The Living Construction Challenge (LBC) is the most comprehensive green building standard available, and it can be applied to any form of structure anywhere on the planet. The goal is to construct Living Buildings that use regenerative design ideas to benefit the local environment rather than reduce harm. LBC is operated by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), a global organization dedicated to ensuring that everyone has a healthy future.
LBC projects must generate more energy than they consume, harvest rainwater, treat all gray and runoff on-site, utilize the healthiest building materials available, and create a beautiful, educational, and healthy environment. Builders must achieve rigorous green standards in seven primary areas, referred to as “petals,” to earn complete certification: eco-materials, health, a sense of place, water conservation, energy efficiency, equity/accessibility, and beauty.
As each section of the challenge is completed, buildings obtain different petal certifications. The ILFI awards full living building certification t o projects that achieve all seven petals, evidenced by performance data over 12 months.
Globally, 390 projects are pursuing LBC with 15 buildings fully certified. However, 70 more projects have been certified as Petal or Zero Energy. The time and money required to complete all seven petals make building a Living Building a severe endeavor with numerous rewards for those who succeed.
Here are three exemplary case studies of LBC/Petal certified projects from the United States, Australia, and New Zealand:
1. The Frick Environmental Center, Pittsburgh, USA (LBC Certified)
The Frick Environmental Center is a Living Building committed to environmental education through hands-on activities. The new building and its four-acre site facilitate access to Frick Park, Pittsburgh’s 644-acre Park, and exemplify the neighborhood-to-nature vision that inspired the Park’s creation more than 90 years ago.
The Center is a model of equity, experiential learning, and community involvement. The project is aimed to be friendly and inclusive for all as the first free admission, municipally owned public institution to pursue the Living Building Challenge.
The three-story structure is tucked into a natural slope and protected by a modest roof supported by columns. The site is enhanced by a service barn, an outdoor amphitheater, gatehouses, and a fountain. The Center’s beauty inspires and challenges visitors to consider the impact of humans on the natural ecosystem, the need to be an integral part of it and not be separated– and provides a forum for public discussion about this delicate balance.
The landscaping is meant to accommodate natural succession and is maintained by a small volunteer crew. As native plants and grasses grow and adapt over time, they will eventually overtake weeds and prepare the soil for more sensitive herbaceous plants. From meadow to open forest to wetland, each planting area helps sustain its specific habitat into the broader ecosystem, promoting the educational experiences central to the Center’s mission.
Passive design ideals were emphasized to minimize energy usage before devising mechanical measures to counterbalance that usage when planning the Frick Environmental Center’s net-zero energy strategy. As a result, the Center, located in Western Pennsylvania, uses 48% less energy than a similar scale building and has an Energy Use Intensity (EUI) of 23 kBTU/SF/yr.
2. The Sustainable Buildings Research Center, Australia (LBC Certified)
The Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) is a versatile institution that brings together a diverse group of researchers to comprehensively make our buildings more sustainable and effective places to live and work. The SBRC’s goal is to help accelerate the emission reductions of our built environment.
The SBRC’s design was influenced by several factors, one of which being energy. Almost every decision was based on the energy cost, and a great deal of work was put into reducing the amount of energy utilized on-site. This includes a heavy emphasis on passive architecture, low-energy heating and cooling, and other elements such as intelligent lighting control and ‘green IT.’ The energy targets were set to be extremely low, and all building systems and user interaction had to meet them. The team was able to look at offsetting that use through on-site renewables.
A healthy and productive workplace was a fundamental feature of the concept for developing the SBRC facility, which was designed to be an impressive building with the health and welfare of inhabitants at the core of the design philosophy. In addition, because the SBRC is set between the picturesque Illawarra escarpment and the Pacific Ocean, the building was intended to maximize natural ventilation to provide occupants with access to fresh air and a solid connection to the surrounding environment.
The goal to enhance natural ventilation inspired the building’s basic layout design, which included compact plates for efficient cross-ventilation and big openable windows at high and low levels to promote high rates of fresh air exchange.
Guests and inhabitants frequently remark on the overall outstanding internal atmosphere, visually and in general amenity. All offices, laboratories, and other spaces have exceptional natural daylighting, resulting in relatively minimal artificial lighting during the day.
The project’s embodied carbon was reduced by using many locally sourced and reused components whenever available and local labor from the region. In addition, a dematerialization method was adopted to reduce material consumption and produce less waste.
3. Zero Energy House, Auckland, New Zealand (Net Zero Energy Building Certified)
The Zero Energy House (ZEH) is a residence that uses energy-efficient features and solar energy systems to attain net-zero energy over the year. The first integrated PV system in New Zealand, the C21 PV roof slates, produces more energy than is required to run the house. The house began as a private residence for the owners, but it evolved into an educational initiative.
The location is just west of Auckland’s downtown area, with easy access to neighborhood services, bus lines, and bikeways. In addition, the land is a brownfield site that once housed the neighboring property’s driveway and facilities, subsequently redeveloped. Thus, this is one of Auckland’s earliest urban residential structures of its kind.
A roof-integrated PV array is built to demonstrate the technology’s attractiveness and potential for building solutions that use PV cells as a construction material. Passive design, insulation above code, exclusively employing energy-efficient lighting and appliances, intelligent controls, and the owners’ creative usage of the house and systems have all contributed to the energy efficiency. In addition, the monitoring system’s data is accessible via a cell phone app, allowing owners to see actual performance data.
Thermal mass is provided by the concrete floor of the open plan living room, which aids in this vast space’s passive heating and cooling. The amount of sunlight gain on the concrete slab is regulated by the overhang formed by the ground floor’s separation from the first story. Through thermal modeling, the depth of this overhang has been tuned to offer just the exact amount of solar gain to the concrete slab throughout the year.
Throughout the interior of the house, locally grown and reclaimed timbers were used. In addition, Shay (the homeowner) designed and built the stairs, kitchen cabinetry, and kitchen bench, all of which give a personal touch to the house.
ILFI is now collaborating with eight home developers in Alaska, DC, California, Illinois, Texas, and Washington to improve the affordability and accessibility of living spaces. ILFI’s Affordable Housing Pilot Project takes essential elements from the Living Building Challenge to construct single-room, family, and mixed-use homes.
Though encouraging businesses and local governments to invest in regenerative building designs may be a challenge, ILFI seems to thrive on obstacles.
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