Rise of the Living Building Challenge

Green Building

Rise of the Living Building Challenge

It is the eve of this year’s Greenbuild Expo and one of the hot topics already making waves is the handful of recent projects that have been certified under the Living Building Challenge (LBC).

The Living Building Challenge was authored by Toronto-native Jason F. McLennan, CEO of the Cascadia Green Building Council and founder of the Seattle-based International Living Future Institute (ILFI).

For those who criticize the LEED rating system for not going far enough with building performance metrics, consider the increased stringency required by the LBC. Unlike LEED, the Living Building Challenge is not point-based. Rather it is comprised of various prerequisites. The LBC is organized around seven categorical “petals” – site, water, energy, health, materials, equity, and beauty – each with a number of mandatory goals that a project seeking LBC certification must achieve. There are 20 imperatives in all, including net-zero energy and net-zero water.

The Living Building Challenge has been around for several years now, but a number of the prerequisites have proven to be especially difficult for project teams to achieve. Consider the “Red List” – a list of materials that are forbidden in any LBC certified structure. The Red List consists of very common (albeit undesirable) building materials and chemicals including cadmium, formaldehyde, PVC, and halogenated flame retardants. For those familiar with LEED’s 500-mile radius for building materials, the LBC uses an even more stringent set of travel limitations for building products based on their density.

My description barely scratches the surface, but my goal is only to highlight the LBC and draw attention to the online resources. The Living Building Challenge is holistic, clearly defined, and difficult to complete – yet over the past year, several projects have finally met the challenge. Consider the following case studies:

For more information about the Living Building Challenge, please visit the ILFI website at ilbi.org.

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