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December 26

The Ultimate Resource for the Living Building Challenge

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The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is a performance-based program for designing, constructing, and operating buildings. The program created in 2006 is oriented toward buildings designed to be regenerative and positively impact the environment and the people who use them. It was developed by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), a non-profit organization based in the United States.

The LBC, among all certifications, is one of the most difficult to achieve. It sets a high bar for sustainability in the built environment and requires projects to meet rigorous performance standards. The Living Building Challenge uses a flower metaphor to represent its approach to sustainability. The flower’s petals represent different program areas, each focusing on a specific aspect of sustainability.

Here are the seven petals of the Living Building Challenge:

  1. Site or Place: Projects must be sited responsibly, with consideration given to preserving natural habitats and minimizing the impact on the surrounding environment.
  2. Water: Projects must capture, treat, and reuse all their water on-site without relying on municipal water supplies or discharging wastewater into the environment.
  3. Energy: Projects must generate 100% of their power from renewable sources and be highly energy-efficient to minimize their overall energy consumption.
  4. Health: Projects must prioritize their occupants’ health and well-being, using materials free from harmful chemicals and incorporating natural ventilation and daylighting features.
  5. Materials: Projects must use materials that are non-toxic, renewable, and locally sourced, and they must minimize the use of materials that have a negative environmental impact.
  6. Equity: Projects must promote social and economic justice by incorporating features such as affordable housing and the inclusion of local businesses in the development process.
  7. Beauty: Projects must be aesthetically pleasing and contribute to the overall well-being of their occupants and the surrounding community.

It is impossible to certify just a few petals of the Living Building Challenge. The Living Building Challenge encourages and ensures a holistic approach to sustainability by requiring that buildings meet the requirements of all seven petals.

The LBC is designed to be flexible and adaptable to different climates, geographic locations, and cultural contexts. 

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It can be applied to the following building typologies:

  • Residential
  • Commercial
  • Mixed Use
  • Institutional

    Some typologies already achieved Living Building certification include single-family homes, multifamily residential buildings, office buildings, schools, and community centers.

What are some of the benefits of the Living Building Challenge certification?

There are several benefits to the Living Building Challenge certification, especially because many of them go beyond traditional green building certifications in several ways:

  1. Holistic approach: The Living Building Challenge takes a holistic approach to sustainability, considering not just the environmental impact of a building but also its social and economic effects. It also looks at the entire lifecycle of a building, from design and construction to operation and decommissioning.
  2. Net-zero energy and water: The Living Building Challenge requires buildings to be net-zero energy and water, meaning they must generate as much energy and water as they consume annually. 
  3. Materials: The Living Building Challenge has strict guidelines for the materials used in building projects, utilizing some of the most strict materials safety lists like REACH, Substitute It Now, and others to improve indoor air quality.
  4. Performance: The Living Building Challenge requires buildings to perform as intended, focusing on actual performance rather than projected performance. Facilities must meet or exceed their energy and water goals to be certified.

Other green building certifications, such as LEED and BREEAM, promote sustainable design and construction practices. However, they may have less stringent requirements for energy and water use and may not place as much emphasis on the use of non-toxic materials or actual on-site performance.

Successful Living Building Challenge Cases:

Within the USA

  1. Bullitt Center: 

The Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington, is a six-story office building designed to meet the Living Building Challenge’s stringent energy and water requirements. It generates its energy through a combination of solar panels and geothermal wells and collects and treats all its water on-site.

  1. Smith College Gorse Children’s Center: 

The Gorse Children’s Center at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, is a childcare center designed to meet the Living Building Challenge’s standards for energy and water use and non-toxic materials. The center features a green roof, a rainwater harvesting system, and solar panels.

  1. The Ray: 

The Ray is an 18-mile stretch of highway in Georgia designed to meet the Living Building Challenge’s standards for sustainability. The route features solar panels, rainwater harvesting systems, and habitat restoration projects and serves as a model for sustainable transportation infrastructure.

Worldwide cases of successful Living Building Challenge

  1. The Catalyst

The Catalyst is a mixed-use building in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, designed to meet the Living Building Challenge’s stringent energy and water requirements. It generates its energy through a combination of solar panels and geothermal wells and collects and treats all its water on-site.

  1. Tamanaku Primary School:

 Tamanaku Primary School is a school in the Democratic Republic of Congo that was designed to meet the Living Building Challenge’s standards for energy and water use, as well as the use of non-toxic materials. The school features solar panels, rainwater harvesting systems, and a composting toilet system.

