In the last post I gave an overview of the Living Building Challenge, how it has confirmed and shaped my own design philosophy and what it's objectives are.
Today we are going to start diving in to the framework and standards of the LBC and how it affects the projects we design and build.
The first Petal in the Living Building Challenge is called Place, with a stated intent of "restoring a healthy interrelationship with nature" and realigning "how people understand and relate to the natural environment that sustains us."
Focusing on the development of communities that are connected and appropriately sized with a healthy level of population density helps us conserve our natural resources and the land we use for food production. Restoring the land and developing it in a responsible manner will create a healthy relationship between the natural and built environments.
At the core of the Place Petal is the belief that we must learn to regard the people we share the earth with - both now and in the future - and live in harmony with our natural environment.
There are four Imperatives we need to consider in Place...
Imperative 1: Limits to Growth
Projects developed in compliance with the Living Building Challenge must build on previously developed sites, also known as greyfields or brownfields. This means we cannot develop on and must maintain minimum setbacks from wetlands, primary dunes, old-growth forests, virgin prairie, prime farmland and the 100-year flood plain.
Imperative 2: Urban Agriculture
Each project must integrate food production opportunities at a scale appropriate to the project size.
To achieve this, a minimum percentage of the project area must be used for food production based on the Floor Area Ratio (FAR). For instance, a project FAR of 0.35 must use at least 25% of the project area for food production. The smaller the FAR of the project, the higher percentage required for food production. And vice versa, the higher the FAR, the lower percentage required.
Additionally, single-family residential projects must have the capacity to store at least a two-week food supply.
Imperative 3: Habitat Exchange
Imperative 4: Human-Powered Living
The Imperative for Human-Powered Living aims to create walk-able, pedestrian-oriented communities. The project team must evaluate the potential to enhance the ability of the community to support a human-powered lifestyle. This includes developing a mobility plan.
Additionally, projects located in more densely populated urban areas must provide a transit subsidy for all building occupants or require tenant employers to provide such a subsidy; provide showers and changing facilities accessible to all building occupants; and provide at least one electric vehicle charging station.
Single-family residential projects must provide an assessment for residents showing opportunities for car sharing, public transportation, alternative fueled vehicles and bicycle use.
As a designer specializing in residential projects, mostly single-family, I recognize the need to create projects that dwell in harmony with the surrounding community and natural environment. Even within the relatively small context of a residential building lot, there is a lot we can do to rehabilitate and restore the land we're building on through responsible and appropriate landscaping, establishing food production and constructing a home in proper context and relationship to the site.
Residential architecture should respond appropriately to the site, natural landscape and community we are building in.
One of the most important aspects of the Living Building Challenge to me is the focus on requiring minimum levels of food production related to the size and scope of each project. My focus in residential design is creating homes that are completely self-sufficient. This goes beyond energy and water production and use. For families and communities to truly be self-sufficient we need to create food production opportunities both within our homes and throughout our communities.
The vast majority of people live in urban environments and that percentage will only increase over time. It is crucial for us to develop self-sufficiency within the urban context and begin to dwell in harmony with and properly steward the natural environment we have been given.
Coming up in the next post in the Living Building Challenge series, we will take a look at Water.
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.