The Living Building Challenge: Page 3 of 4

Intermediate

Inside this Article

The zHome project
The zHome project, a 10-unit townhouse development in Issaquah, Washington, is designed to achieve net-zero energy, among other Living Building Challenge imperatives.
LBC creator Jason McLennan.
LBC creator Jason McLennan.
LBC Ambassadors-in-training at a Portland, Oregon, workshop.
LBC Ambassadors-in-training at a Portland, Oregon, workshop.
Bertschi Living Building Science Wing in Seattle, Washington
The LBC-certified Bertschi Living Building Science Wing in Seattle, Washington, met its Site petal, in part, by building on a former grayfield—a paved sport court.
Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington
To meet the LBC’s Energy imperative, the Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington, includes a large rooftop PV array.
Eco-Sense house in Victoria, British Columbia
A composting toilet, 10,000-gallon rainwater storage cistern, and graywater recycling help the Eco-Sense house in Victoria, British Columbia, meet its Water petal imperatives.
Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s Energy Lab
With few native building materials to choose from, the distance radius and density threshold limits for red-list compliant materials posed a challenge for the Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s Energy Lab. Project managers had to exercise their ingenuity and creativity to meet the Materials petal imperatives.
Home earning its LBC petals
Careful material selection, reuse, and restoration were part of this home’s path to earning its LBC petals. (shown before)
Home earning its LBC petals
Careful material selection, reuse, and restoration were part of this home’s path to earning its LBC petals. (shown after)
The EcoHouse
Beauty is an important imperative of the LBC. The EcoHouse, with a wall full of tropical plants that treat the building’s graywater, was inspired by students who wanted “a greenhouse where something would always be growing.”
The zHome project
LBC creator Jason McLennan.
LBC Ambassadors-in-training at a Portland, Oregon, workshop.
Bertschi Living Building Science Wing in Seattle, Washington
Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington
Eco-Sense house in Victoria, British Columbia
Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s Energy Lab
Home earning its LBC petals
Home earning its LBC petals
The EcoHouse

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.

Health

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.

Material World

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.

Comments (1)

Ron Challis_3's picture

I like the idea of the "Petal" concept. I am dismayed with the current building materials and methods. They are not sustainable and they do not produce a safe building. Building Codes are very weak in North America.
This movement could bring much needed change to the construction industry. One flaw that pops out to me is that building or renovating a house in a major city is not feasible and therefore detracts from the petal idea. Many cities demand that one must connect to water supply and connect to sewers. Also city lots are too small to allow for many aspects of the petal concept.
I moved to a small village and built a straw bale home but had to connect to water, sewer, and could not erect a wind tower. The lot is narrow and it was too difficult to site the house to take advantage of the sun. We are very happy with our house, utilities are low and we do not make a large foot print. If we had greater resources we could have improved our design lowered our foot print. We are like the majority of people with limited resources and we did the best we could with what we had but the petal concept is beyond our financial ability. It would be great if the petal concept could make room for people like ourselves.

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