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Cameron Sinclair Headshot

$50B Infrastructure Plan: Make it Open Source and Transparent

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Today, President Obama announced a massive $50 billion plan for improving and building new infrastructure across the United States. This plan includes laying enough road to circle the world six times and coast-to-coast rail.

Part of the president's rallying cry was to note that this plan "will change the way Washington spends your tax dollars." Given it is our tax dollars, I want to make a very simple request -- let's have an online system of transparency through which the government can clearly articulate success to the broader population. Additionally, let's hope a small amount of this funding will be set aside for jump-starting innovative and green-construction technologies, and if it is, let's hope that taxpayers will have access to adopt the solutions found. But let's get back to that suggestion on transparency.

Online Transparency

We live in a digital world. So no monster-sized white papers, micro-type spreadsheets or fancy scientific charts -- use photos to document each project in development and at milestones. Every site foreman and engineer has a camera phone or digital camera. Have them take regular photos and upload them to an accessible project-management system. This would allow anyone to look a project in their neighborhood and comment on progress made. It is amazing the positive response that happens when you actually find out what is being done.

This has been happening in the humanitarian and development field for the past few years. Through the Open Architecture Network, more than 3,000 projects have been uploaded to the system and range from low-income housing, health and education facilities, public-gathering points and transit nodes. Every project is held under a Creative Commons license allowing others to adapt and share innovative ideas. In less than a month, the system will launch a geo-based mobile app that will allow anyone to find local solutions or discover ones from afar. All managed by a handful of people.

Given it is public funding that is jump-starting the "new, new deal," let's make it transparent and open for mass-adaptation, enabling state and city agencies to share in lessons learned and best-case practices. I'm all for putting our tax money to creating new jobs, but let's also create smart systems to facilitate these projects.

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A few projects from the system


Post-Katrina Housing in Biloxi, MS
by Marlon Blackwell Architects, Fayetteville, AR with Architecture for Humanity


Low-impact Public Access Point in San Clemente, CA
By Co-Lab Design Office


Navajo Elder Housing, Navajo Nation, AZ
by Nathaniel Corum, Indigenous Community Enterprises


Community Center and Youth Sports Facility in Khayelitsha, South Africa

By ARG Design, Cape Town, South Africa with Architecture for Humanity


Freret Street Community Transit Shelter, New Orleans, LA
by Design Corps, Raleigh, NC