The living building challenge

Omega Centre for Sustainable LivingThe International Living Building Institute is a non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to the creation of a truly sustainable built environment in all countries around the world.

The Living Building Challenge is a program initially launched by the Cascadia Green Building Council and has quickly become the most advanced green building rating system in the world.  The program was conceived and originally authored by Jason F. McLennan, CEO of Cascadia prior to joining the organization. 

Globally, projects are now actively pursuing the Living Building Challenge — each of which promises to provide a new model of super-efficient, healthy, water-independent and net-zero energy building in its jurisdiction. These projects range from classrooms to office buildings and from community centers to private residences.

The purpose of the Living Building Challenge is straightforward – it defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today and acts to diminish the gap between current limits and ideal solutions. This certification program covers all building at all scales and is a unified tool for transformative design, allowing us to envision a future that is Socially Just, Culturally Rich and Ecologically Restorative.

The Living Building Challenge, widely regarded as the world’s most rigorous green building performance standard, has redefined the design and construction process for more than seventy projects since its launch in 2006. The International Living Building Institute announced the results of its first third-party certification audits last week, declaring that the world’s first ‘Living Buildings’ are finally a reality.

To achieve ‘Living’ status, all program requirements must be met and proven through a full year of operation.

A Living Building must generate all of its own energy through clean, renewable resources; capture and treat its own water through ecologically sound techniques; incorporate only nontoxic, appropriately sourced materials; and operate efficiently and for maximum beauty. Project teams may alternatively receive Petal Recognition when they meet a minimum of three category requirements. 

The Omega Center for Sustainable Living serves as a wastewater processing plant for Omega’s 195-acre campus in the Hudson Valley. It is also a functioning classroom and yoga studio, cutting to the heart of popular conceptions about how we treat our most precious resources. “Omega is thrilled to have crossed the finish line, and hopeful that projects like ours will mark a new era in sustainable design, one that reflects a truly integrated approach to creating built environments that are in harmony with the natural world,” said Skip Backus, Chief Executive Officer at Omega. This project was designed by BNIM Architects of Kansas City, Missouri.

Tyson Living Learning CentreFor the Tyson Research Center, Washington University’s satellite campus for environmental research and education, the Living Building Challenge offered a chance to create a classroom facility that doubled as an educational tool. The experience changed everyone involved. “One of the most rewarding aspects of receiving Living Building Certification is that it formally recognizes the exceptional commitment it took to complete this project,” said Kevin G. Smith, Associate Director, Tyson Research Center. “From design and construction through over 16 months of commissioning and performance monitoring, achieving this goal required the full dedication of everyone involved in the project. I’m very proud of our team and the University for having accomplished this.” Hellmuth + Bicknese Architects, of Maplewood, Missouri, designed the center.

EcoSense

Ann and Gord Baird began work on Eco-Sense with a clear mission: to create a truly sustainable and affordable multi-generational home for their family. What began as a building project quickly became something much more, including regular tours and extensive media attention. “The building of our home has lead to an unexpected synergistic creation of communities,” says Ann Baird. “The telling of a new story and the real life example set by Eco-Sense has inspired many others to build in similar ways or to incorporate aspects of Eco-Sense into their existing homes.” Eco-Sense has earned Petal Recognition for Site, Water, Health and Beauty. The remaining two Living Building Challenge Petals are Energy and Materials. (A seventh Petal, Equity was added to version 2.0, released in November 2009.)

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