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Living Building Challenge

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Title: Living Building Challenge  
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Subject: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Buckminster Fuller Challenge, Energy in the United States, Environmental design, North American collegiate sustainability programs
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Living Building Challenge

The Living Building Challenge is an international sustainable building certification program created in 2006 by the non-profit International Living Future Institute.[1] It is described by the Institute as a philosophy, advocacy tool and certification program that promotes the most advanced measurement of sustainability in the built environment.[2] It can be applied to development at all scales, from buildings – both new construction and renovation - to infrastructure, landscapes and neighborhoods, and is more rigorous than green certification schemes such as LEED or BREEAM.[2][3]


The Living Building Challenge was launched by the Cascadia Green Building Council (a chapter of both the U.S. Green Building Council and Canada Green Building Council). It was created by Jason F. McLennan and Bob Berkebile, of BNIM. McLennan brought the program to Cascadia when he became its CEO in 2006. The International Living Building Institute was created of and by Cascadia in May 2009 to oversee the Living Building Challenge and its auxiliary programs. In April 2011, the International Living Building Institute was renamed the International Living Future Institute (the Institute).

International Living Future Institute

The International Living Future Institute is a non-governmental organization (NGO) committed to catalyzing a global transformation toward true sustainability. The Institute seeks partnerships with leaders in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors in pursuit of a future that is socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative.

The Institute is the umbrella organization for the Living Building Challenge and the Cascadia Green Building Council, along with The Natural Step USA and Ecotone Publishing.

Living Building Challenge performance areas

Living Building Challenge comprises seven performance areas: site, water, energy, health, materials, equity and beauty. These are subdivided into a total of twenty Imperatives, each of which focuses on a specific sphere of influence:

Petals Imperatives Neighborhood Building Landscape+Infrastructure Renovation
Site Limits to growth
Urban Agriculture not required not required
Habitat exchange
Car free living not required not required
Water Net zero water
Ecological water flow not required
Energy Net zero energy
Health Civilized environment not required
Healthy air not required
Biophilia not required
Materials Red list
Embodied carbon footprint
Responsible industry
Appropriate sourcing
Conservation + reuse
Equity Human scale + humane places not required
Democracy + social justice not required
Rights to nature not required
Beauty Beauty + spirit
Inspiration + education

(NOTE: This chart does not include the Scale Jumping overlay allowed for some Imperatives. Scale Jumping allows multiple buildings or projects to operate in a cooperative state – sharing green infrastructure as appropriate and allowing for Living Building, Site or Community status to be achieved as elegantly and efficiently as possible.)

Certification is based on actual, rather than modeled or anticipated, performance. Therefore, projects must be operational for at least 12 consecutive months prior to evaluation. To earn 'Living' status (full program certification), projects must meet all assigned Imperatives and have proven performance through at least 12 consecutive months of operation. To celebrate successes and to educate other efforts, project teams may earn Petal Recognition (partial program certification) by satisfying the requirements of a minimum of three categories, of which at least one must be water, energy or materials. The SMfirst Living Buildings were certified in October 2010, and by March 2013, only six had achieved certification.[4]

The targets are rigorous and set at the highest conceivable; every project must meet each of its 20 strict requirements to achieve the certification. This 'ceiling' is where far fewer than 1% of buildings assessed under BREEAM would fall and in excess of 'Outstanding' rating.[2]

Projects pursuing Living Building Challenge certification

Over 100 project teams (mainly in the US and Canada, but also one in Ireland)[4] are pursuing the Challenge, most of which have officially registered with the Institute, including:

