The Living Building Challenge is a green building certification program that acknowledges commercial construction projects with the highest level of environmental performance and sets the benchmark for the most advanced measure of sustainability. The stated mission of the Living Building Challenge is “to encourage the creation of Living Buildings, Landscapes and Neighborhoods in countries around the world while inspiring, educating and motivating a global audience about the need for fundamental and transformative change.”
The Challenge is hands down the most stringent green and sustainable building certification program. The Living Building Challenge turns seven next month and to date only four projects of the more than 150 projects that have registered with the program have been certified as Living Buildings. The four projects that have been certified as Living Buildings are the Bertschi School Living Science Building in Seattle, the Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Laboratory in Waimea, HI, the Tyson Living Learning Center in Eureka, MO and the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, NY.
In order to be certified as a Living Building, the project must meet the requirements seven performance areas or “Petals”. The seven Petals are Site, Energy, Water, Health, Materials, Equity and Beauty. These seven Petals are further subdivided into 20 imperative and each of the imperatives has to be successfully met in order for a project to be certified as a Living Building. These imperatives include requiring that the building be built on a previously developed site which includes greyfields and brownfields. The project also has to achieve net zero water and net zero energy. These imperatives are performance based meaning that the building has to be occupied, operated and observed for a minimum of 12 months in order to prove that they meet the requirements set forth in the Living Building Challenge.
In addition to the Living Building certification there are two other certifications offered through the Living Building Challenge: Petal Certified Project and Net Zero Energy Certified Projects. Petal certification requires meeting all imperatives for a minimum of three Petals with at least one of them being Water, Energy or Materials. Only three projects have achieved Petal certification including the Baird Residence in Victoria, BC, Painter’s Hall in Salem, Oregon and zHome in Issaquah, WA. The Net Zero Energy certification requires that the building generate on site as much energy or more that the building uses in a year. In addition to the Petal certified zHome and the Painter’s Hall there have been three other building that have been certified as Net Zero Energy. These Net Zero Energy projects include the Phoenix Regional Office of DPR Construction, the Integrated Design Associates Z2 Design Facility in San Jose, CA and the Packard Foundation Headquarters in Los Altos, CA which received certification just last month and at 49,000 SF is currently the largest Net Zero Energy certified project.
The Living Building Challenges was launched in November 2006 by the Cascadia Green Building Council which is as chapter of both the US Green Building Council and the Canada Green Building Council. In 2009, Cascadia created the International Living Building Institute to oversee the management and operation of the Living Building Challenge. In 2011 the Institute changed its name to the International Living Future Institute with a goal “to lead and support the transformation toward communities that are socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative.”