LEED and BREEAM are often viewed as the benchmarks for sustainable building. This may have rung true several years ago, but these standards can no longer lay these claims. A new player is in town, the Living Building Challenge, which confidently declares itself the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment today. It truly is ambitious, mandating net-zero energy, closed-loop water, urban agriculture, local and toxin-free material procurement, and embodied energy offsets (amongst many other imperatives) through performance-based metrics. Originally developed in the United States in 2006 as a philosophy, advocacy tool, and certification program, the Living Building Challenge is effectively provoking the deep conversations required within the building industry and beyond to solve pressing problems rather than shift them.
Very much in a nascent stage, the Challenge has successfully certified 4 buildings at varying scales throughout North America, with many more in occupancy and development stages in various parts of the world. Several iconic projects are now in the works, including a $60 million 5 story office building in downtown Portland, Oregon. With each project that strives for and obtains certification, a bar is raised that proves our built environment is capable of becoming more. This creates a ripple effect that is felt far and wide, energizing those who are on the front lines of sustainable development.
Beyond Green’s own Joshua Foss is from the US and has been an ambassador for the Challenge the past two years. He has been trained by the Living Building Institute to lead volunteer presentations on their behalf. These genereally entail an hour long seminar presented for interested groups/organizations/events and are qualified to earn attendees’ 1 LEED continuing education hour. In addition to presenting on the Living Building Challenge, Foss has also contributed to several projects that have aimed for certification, including a multi-family mixed use development in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Beyond Green certainly understands and is inspired by the Living Building Challenge, but recognises that it is currently not an all-encompassing vision for sustainable development. Real sustainability must be developed at scale with a focus on quality placemaking without investing too much emphasis on single structures (although the LBC certainly recognises this and looks to be evolving to better incorporate district and neighbourhood scales). The value the Challenge does however serve is being an icon for sustainability, for raising awareness and excitement within the field, and for acting as an agent to tranform development processes to be more upstream thinking, collaborative, and transparent (all things that we strive to do here at Beyond Green).
If you are interested in learning more about the Living Building Challenge, please contact Joshua. He is very keen on engaging dialogues here in the UK about the standard and discussing how it fits into the greater sustainable development conversation (he is at the moment the only trained presenter in the country). Foss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org