While the climate in a given project area may guide system design—the size of cistern, say, or the roof area needed for rainwater collection—state and local codes also have an impact. Many states have not yet adopted graywater codes, for instance, making such systems illegal. Even greater barriers exist to processing “blackwater” (from toilets) on-site. This means a person renovating a rural home with an existing well and septic is going to have an easier time than a person building a new house on an urban lot. But the LBC was designed to be an agent for change, not just a certification program. If a project team runs into code barriers, it must appeal to the appropriate agency, hopefully starting a dialogue that leads to the eventual removal of the barrier.
Homeowners Barbara Scott and Tom Elliott scored a huge victory when the city government approved their graywater system for Desert Rain, their LBC project near the heart of downtown Bend, Oregon. Because Oregon’s graywater code is relatively new, most municipalities don’t have experience with the systems. Three-plus years of meetings and redesigns finally led to approval of Desert Rain’s “Tier II” system, which incorporates a 600-square-foot constructed wetland for filtering graywater. It’s the first of its kind in the state.
The Ecological Water Flow imperative, according to ML Vidas, architect and sustainability consultant for the Desert Rain project, says that “when you’re done with the water, you put it back.” This does not mean sending stormwater and “used” water to municipal storm drains and sewers, but rather managing it on-site with landscaping, graywater systems, bioswales, or constructed wetlands—anything that captures nutrients and encourages infiltration. Water can be sent to adjacent sites to feed agriculture or recharge groundwater there. The documentation process is similar as for the Energy petal; “scale-jumping” solutions are also allowed.
Maximizing physical & psychological health & well-being.
The Healthy Air imperative promotes healthy indoor environments: systems at entryways that prevent tracking in dirt and other particles; ventilation systems for kitchens and bathrooms; and mandated air-quality testing. The Civilized Environment imperative mandates operable windows for every occupiable indoor space. But the Biophilia requirement takes the notion of health a step further, examining how a building can “connect with nature and culture,” says Amanda Sturgeon, architect and LBC vice president, “and how it can function as part of an ecological system.”
Six biophilic design elements are recognized, including environmental features, natural shapes and forms, and light and space. Environmental features could include anything from natural materials and colors to methods of admitting natural light and fresh air into a building; natural shapes mimic those of plants and animals. The arcing Miro Wall in the Desert Rain project is a good example. The earth-toned wall begins outside Desert Rain’s west face and threads through it, literally connecting the building with the outside environment and creating a natural separation between the home’s public space and the more private, contemplative areas. Each of these elements must be represented for every 2,000 square meters of the project, and the architect or designer must submit a two-page narrative describing the project’s biophilic design.
Endorsing products & processes that are safe for all species through time.
Programs like LEED put a lot of emphasis on materials sources and types. The LBC does too—there are five imperatives under the Materials petal—but the program takes acquisition to another level, considering a material’s embodied energy (which includes manufacture and transport), as well as its chemical makeup. The Appropriate Sourcing imperative lays this out in chart form, identifying seven zones for different categories of materials and the maximum allowable distance of the manufacturing facility to the project site.
“In general, materials that weigh a lot should come from nearby,” says Vidas. “Lighter materials and components essential to water and energy performance can come from farther away.” For example, high-performance windows, which should help the project attain the Energy petal, can come from 5,000 kilometers away, while “heavy or high-density materials” like stone and concrete must come from within 500 kilometers. This imperative addresses the high energy cost of transportation and encourages the development of local and regional economies.