As a residential designer, I am a strong advocate for designing and building homes and residential communities that are completely self-sufficient and self-sustaining. Having worked in both design and construction as an employee of different companies and as a freelancer, I have seen first-hand how inefficient and wasteful our processes and methods are, leaving us with homes that are poorly built and low performing. We can do better. We must do better.
It is easier to do the right thing than to cut corners and take the cheapest route. The high road is straight and it is narrow, but it is the only right path.
It takes everyone involved in home construction - designers, builders, developers and most importantly homeowners - to make the changes that are necessary and implement more efficient and sustainable practices.
Back in late 2011 and early 2012, I participated in a design competition for a single-family home in the Aleutian Islands. The competition was based on the Living Building Challenge, and has been a major influence on my own philosophy and way of thinking.
So, I thought it would be a good idea to create a series of blog posts providing an overview of the philosophy and concepts of the Living Building Challenge.
The Living Building Challenge is a framework created by the International Living Future Institute to set standards for the development, design and construction of sustainable and environmentally responsible buildings, landscapes and neighborhoods.
The LBC seeks to define "the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment today" and to "transform how we think about every single act of design and construction as an opportunity to positively impact the greater community of life and the cultural fabric of our human communities." The LBC is more than a set of standards or a certification program, it is an admitted "philosophical worldview" that promotes advocacy while providing project certification.
"This standard is an act of optimism and belief that with the right tools in the hands of passionate, literate, and sensitive individuals, a revolutionary transformation is possible."
Projects have been certified by the Living Building Challenge all over the world, mostly in the United States (especially the Western US) as well as Australia and New Zealand. There are some projects that have been completed elsewhere such as western Europe, Scandinavia, India and China. The LBC also has an "Ambassador Network" with a presence on every inhabited continent. As of 2016 there were over 300 LBC projects accounting for over 14 million square feet of project space.
It is important to note that the LBC is not a checklist of best practices, rather it measures success and certification based on true building performance. Thus, certification cannot be awarded until the building has been operational for at least 12 consecutive months prior to evaluation.
The standards of the LBC are grouped into seven performance categories, or "Petals" as they are referred to: Place, Water, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity and Beauty. These Petals comprise a total of 20 Imperatives focusing on specific spheres of influence and can be applied to practically every conceivable project of any scale around the world.
In the next post in this series, we will take a look at the first Petal: Place.
Quotations and information cited comes from the Living Building Challenge 3.1. To learn more or download a copy of the Living Building Challenge, visit the International Living Future Institute. Neither Joshua Stewart nor JDS Design Studio is a paid advocate of the Living Building Challenge nor a member of the LBC Ambassador Network. As a residential design firm the purpose of creating this blog series is to inform, educate and advocate for a sustainable approach to designing and building fully self-sufficient homes and communities.