The Living Building Challenge

The US Green Building Council delayed its release of the new standards for LEED. According to USGBC, it will wait for the construction industry to absorb the proposed changes before subjecting them to the new standards. Two days after this announcement, a new alternative to green building standards won the 2012 Buckminster Fuller Challenge: The Living Building Challenge.

The Living Building Challenge won the award for currently having the most stringent standards for green buildings in the world. Perhaps its most striking feature is its accreditation based on performance. Most environmental standards certify based on specifications and conformance to designs, but the Living Building Challenge does something entirely different. It certifies and accredits only after an occupancy of 12 months.

The Living Building Challenge takes into account 20 design “imperatives” spread among 7 categories: health, water, site, energy, social equity, beauty, and materials. In order to be certified, a building must conform to all these imperatives in a span of a year.

The program director, Amanda Sturgeon, says that the most difficult imperative out of the 20 is conforming to the Red List of materials. The list bans 14 materials, like PVC plastics and CFCs. The building owners must prove that these materials have not been used through supplier audits

According to Sturgeon, by requiring construction firms and building owners to collaborate with suppliers, the latter of which can confirm what materials are not healthy for the environment. This results in the message moving up the chain and manufacturers thereby become more transparent about construction materials.

Since it was established in 2006, the Living Building Challenge has only certified 3 buildings. Two have been partially certified. This has raised questions as to whether its certifications are feasible for building owners or something that only elites can conform to. Currently, around 140 projects across 8 countries are working to be certified by the Living Building Challenge.

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