The Living Building Challenge
Architect Caroline Pidcock introduces a building standard that goes several steps beyond basic passive solar performance and energy efficiency, aiming to diminish the gap between current limits and ideal solutions.
How would you feel if your actions to improve your living space could also help you be part of a bigger, inspiring movement that aims to create a “socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative” future for us all? Developed in the USA and launched in 2006, with the first buildings certified in 2010, the Living Building Challenge (LBC) is a rigorous performance standard for the built environment. It calls for the creation of buildings that “operate as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature’s architecture”.
Going beyond basic considerations of building sustainability, the LBC is a framework for our built environment that asks that a true sustainable answer to our housing and lifestyle challenges actually looks like. And how is a new approach going to be positive and regenerative? Happily, the guidelines are also poetic and inspiring, recognising the importance of beauty and delight in achieving sustainable outcomes.
It should be acknowledged that it is called the Living Building Challenge because it is a challenge. There are many considerations it raises that in today’s world are not standard practice, and need to be approached in ways that are outside the normal way of thinking and doing. The Challenge asks you to imagine “a building designed and constructed to function as elegantly and efficiently as a flower: a building informed by its bioregion’s characteristics, that generates all of its own energy with renewable resources, captures and treats all of its water, and that operates efficiently and for maximum beauty.”
Wow. Not just less bad–but truly good and beautiful. And inspiring. What does this mean for your home? At the very least, it provides a framework for thinking through the whole project to ensure you are covering all the necessary elements for a comfortable and high-performing house for the long term. It helps extend the boundaries of what you believe can be achieved. As Michelangelo said, “The great danger is not that we aim too high and miss the target, but that we aim too low and hit it”.
If you do embrace the LBC principles in the planning and construction of your home, you can apply for Living Building certification. To be certified under the Challenge, projects must meet a series of ambitious performance requirements in seven categories called Petals:Place, Water, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity and Beauty.
Caroline Pidcock is director of Sydney-based architecture firm Pidcock – Architecture and Sustainability and a founding director of the Living Future Institute the organisation that introduced the Living Building Challenge to Australia.
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