Building Management

The Living Building Challenge – Moonshot or Mainstream?

I believe in moonshots. Super-stretch goals. Bigger Games and BHAGS.  That’s why the Living Building Challenge caught my attention a few years ago – because it has the power to stretch us, inspire us and drive innovation.

Sometimes great ideas never make it to mainstream culture or business, so I was glad to read this recent this article Beyond LEED Certification: The Importance Of Creating Living Buildings | Co.Exist: World changing ideas and innovation.  The article is really an interview with Jason McClennan, the CEO of the International Living Future Institute, the organization that runs the Living Building Challenge, and he clearly has a goal to drive this mainstream.  He also has a realistic view of the challenges and timing, and as he looks at LEED awareness and adoption.  He states the following about the timing for the Living Building Challenge to go mainstream:  ” Well, LEED is mainstream in terms of how it’s talked about. It’s still not as widely adopted as it needs to be. It’s probably going to take a similar amount of time for this, but the leap is much bigger.”

So, what is The Living Building Challenge? First of all, I encourage you to go to The Living Building Challenge website and be inspired directly – it’s beautifully presented and articulated with a sense of grace and integrity.  Download the presentation. This is part of what makes it different from other standards.  It feels like more of a mission than a standard.

The definition from The Living Building Challenge website (in italics):

“Living Building Challenge is a philosophy, advocacy tool and certification program that addresses development at all scales. It is comprised of seven performance areas: Site, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity and Beauty. These are subdivided into a total of twenty Imperatives, each of which focuses on a specific sphere of influence.

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. Whether your project is a single building, a park, a college campus or even a complete neighborhood community, Living Building Challenge provides a framework for design, construction and the symbiotic relationship between people and all aspects of the built environment.”

If you are wondering how it compares to LEED and Green Globes, you’ll be interested in this recent GSA evaluation of green building certification systems in March 2012.  This evaluation includes certification systems for new construction, major renovations and existing buildings (ongoing operations).  It’s worth a review, especially if you work with any US Federal Agencies on building projects.

The Living Building Challenge is a core program of the International Living Future Institute.  On May 17th, the International Living Building Institute  announced that they will be deepening the rigor of their certification process further, and on May 21st they expanded their leadership team in significant ways.  

Seems to me that they’re powering up and aiming for mainstream… and I think that means we are on the road toward better buildings, hopefully at an accelerated pace.  I’ll do my part – what about you?

About the International Living Future Institute
The International Living Future Institute (the Institute) is an environmental non-governmental organization committed to catalyzing a global transformation toward true sustainability. Its mission is to lead and support the transformation toward communities that are socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative. Comprised of leading green building experts, organizational consultants, futurists and thought-leaders, the Institute is premised on the belief that providing a compelling vision for the future is a fundamental requirement of reconciling humanity’s relationship with the natural world. The Institute’s core programs are the Living Building Challenge, Cascadia Green Building Council, The Natural Step Network USA and Ecotone Publishing. Founded by Jason F. McLennan, the Living Building Challenge was launched in 2006 by Cascadia and quickly became the most advanced green building performance standard in the world. www.living-future.org


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