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Built Environment

What is the built environment?

The built environment is vast, interconnected, complex, and interstitial to our lives. It is most commonly understood as the physical spaces we occupy, but it is also the physical and social infrastructures. The physical infrastructure supports physical spaces and our daily lives. The social infrastructure and systems inform and drive the material manifestation, as well as the outcomes and well-being of people, communities, the environment, ecosystems, and more-than-human beings.

Some examples of the built environment include:

  • Physical: shelter, workplaces, schools, community spaces, public parks, open space
  • Infrastructure: roads, rail, transit, energy, waste, internet, paths
  • Social: places for gathering, worshiping, celebrating, mourning, protesting, right to root
  • Economic: development, ownership, jobs
  • Structural systems: codes, policies, planning
  • Human outcomes: access, agency, impacts, burdens, adaptability, vulnerability, (in)equity

Portland skyline

About the Built Environment

The mission of the built environment program is to build relationships, influence policy, and support work that accelerates progress toward eliminating harmful impacts of the built environment, enhancing the well-being of people and place (both natural and human-made), and creating a more just future for all beings.

Please email if you would like to connect with the program or inquire about our work.


Amanda Ingmire
Architect and Senior Policy Analyst, Built Environment Program