  1. Dandenong Police Station: 

The Dandenong Police Station in Melbourne, Australia, is a police station that was designed to meet the Living Building Challenge’s standards for energy and water use, as well as the use of non-toxic materials. The building features solar panels, rainwater harvesting systems, and a green roof.

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Time is not everything when making the Living Building Challenge one of the most difficult. 

Due to the rigorous challenges offered by the LBC certification, it is common for projects to take several years to complete, from the initial planning and design phase through construction and commissioning. There are also additional requirements for specific program areas, such as using on-site renewable energy and water treatment systems, incorporating green roofs or other natural systems, and including community engagement and education programs. These can also take time to implement and document.

Another yet essential requirement for Living Building Challenge certification is that a building must meet or exceed its energy and water goals for a minimum of 12 consecutive months. This means that once an installation is complete and occupied, it must be monitored and evaluated for an entire year to ensure it meets the required performance standards.

Overall, achieving the Living Building Challenge certification can be a long and complex endeavor that can discourage many building teams. Still, it can make it a worthwhile effort for the green heroes out there.

The Cost of the LBC Certification

The cost of achieving Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification will vary depending on several factors, including the size and complexity of the project, the location, and the materials and technologies used.

In general, projects seeking LBC certification may incur additional costs related to the design and construction process, as the LBC requires using materials and technologies that may be more expensive than those used in traditional buildings. These costs may include sourcing and purchasing materials that meet the LBC’s strict material requirements and installing on-site systems for water treatment and energy generation.

However, it is essential to note that the long-term benefits of Living Building Challenge certification may outweigh the upfront costs. LBC-certified buildings are designed to be highly energy-efficient and to operate in a closed-loop system, which can result in significant energy and water cost savings over the life of the building. In addition, LBC-certified buildings may be more attractive to tenants and buyers, which can increase property values and result in a positive return on investment.

Does the Living Building Challenge requires recertification or expires? 

The Living Building Challenge certification is valid for three years. After three years, a building must undergo a recertification process to maintain its certification.

During the recertification process, the building team must demonstrate that the building has continued to meet the Living Building Challenge’s stringent requirements for energy and water use and non-toxic materials. The facility must also continue to meet or exceed its energy and water goals on an ongoing basis.

In addition to demonstrating ongoing performance, the building team must also provide documentation of any updates or changes made to the building since its initial certification. This can include updates to systems, equipment, or materials and any new community engagement or education programs implemented.

If a building fails to meet the requirements for recertification, it will lose its Living Building Challenge certification. When losing its certification, the building team may choose to make the necessary changes and improvements to meet the requirements and reapply for accreditation. This may involve updating systems, equipment, or materials and implementing any new community engagement or education programs that are required.

If a building team decides not to pursue recertification, the building will no longer be recognized as a Living Building Challenge-certified project. However, the building may still be highly sustainable and energy-efficient, even if it is no longer formally recognized as such by the Living Building Challenge.

How can UGREEN help me to start my LBC certification?

To start your LBC certification with UGREEN, you will need to follow these steps:

  1. Contact UGREEN: The first step is to get in touch with UGREEN to discuss your interest in the LBC certification. You can do this by scheduling an appointment here.
  2. Schedule a Living Building Challenge assessment: Once you have contacted UGREEN, they will assess your project to determine its current compliance with the LBC petals. This assessment will involve reviewing your building’s design and operational features and, later, an on-site visit to collect data and assess the building’s performance.
  3. Develop a plan: Based on the assessment results, UGREEN will work with you to develop a plan to improve your building’s compliance with the standards. This plan will outline the specific actions that need to be taken to meet the requirements, including any physical changes to the building or operational policies and procedures that need to be implemented.
  4. Implement the Living Building Challenge plan: With the help of UGREEN, you will need to implement the plan to improve your building’s compliance with the standards. This will involve making necessary physical changes to the structure and implementing new policies and procedures as outlined in the plan.
  5. Verification and certification: Once you have implemented the necessary improvements, UGREEN will conduct a verification assessment to confirm that your building meets the standards. If the facility meets the criteria, ugreen.io will submit the documentation to the program for review and certification.

Working with UGREEN allows you to receive expert guidance and support throughout the Living Building Challenge certification process.

Would you like to certify Living Building Challenge in Portuguese language countries? Talk to UGREEN by clicking here.

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