MASS Design Group commits to establishing a global innovation laboratory focused on improving our built environment. A single, highly collaborative lab, dually located in vastly different economies will create a new synergistic model for cultivating global perspectives and solutions. Through deliberate measures, fundamental principles will help re-imagine the built environment and help to recalibrate the parameters of what design and innovation can achieve.
This commitment will leverage MASS Design Group's vision that there are three imperatives for success: appropriate design methodologies focused on immersion, strategic partnerships with local and global stakeholders, and education including curriculum design and skills development. Each of these imperatives for success will directly and indirectly affect lives through economic, education, and environmental impact. The foundation for successful implementation of this initiative will be MASS's process of building, which has been developed over five years. This process leverages intellectual and capital resources, context-based immersive research, interdisciplinary ideation methodologies, and simple go-to-market strategies that heavily rely on capacity building and training. The holistic process creates dignity and improves lives.
From building design to product design, MDLab will be a laboratory to test, implement, and bring to market solutions that will effect systemic change in our cities, in our homes, in our lives. The result will not only provide a venue for re-thinking and re-designing our built environments, but it will train entrepreneurs, inspire new educational programs, and foster the necessary R&D process required for newly designed products to actually solve, not simply address, the world's greatest challenges. The designed products will range from new outpost health facilities to new communication applications that greatly enhance the lives of handicapped peoples. The outcomes will reach further in providing training and exposing entrepreneurs to new ideas and processes.
The strategy for this lab will be to cultivate a dialog between two hubs and two different economies. With one hub in Kigali, Rwanda and one in the US - both countries with established MASS offices - MDLab will leverage its university partnerships, the local private sector, global healthcare NGOs, and multinational organizations in order to develop a unique knowledge cloud that together will address larger societal questions that must be addressed at the scale of the built environment. Questions such as: how do we improve access to global health, how do we advance our cities, or how do we achieve energy neutrality must be thought of on a scale that only a Lab of this design could inquire for multi-pronged solutions. Potential opportunities will stem from deep immersion by teams on the ground that have been enlisted by thought leaders in government and the private sector seeking to address these questions.
MDLab will comprise a series of immersive design and development teams comprised of inter-disciplinarian fellows and mid to post-career professionals. The disciplines will range from designers, engineers, and public health experts to business experts and anthropologists. These teams will focus on high-impact topics that will be sponsored by outside stakeholders. The stakeholders will include universities, private companies, national government institutions, global health care NGOs, and even local hospitals. MDLab will then integrate the collective knowledge to identify new questions and opportunities, rapidly prototype ideas, and quickly bring new designs to market. Teams and stakeholders will be selected according to topical needs and an intensive application process, securing the best and brightest to tackle the problems at hand. MASS will act as the intermediary in the process and ensure the appropriate disciplines are at the table and investors are leveraged to bring the designs and solutions to scale.
A phased launch of the MDLab will ensure its long-term viability and success.
Phase 1 (Pilot): The Exploration Phase. The first phase will fuse MASS team members with fellows to immerse in two high-impact topics across both laboratories. Private stakeholders will sponsor these immersive research projects and MASS Design Lab will commit team members to oversee and coordinate the studies. These immersions will last 4-6 months during which each team will hone areas of focus and identify appropriate deliverables in concert with stakeholders. At the end of each exploration, MASS Design Group and participants will conceive of a white paper that summarizes findings and outlines new immersive investigations, new uncovered business opportunities, and will bring new partners and investors to the table. Five new social enterprises will be launched as an outcome. To be launched, October 2012.
Phase 2: A New Model. Phase 2 will introduce university partnerships and new courses to the immersive research findings. In tandem with MASS Design Group's practice, the MDLab will develop an interdisciplinary, practice-based curriculum with the launch of an eight to ten month course in September of 2013. This design-course will be an entrepreneurial-based practicum using an exploration methodology and commercialization techniques to test the findings of the MDLab's initial immersions. Tested in tandem, these efforts will dive deeper into these early questions and utilize the course setting to test different directions and diverse strategies. Taught by MASS Design Group designers and mid-career professional fellows, courses will test the findings while training students in new methodologies about scale and implementation. Instead of the typical one week exploration trip, having both labs work in tandem across the different economies and contexts of Rwanda and the US will produce a wholly unique educational program that will allow for deep, engaged, testing possibilities that are to date not available in design educational programs. This phase will directly affect lives by a rural housing design and construction program that trains 40 students, creates 750 jobs, and houses 25 people. Additional Training Certificate Programs centered on topics will also be made available upon completion of a project.
Phase 3: Prototype. The final stage will unite the findings from Phase 1 and the curriculum and course development from Phase 2 to form a single highly collaborative lab, dually located in vastly different economies, creating a new synergistic model for cultivating global perspectives and solutions. The key to prototyping is to test the ideas in their contexts and with the communities they are meant to serve. Using the private sector role of MASS Design Group as facilitator, the Lab will be able to test implementation strategies and prototype new ideas. From buildings, to urban interventions, to health care products, the ultimate result will be new designs that address systemic change and have a path to market launch and entrepreneurial financing. This third phase will bring in new partners, investors, and intellectual property that will provide a funding pipeline to scale and replicate the lab throughout east Africa and the United States. Outcomes are to be determined. To be launched in the summer of 2014.
Design for the built environment encompasses not only buildings, but also infrastructure, bridges, parks, neighborhoods, and even cities themselves. Designing for these places is often thought of as ways to address the world's problems - better shelter, better sanitation, access to energy, or well-planned cities that accommodate growth or allow access to key amenities. Yet many of these designs do not solve these problems and a key reason is that these designs are often developed in isolation from the places and people they serve. Well-intentioned designs have often been shown to do more harm than good by importing building systems and technologies that are inappropriate both for the environmental context and for the users.
As evidence, the earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010 proves blameworthy only to a certain extent for the country's devastation; the poorly constructed structures that were inappropriately designed for the region and consequently collapsed was the driving cause of deaths. Likewise, inappropriate hospital design around the world has in many cases led to the incubation of disease, making patients sicker when they are visiting the hospital to heal. As reported by Lawrence Altman in the New York Times (March 2007), there was an outbreak of Extremely Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (XDR - TB) in Tugela Ferry, South Africa in 2005, where 52 of the 53 cases proved fatal, and many had contracted the disease at the medical facility due to insufficient ventilation. XDR - TB is now one of the world's most devastating crises and sick buildings are in large part to blame.
Recent innovation theory suggests that emerging economies, not burdened by legacy institutions, are producing the most innovative and sometimes least expensive ideas and inventions for the world. MASS Design Lab (MDLab) will provide a unique setting where the advantages and constraints of emerging economies meet the expertise and insight of the global economy to solve problems of the built environment.
MASS Design Group's Commitment seeks to solve systemic issues and the crisis of the built environment through a Design Laboratory that will cultivate innovation, research, and development. As a design firm that helps lead the movement to make medical buildings perform appropriately and improve the overall health of communities, MASS is uniquely equipped through its unique lens and methodology to launch this commitment.