Project City/Province ST Country Status Owner/Developer Project Team Members
Omega Center for Sustainable Living Rhinebeck NY USA certified: Living Omega Institute Chazen, Conservation Design Forum, Tipping-Mar + Associates, BNIM Architects, BGR Consulting Engineers, Planet Reuse, Natural Systems International (now Biohabitats), John Todd Ecological Design, David Sember Construction
Tyson Living Learning Center Eureka MO USA certified: Living Washington University Grimes Consulting, Williams Creek Consulting, Lewisites, ASDG, LLC, Hellmuth + Bicknese Architects, Solutions AEC, Clivis Multrum, Straight Up Solar, Bingman Construction Company
Eco-Sense Victoria BC Canada certified: Petal Ann + Gord Baird C.N. Ryzuk, Kris Dick, Building Alternatives, Byron Merriam (A-Tech Plumbing), Mike Isbrucker (Alternative Electric)
Painters Hall Salem OR USA Certified: Energy Petal Pringle Creek Community Opsis Architecture, Sustainable Development Inc., Spectra Construction, Tanner Creek Energy
The Mosaic Centre Edmonton AB Canada construction Dennis and Christy Cuku Mosaic Family of Companies, Manasc Isaac Architects
Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Lab Kamuela HI USA certified: Living Hawaii Preparatory Academy Belt Collins Hawaii Ltd., Walter Vorfeld & Associates, Flansburgh Architects, Hakalau Engineering, LLC, Buro Happold
EcoCenter at Heron's Head Park San Francisco CA USA occupied Literacy for Environmental Justice Land Development Solutions, Fulcrum Engineering, Toby Long Design, Rick Miller, Occidental Power, Eckman Environmental, John Todd Ecological, Helix Wind Power, Warm Floors
UniverCity Childcare Burnaby BC Canada occupied Simon Fraser University Space2Place Design, Fast + Epp, RADA, Hughes Condon Marler, Cobalt Engineering
Deep Green Residence Hall Berea KY USA occupied Berea College Hastings + Chivetta Architects, Hellmuth + Bicknese Architects, Messer Construction, Davis & Plomin Mechanical, CMTA Consulting Engineers
Alice Ferguson Foundation Accokeek MD USA design Alice Ferguson Foundation Andropogon Associates, Ann Rothmann, Re:Vision Architecture, M2 Architecture, AKF Engineers, Biohabitats
Center for Sustainable Landscapes Pittsburgh PA USA occupied Phipps Conseratory and Botanical Gardens Andropogon Associates, Atlantic Engineering, The Design Alliance, CJL Engineering
VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitors Center Vancouver BC Canada occupied VanDusen Botanical Garden Association Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, landscape architect; Perkins and Will Canada, architects; Morrison Hershfield energy consultants, Fast + Epp structural engineers, StructureCraft timber design-builders
Bertschi School Living Science Classroom Seattle WA USA certified: Living Bertschi School KMD Architects, Skanska, GeoEngineers, GGLO, Quantum Engineers, Rushing, 2020 Engineers, Smalling Civil Engineering, Morrison Hershfield
June Key Delta House Portland OR USA construction Piedmont Rose/Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Nye Architecture LLC, TM Rippey Associates, Colas Construction
Oregon Sustainability Center Portland OR USA pre-construction Green Building Services, Portland State University Gerding Edlen, SERA Architects, GBD Architects, Skanska Construction, Biohabitats
Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation Penticton BC Canada occupied Okanagan College CEI Architecture, True Consulting Group, Site 360, Fast + Epp, AME Consulting Group, Applied Engineering Solutions, PCL Construction Westcoast
Phinney Neighborhood Center Seattle WA USA design Phinney Neighborhood Association
Robert Bateman Centre for Art + Environmental Education Victoria BC Canada design Royal Roads University Iredale Group Architecture
Bullitt Center Seattle WA USA occupied The Bullitt Foundation Point32, developer; Schuchart, general contractor; The Miller Hull Partnership, architect; PAE Consulting Engineers, mechanical and electrical engineering; DCI Engineers, structural engineering; RDH Group, envelope engineering; Haley and Aldrich, geotechnical engineering; Springline, civil engineering; 2020 Engineering, water supply and reuse systems; Solar Design Associates, solar technology; BRC Acoustics & Technology Consulting, acoustical engineering; Bush Roes & Hitchings, surveying
Jasper Junior Senior High Living Classroom Jasper Alberta Canada design JSCY (Jasper Sustainability Club for Youth KMD Architects
IDeAs Z2 Design Facility San Jose CA USA certified: Energy Petal Z2 Design Facility IDeAs
Mission Zero House / Kelly & Matt Grocoff Residence Ann Arbor MI USA occupied Matthew Grocoff / THRIVE THRIVE, BLUElab University of Michigan

External links

  • Living Building Challenge website
  • International Living Future Institute website
  • PNNL Sustainable Building Rating Systems Summary
  • ASHRAE Standard for the Design of High Performance, Green Buildings
  • Comprehensive Assessment System for Building Environmental Efficiency
  • Energy Star
  • U.S. Green Building Council
  • Green Globes assessment and rating system
  • Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method
  • GBTool Overview
  • The 2030 Challenge


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c Starrs, Mel (13 July 2012). "Deepest green credentials". Building magazine. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  3. ^ Leedham, Amy. "Beyond LEED and BREAM: The Living Building Challenge – Part 1". Archinect: Sustainable Design Weekly. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Hartman, Hattie (15 March 2013). "Twitter brings the Living Building Challenge to the UK". Architects' Journal. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
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