Living Building Challenge is a program of the International Living Building Institute, which is affiliated with the Cascadia Green Building Council. Although Cascadia is a chapter of both the USGBC and the Canada GBC, it is also an independent non-profit organization. Living Building Challenge has been a Cascadia program since it was launched in November 2006. Both the USGBC and Canada GBC fully endorse Living Building Challenge and do not view it to be a competitor with the LEED Green Building Rating System.
Living Building Challenge is a philosophy, advocacy tool, and certification program that addresses development at all scales.The underlying principle of the Living Building Challenge is that all development projects should use nature as the ultimate measurement stick for performance – the Challenge uses the metaphor of the flower to illustrate this principle.Like a flower, all elements of the built environment are 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, site or infrastructure project that is 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; and a neighborhood that has scaled these solutions appropriate to its size and function.
These incremental steps not only take us off track – but they also tend to shift our perception of what is a “good” solution… the first step should be seen as just that…. Path…Grasshopper----Design and construction firms will differentiate themselves in this quickly evolving marketplace by showing the broad skill set required to produce a Living Building. The Challenge provides a platform to highlight these leading edge firms.The example is the grasshopper experiment where the scientist put a screen on top of a cage limiting the height that a grasshopper could jump. Eventually after taking off the screen the grasshopper only jumps the same height as where the screen used to be – Conditioning….
Solve problems rather than shift them. Require all Imperatives be met for certification There are temporary exceptions to recognize the limits of our collective knowledge and current market realitiesProven performance – 12 months of occupancy There are a total of twenty Imperatives in the Living Building Challenge and they are organized into seven categories, or “Petals”. For a project to be certified as “Living”, all Imperatives assigned to a Typology must be met. The International Living Building Institute also offers partial program certification – ‘Petal Recognition’ – to projects that satisfy the requirements in three categories of the Living Building Challenge, when at least one is Water, Energy or Materials.Some Typologies have fewer than twenty Imperatives because the requirements are either not appropriate or applicable to all development options within that category. However, project teams are encouraged to still consider these as additional influencing factors that may be incorporated to their specific project. Throughout the Standard, there are noted exceptions for various requirements to acknowledge current market realities and the limits of our collective knowledge. In time and as we make progress, these will be removed. I’ll note some of the exceptions during my presentation today; they are also footnoted in the Standard document.Another point of difference in the Living Building Challenge is that 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.
There are four Typologies, and teams must identify the one that aligns with the project to determine which Imperatives apply:Renovation is for any project that does not form the substantial portion of a complete building reconstruction. Sample projects include single-floor tenant improvements, residential kitchen remodels or historic rehabilitations of a portion of a building.Landscape or Infrastructure is for any project that does not include a physical structure as part of its primary program, although open-air ‘park-like’ structures, restrooms, amphitheatres and the like do fall into this category. Projects may be as diverse as roads, bridges, plazas, sports facilities or trails.Building is for any project that encompasses the construction of a roofed and walled structure created for permanent use – either new or existing.Neighborhood is for any project that contains multiple buildings in a continuous campus, neighborhood, district or village. Sample projects include university, college or corporate campuses; business or industrial districts; or small villages and towns.
To encourage proper development in specific settings, the Living Building Challenge draws on the work of DPZ*, who created the New Urbanism Transect model for rural to urban categorization. The Transect is a powerful basis for Planning, and demonstrates that different types of standards befit different development realities. The “Living” Transect, which applies to several Imperatives throughout the Living Building Challenge, is an adaptation of the original Transect concept; Transect zones T3 and T4 have been reclassified to increase density. The Challenge encourages the transition of suburban zones either to grow into new urban areas with greater density, or be dismantled and repurposed as new rural zones for food production, habitat and ecosystem services.(* DPZ stands for Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company)[FOR YOUR INFORMATION]L1 is comprised of land that is set aside as a nature preserve or is defined as sensitive ecological habitat. Only in limited circumstances related to the preservation or interpretation of the landscape may this land be developed.L2 is comprised of land with a primary function for agriculture and development that relates specifically to the production of food.L3 is comprised of relatively low-density mixed-use development found in rural villages and towns, and may also include college or university campuses. L4 is comprised of light- to medium-density mixed-use development found in larger villages, small towns or at the edge of larger cities.L5 is comprised of a medium- to high-density mixed-use development found in small to mid-sized cities or in the first ‘ring’ of a larger city. L6 is comprised of high-to very high-density mixed use development found in large cities and metropolises.
