Transformative impact across all scales of development:
From buildings to sites, neighborhoods and communities.
The Living Building Challenge is an attempt to raise the bar. It defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today and acts to diminish the gap between current limits and ideal solutions. This philosophy, advocacy tool and certification program covers all building at all scales and is a unified tool for transformative design, allowing us to envision a future that is Socially Just, Culturally Rich and Ecologically Restorative. Whether the project is a single building, a park, a college campus or even a complete neighborhood community, Living Building Challenge provides a framework for design, construction and the symbiotic relationship between people and all aspects of the built environment. Indeed, “Living Building Challenge” is not a merely a noun that defines the character of a particular solution for development, but more relevant if classified as a series of verbs – calls for action that describe not only the ‘building’ of all of humanity’s longest lasting artifacts, but also of the relationships and broader sense of community and connectivity they engender. It is a challenge to immerse ourselves in such a pursuit - and many refer to the
ability to do so as a “paradigm shift”.
Projects that achieve this level of performance can claim to be the ‘greenest’ anywhere, and will serve as role models for others that follow. Whether the project is restorative, regenerative or operates with a net zero impact, it has a home in the construct of the Living Building Challenge.
Although it may seem to be ambitious to simultaneously achieve all of the requirements of the Living Building Challenge, understanding the Standard and documenting compliance is inherently easy: there are never more than twenty simple and profound Imperatives that must be met for any type of project, at any scale, in any location around the world. This Standard is decidedly not a checklist of best practices – the facets of Living Building Challenge are performance-based and position the ideal outcome as an indicator of success. The specific methodology used to meet the expectations of the Living Building Challenge is relegated to the genius of the design teams, who are expected to make informed decisions appropriate to the project and bioregion.
The Living Building Challenge is a cohesive standard, pulling together the most progressive thinking from the worlds of architecture, engineering, planning, landscape design and policy. It challenges us to ask the question: What if every single act of design and construction made the world a better place? What if every intervention resulted in greater biodiversity; increased soil health; additional outlets for beauty and personal expression; a deeper understanding of climate, culture and place; a realignment of our food and transportation systems; and a more profound sense of what it means to be a citizen of a planet where resources and opportunities are provided fairly and equitably? A tall order to be sure.
The Living Building Challenge is comprised of seven performance areas, or ‘Petals’: Site, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity and Beauty. Petals are subdivided into a total of twenty Imperatives, each of which focuses on a specific sphere of influence. This compilation of Imperatives can be applied to almost every conceivable Typology, or project type, be it a building (both renovation of an existing structure or new construction), infrastructure, landscape or community development. Naturally, strategies to create Living Landscapes, Infrastructure, Renovations, Buildings or Neighborhoods will vary widely by occupancy, use, construction type and location – this is necessary – but the fundamental considerations remain the same.