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The Living Building Challenge: transformative development

By STEPHEN STUART
April 7, 2011

REGION — Imagine a building designed and constructed to function as elegantly and efficiently as a flower, a building informed by its bioregion’s characteristics, that generates all of its own energy with renewable sources, captures and treats all of its water. Imagine a city block sharing resources from building to building, growing food and functioning without a dependency on fossil fuel-based transportation. Imagine true sustainability in our homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, villages, towns and cities that is socially just, culturally rich and ecologically benign.

Such a challenge has been issued by The Living Building Institute (LBI), conceived and authored by Jason F. McLennan. LBI presented its ideas at the recent Northeast Sustainable Energy Associations Building Energy 11 conference. It is a challenge that could help local planners to come up with better solutions for transforming development in our own area.

Taking up where the United States Green Building Council stops, the LBI invites us to commit to creating our space on this planet in a way that is transformational and restorative. It challenges design professionals, contractors and building owners to create the foundation for a sustainable future in the fabric of our communities, politicians and government officials to remove barriers to systemic change and to realign incentives to truly protect the health, safety and welfare of all beings, and challenges all of humanity to reconcile the built environment with the natural environment.

The Living Building Challenge (LBC) requires that seven development areas (petals) be addressed and that the imperatives of each petal be fulfilled.

• The Site petal addresses limits to growth, urban agriculture, habitat exchange and car-free living.

• The Water petal requires net zero water usage and ecological water flow.

• The Energy petal requires net zero energy through on-site renewable generation technology.

• The Health petal requires a civilized environment, healthy air and biophilia.

• The Materials petal prohibits the use of toxics on the “red list,” calls for appropriate sourcing of materials and conservation and reuse of materials to lower the carbon footprint of the project.

• The Equity petal addresses the human scale in building, and calls for humane places, embodies democracy and social justice and ensures rights to nature.

• The Beauty petal celebrates design that creates transformative change.

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