When it comes to Green building certifications, LEED is for wimps. The real cutting edge of green is the Living Building Challenge, " the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today." Some of it pushes the envelope so far that it is not even legal under today's codes. Created in 2006 and flying under the radar since then, we learn from Inhabitat that it has won the Buckminster Fuller Challenge for 2012.
It is deserved recognition for a system that should be looked at closely. The press release provides a concise definition:
The Living Building Challenge is administered by the International Living Future Institute and was created by Institute CEO, Jason F. McLennan. It calls for the creation of building projects at all scales (from single-room renovations to whole communities) that operate as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature's architecture. To achieve certification, a project must meet 20 rigorous Imperatives (including net-zero energy, waste and water) over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy.
Founder Jason McLennan is, unsurprisingly, a happy guy.
Winning the Buckminster Fuller Prize is a huge honor for us,” says McLennan. “When we first launched the Living Building Challenge in late 2006, we really went out on a limb. We didn't know how the building industry would respond to such an ambitious, performance- based building standard. Less than six years later, our Challenge is changing the way buildings worldwide are created, renovated and operated.
The Standard is tough and unrelenting, and each of the seven petals is a challenge. Just the first, SITE, sets some of the toughest standards: The land must be on land previously developed, it must support urban agriculture, and "For each hectare of development, an equal amount of land away from the project site must be set aside in
perpetuity as part of a habitat exchange."
WATER is also tough, demanding that 100% of water be collected on site and processed there. But here they acknowledge that it isn't easy.
Currently, such practices are often illegal due to health, land use and building code regulations, or by the undemocratic ownership of water rights, which arose precisely because people were not properly safeguarding the quality of their water. Therefore, reaching the ideal for water use means challenging outdated attitudes and technology with decentralized site- or district-level solutions that are appropriately scaled and efficient.
The RED LIST of chemicals not permitted to be used is appropriately colored, because the American Chemistry Council and every other lobbyist in Washington is going to call them communist, from the Kochs and their Georgia Pacific formaldehyde makers, The Citizens for Public Safety and their halogenated flame retardants, and just about every other toxic chemical and mineral from A (asbestos) to W (wood treatments used in pressure treated lumber).
It is tough; they even have to make " temporary exceptions for numerous Red List items due to current limitations in the materials economy", probably because they would have trouble meeting the energy standards without a bit of styrofoam or polyurethane. No doubt the ILBC will not be the GSA's green building system of choice.
There is lots more; I could go on for pages about each section, and they probably deserve a post each. Suffice it to say that this is an aspirational standard that tries to define the best of everything, including beauty, biophilia and equity. Not only that, you have to build it and live with it for a year before they will even give it to you. Read it all at The Living Building Challenge; This is what every building should be.