The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is a philosophy of core value standards for the building industry, both in new construction and renovation, to respond in the best way for society, the environment, and the economy. It is owned by the International Living Future Institute, a non-governmental organization (NGO) committed to global sustainability.
Richard Britz designed the Institute and LBC logos, with the common dandelion, Taraxacum
officinale, as the basis. Builders may roll their eyes when they first hear comparisons of buildings to a flower, but they quickly come to understand the metaphor. The dandelion relates to building systems in that:
- it symbolizes strength. In French it means lion's tooth and was called that due to the shape of its leaves. In the animal kingdom, the lion is the leader; the Institute leads humans toward "a restorative future".
- it collaborates. Its deep taproot breaks up compacted earth and draws nutrients closer to the surface where other plants can reach them. The plants grow in places where they would not have been able to without the dandelion's work. It helps both shallow-root plants and pollinating insects. Building systems can assist and depend upon each other.
- it is a survivor. Humans try to kill it with toxic chemicals, while babying lawn grasses with wasteful amounts of water resources and petrochemical fertilizers, symbolic of how we covet things in our society that are harmful to us and the environment. Buildings must survive.
- it is healthy for humans and has medicinal uses. Though considered a nuisance, it is filled with vitamins, calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium and zinc, nourishing in salads, wine and tea. Restorative potentials of both plants and green design should be respectfully studied and utilized.
- it is simple. Simplest building methods like living roofs, rainwater harvesting and composting toilets are often superior to complex technologies. The dandelion grows almost anywhere; simple methods work almost anywhere.
- it creates no waste with all parts being advantageous--roots, leaves and buds. Living buildings are integrated systems that work together, the best ones creating little waste.
- it propagates by blowing in the wind to begin a new growth. Knowledge of Living Buildings should spread as wisely and well, representing the new future.
Building projects of registered Living Building Challenge members are certified as Living when they meet all requirements of self-sufficiency in energy and water, after a year of full occupancy under continuous operation. Partial certification, called Petal Recognition, is achieved when at least three Petal requirements are met, but must include one of either water, energy and/or materials.
The LBC is an addition to the US Green Building Council's LEED® system and the Canada Green Building Council (cAGBC), having been endorsed by both when it was first announced in 2006. It adds other environmental and social responsibilities to those requirements. The seven Petal performance areas are site, water, energy, health, materials, equity and beauty. Read the website for details.
The beauty of a building is important because when people do not appreciate the aesthetics of a building, it tends to be demolished more quickly, wasting the original energy and resources that went into creating it. It does not get maintained as well, so the systems stop functioning together as they were intended. Getting the building occupants relating to their building as more than bricks and mortar has significant environmental and social impact. Watch the attached video of Jason McLennan, CEO of the Cascadia Green Building Council, explaining this.
The Healthy Building Network (HBN) and the Institute collaborated on a Materials Red List to identify the worst chemicals and materials from the building environment. The idea is to eliminate as many as possible at the manufacturing level. The HBN website contains the list and information about the chemicals and is used to certify the materials Petal of the challenge.
The active seeds of LBC have blown into the countries of the United States, Canada, Ireland, and Australia, and are being discussed in others. There is no public database of the certified or registered projects as yet, but a map of the over 90 worldwide projects in process is in the handout Taking Root, with some pictures of the buildings. The IDeAs Z2 Design Facility in San Jose, CA and Painters Hall in Salem, OR have both been designated net zero buildings. A well-publicized example is Seattle, WA's Bullitt Center scheduled to open April 2013.
The Institute is always looking for volunteers to train for its Ambassador Network to present the LBC restorative principles or facilitate bringing together local organizations, companies and community groups. Three additional programs encompassed by the Institute are Cascadia Green Building Council, The Natural Step Network USA and Ecotone Publishing. View the Institute's Facebook page.