020 on Environmental Health Equity.

First prize: W(H)eal+ to care, to cure, to educate

Team: Halifi Alaa, Boudraa El Yazid, Abdelkabir Nanai

Jury: The winning submission W(H)eal+ is conceptually strong and flexible in many ways. It is well thought out and designed and addresses health equity and an immediate need. The proposal is a holistic approach formulated by an interdisciplinary group and is strong in all 4 criteria.

Casablanca is one of the biggest urban agglomerations in Africa. Today, the city has the highest number of cases of the coronavirus in the country, with more than 100.000 cases reported by mid-November. The virus outbreak in the city is a perfect example of a fragile healthcare system and the risks it poses. Big Healthcare facilities in the city are located downtown, this centralized health system, is hardly accessible from the peripheral neighborhoods of the city (slums), these slum neighborhoods are a concrete example of health inequity in the community.

 (W)heal (Healing on wheels) is a spatial protocol, far from being an isolated health care facility, our response aims to redefine the way we think about health institutions in the future. 

By using the old, yet abundantly available bus network system prevalent in the city, we offer an alternative use, capable of transforming as the need to an accessible, modular healthcare facility, Easy to assemble and quick to both deploy and relocate. (W)heal can be placed in several spots in the city like squares or parks, and urban voids, particularly in dense urban areas, scalable from small to mid-sized, especially in our situation, that also requires city level interventions: a network of healthcare facilities all over the city.

Second Prize: Urban Green Infrastructure for Improved, Healthier Living Environments to Assist Vulnerable Populations: A Case-Study of Homeless Shelter (Re)Design

Team: Amanda Roff, Emily Kuwaye, Jaya Alaga

Jury: The concept for the development of an innovative, sustainable, healthier building material to address Environmental Health Equity is strong. The proposal was well thought out and interdisciplinary and certainly addresses the issue of health equity and community engagement.

COVID-19 has revealed the increasing need to develop innovative solutions that establish health equity and enhance the well-being of the homeless and of other vulnerable populations. Our proposal recommends incorporating green infrastructure into urban design and introducing financial incentives to improve struggling communities through investment.
Using a sustainable, geopolymer concrete material for housing construction can ameliorate occupant exposure concerns posed by conventional building materials. We propose casting this concrete into templates of pre-established dimensions to fashion “modules,” or buildings of uniform shape and size. Because the modules can be readily stacked upon each other in a vertical fashion, they offer a structural remedy to housing challenges faced in densely packed cities. The modules also provide occupants with personal space, suggesting their applicability during pandemics such as COVID-19, where appropriate quarantine measures can reduce disease spread. In addition to a healthier material, we suggest green infrastructure can be incorporated into cities through phytoremediators, green roofs, and shared outdoor spaces. The resulting cleaner environment can encourage walkability, decreasing residents’ reliance on conventional transportation. Lastly, offering low-rent modules for shops can yield an influx of capital and services into underserved neighborhoods. Governmental grants can fund this financial scheme that promotes productive partnership between a community’s commercial and residential sectors. Businesses can grow through employing module homeowners, who are given opportunities to enhance their skill sets.

Third prize: Towards an engineered timber civic realm post pandemic wellbeing, on Hudson Valley’s urban fringe

Team: Eleni Stefania Kalapoda, Menghan (Meng)Zhang, Tian Hao, Kuan-I (Max) Wu

Jury: The jury appreciated the concept for a bottom-up timber economy and even so possibilities for application to other monocultures. The concept or a forestry-focused cooperative is interesting and can certainly be developed further.

The project repurposes 2000 acres of underperforming land for shared timber farming in order to promote socio-economic and environmental synergies between the built space and the fragmented Hudson Valley’s forest.
In Hudson Valley, most of the trees are privately owned, growing on land at the fringe of urban development- Wildland Urban Intermix (WUI).
Tackling the large-scale U.S. monopoly of engineered-timber products, the project envisions a bottom-up timber economy- a vertically integrated, resilient timber supply chain- as a way to incentivize private landowners to sustainably manage their own forests while directly accessing a shared infrastructure of researching, harvesting, manufacturing and retail, waste-recycling and branding for their timber product. By creating a shared collaborative infrastructure for local forest and small-timber-business owners and entrepreneurs, new social partnerships and equally-distributed amenities will be created, boosting local economies while preserving the local and regional forest ecologies.
By sustaining long-term forest-plant-based economic development through this shared co-op system, Hudson Valley’s scaled-down timber industry will be funneled while a more socially adequate distribution of profits between diverse communities will be achieved. Composed by four entities, the Center for Resilient Forestry which is clustered with Wood Innovation Facilities, the Certification Centers, the Sawmill and Distribution Center with additional facilities for Recycling and Storage and Renewable Energy Generation, this project provides a lasting infrastructure that promotes a holistic framework for profitable and sustainable timber agroforestry that ensures the wellbeing of both the forest and its inhabitants.


The Pittsburgh Platform in collaboration with Chalmers University and Carnegie Mellon University launches an Ideas Competition for students within in the fields of architecture and urban planning to submit proposals on how to ensure environmental health equity. Students must form interdisciplinary teams together with students within economics, social science, environmental and public health, or other relevant fields.

This call for ideas aims to push the envelope on how to establish environmental health equity and bring environmental health equity into the center of debate on city planning. For too long poor communities have been situated in unhealthier and more hazardous living environments than more wealthy communities. The current Covid-19 pandemic is both revealing and worsening existing health inequities and bring to light new ones. Recent studies show for instance that there is a direct relation between air quality and Covid-19 as well as a direct link between Covid-19 cases and poorer communities as well as the black population.

Pandemics or other kind of crises are likely to be the new normal as loss of biodiversity, climate change, and wildlife encroachment become even more intense. While Covid-19 has accentuated the fault lines regarding environmental health inequities, it is also important to realize that environmental health inequities were already present, for instance in relation to a lack of access to green areas with significant impact on health through reduced physical activity. These pressures, along with the litany of legacy and current environmental pollution problems make the need for international dialogue, as well as global response to these inter-connected problems, even more critical.

In line with the UN Global Goals we believe everyone has an equal right to live in a healthy environment and with this open call for ideas, we aim to bring together the best student teams to formulate new innovative spatial solutions to ensure environmental health equity.

Think big, think beyond.



Rahel Belatchew Founder and Chief Architect Belatchew
Meta Berghauser Pont Associate Professor, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Urban Design and Planning, Spatial Morphology Research Group at Chalmers University, Sweden
Erica Cochran Hameen Assistant Professor CMU, USA
Åsa Gren Researcher at the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden
Justin Garrett Moore AICP, NOMA, Transdisciplinary designer and urbanist, New York, USA
Rebecca Kiernan Principal Resilience Planner City of Pittsburgh, Department of City Planning
Esther Obonyo Global Building Network Director at Penn State University