August 28th, 2009
A building, like a flower, is rooted in place. Yet, a flower has place-based solutions to meet all of its energy, water and resource needs and to maintain balance with its surroundings. So, imagine a building informed by its ecoregion’s characteristics, and that generates all of its own energy with renewable resources, captures and treats all of its water, and operates efficiently and for maximum beauty.
Living Building Challenge is a program of the International Living Building Institute, which is affiliated with the Cascadia Region Green Building Council. There are currently more than 60 projects pursuing certification using Living Building Challenge, and several are already in their verification phase.
There are sixteen prerequisites in the Living Building Challenge and they are organized into six categories, or “Petals”. For a building to be certified, all must be met. certification is based on actual performance instead of modeled outcomes. Projects must be fully operational for at least twelve consecutive months prior to certification. For example, documentation requirements include utility bills – not energy models.
The Site Petal focuses on reestablishing balance between nature and the built environment. Implicitly, it advocates for us to reevaluate the current trend of decentralizing our communities, which increases transportation impacts and pollution.
It is critical that buildings are designed to be super efficient, and eliminating energy demand between 60-80% is possible, depending on the occupancy type. Load reductions always come before applying renewable energy technologies. Because of this, implementing Living Building Challenge requires leading-edge knowledge and an integrated design process.
Material selection has the most far-reaching and broad impacts on design, construction, and occupancy. It deeply influences – and is influenced by – each of the other Petals in Living Building Challenge. The Precautionary Principle is the underlying theme that defines this section, and defines the suggested method for decision making. It poses that “if an action or policy might cause severe or irreversible harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of a scientific consensus that harm would not ensue, the burden of proof falls on those who would advocate taking the action.”* In layman’s terms, it is the “better safe than sorry” approach.
A Living Building treats water as a precious resource. Conventional practices are incredibly wasteful – both by design and in use: It is unlikely for water to be repurposed, and sometimes water leaves the building before it is even used once. For example, just by turning off an efficient sink faucet while brushing one’s teeth, each person could save about 1300 gallons of water a year from going to the sewer. It may seem inconsequential at a glace, but represents about 400 billion gallons when applied to the US population.
The Indoor Quality Petal is unique in that it is less extreme in its approach. The intent of these prerequisites is not to address all of the potential ways that an interior environment could be compromised, but to focus on best practices to create healthy spaces.
Beauty + Inspiration:
Unlike other green building rating systems, Living Building Challenge recognizes the need for beauty as a precursor to caring enough to preserve, conserve and serve the greater good. This prerequisite demands that a project team deeply knows and understands a place in order to design responsibly. It suggests that each project should contain features solely intended for human delight. The Inspiration and Education prerequisite is the keystone of Living Building Challenge. After all, once a project embodies all of the other prerequisites, it should inspire other project teams to want to emulate its achievements.
A Living Building should also act as a road map for other projects, teaching people about the design decisions made and systems used. Examples of educational tools that some teams are currently planning include: websites with real-time utilities tracking; 3D interfaces that highlight systems and their functionality; display areas onsite that publicize the project’s metering systems; and classes that will be taught onsite about the design and construction process.
ZDS is committed to being an ambassador for this program as we challenge ourselves, our clients, contractors and collaborators to design and build a Living Building.
* From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precautionary_principle
** All content of this blog post has been provided by the Living Building Challenge.