The Living Building Challenge acknowledges that the ideal scale for solutions is not always within a project’s property boundary.Depending on the technology, the optimal scale can vary when considering environmental impact, first cost and operating costs. To address these realitiesThe concept of Scale Jumping allows multiple projects to operate in a cooperative state – sharing green infrastructure as appropriate and allowing for Living Building, Site or Community status to be achieved as elegantly and efficiently as possible.
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.(Name the Imperatives)
All Living Building Challenge projects treat 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 project 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. (you can insert your own relevant statistic here)In addition to the need for behavioral modifications to conserve water, the requirements in the Water Petal face some of the most challenging regulatory barriers as well. There is an exception for water that must be from potable sources because of local health regulations. However, due diligence must be demonstrated through filing appeals with the appropriate agencies that offer solutions and protect the health, welfare and safety of the public.Because Landscape and Infrastructure projects implicitly have no occupancy-based buildings, designers will likely not experience the same challenges as with the other Typologies. Though a project intended for human use may fall into this category, the fact that occupancy is excluded changes the importance and focus of the strategies.The Scale Jumping overlay applies to both Imperatives in the Water Petal. (Name the Imperatives)
The next Petal, Energy, is simple. it only has one Imperative: Net-Zero Energy.It is critical that all projects are designed to be super efficient, and eliminating energy demand between 60-80% is possible, depending on the Typology and 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.Teams are encouraged to use the Scale Jumping overlay for this Petal. For example, it is less likely – and in many cases, appropriate – to put a wind turbine on each individual site, but a wind farm could easily feed the needs of an entire community. (Name the Imperatives)
The Indoor Quality Petal is unique in that it is less extreme in its approach. The intent of these Imperatives 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. Impacts are kept in balance by the requirements of the Energy and Materials Petals; although there are more stringent features that can be applied, many of these have only incremental returns and weigh heavily on the energy investment required.Landscape and Infrastructure projects are exempt from this Petal, and these requirements only apply to the building portion of Neighborhood projects.(Name the Imperatives)
The Materials Petal has the most Imperatives, and each issue is distinct. There are some program exceptions that play off the clear synergies between some of the requirements to reinforce the priorities of Living Building Challenge.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.(* From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precautionary_principle)(Name the Imperatives)
The Equity Petal focuses on creating a built environment that upholds the dignity of all members of society regardless of their physical abilities or economic situation. The Imperatives cover a range of issues, including accessibility, rights to natural systems regardless of property ownership, and protecting individuals from the negative impacts caused by adjacent properties. It is critical for us to remember that most projects in the built environment greatly outlive the original owner or developer – and society inherits the legacies of bad decisions and good decisions alike. Since the act of building is a considerable environmental impact shared by everyone, there is an inherent responsibility to ensure that any project provides some public good and does not degrade quality of life for others or for future generations. After all, a society that embraces all sectors of humanity and allows the dignity of equal access is a civilization in the best position to make decisions that protect and restore the natural environment.(Name the Imperatives)
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. In this Petal, the Imperatives are based merely on genuine efforts. We do not begin to assume we can judge beauty and project our own aesthetic values on others. But we do want to understand people’s objectives and know that an effort was made to enrich people’s lives with each square meter of construction on each project. This intentionality must carry forth into a program for educating the public about the environmental qualities of Living Building Challenge projects.(Name the Imperatives)
Here you can see an overview of the entire program showing the Petals, the Imperatives and the Typologies to which they apply, and where Scale Jumping can be implemented. Renovation projects have 13 Imperatives, Landscape + Infrastructure projects have 16 Imperatives, and Building and Neighborhood projects have 20 Imperatives. This chart is also printed on page 13 of the standard, which can be downloaded from the program website.
What do CNU members need to know? What makes it unique?Finally, “Living Building Challenge” is not a merely a noun that defines the character of a particular solution for development, but more relevant if classified as a series of verbs – calls for action that describe not only the ‘building’ of all of humanity’s longest lasting artifacts, but also of the relationships and broader sense of community and connectivity they engender. It is a challenge to immerse ourselves in such a pursuit - and many refer to the ability to do so as a “paradigm shift”.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_TheseusRemember, the punch line to the philosopher's conundrum -- the question of the ship's identity is all well and good, but there's a point before which that ship couldn't float. Think of the post-occupancy period as the first 12 months of the ship of theseus's seaworthy existence. The crew continued to work on it, but the voyage had clearly begun.