Saturday, November 28, 2009

Will The International Living Building Institute Become a Bigger Green Rock Star Than the U.S. Green Building Council ?

Living Building Challenge 2.0 Certification Plays Lady Ga Ga to USGBC LEED's Madonna

by Paul McGinniss

If USGBC was a rock star, we could call it the "Madonna of Green Building". Past struggling from its "Desperately Seeking Sustainability Susan" days, the USGBC has gone from a small, off beat gathering of people who stood out to people who stand together in unison at stadium sized events.

Madonna in her early days in the hit Indy film "Desperately Seeking Susan"

Greenbuild, USGBC's annual, green, eco-networking love fest, opened in Phoenix, Arizona this past November, 2009 with mega greenie Al Gore as keynote speaker at a ceremony that closed with a pop concert featuring Sheryl Crow. Tens of thousands of green groupies flew en masse to celebrate the yearly event which has a frenzy more akin to a concert attended by die hard fans than a trade show filled with people just doing their jobs.

Well, watch out USGBC, because if The International Living Building Institute was a musical performer, it could very well become the new Lady Ga Ga of the green building world - that is make older established stars seem a tad out of date. The mandatory zero-net-energy and carbon-neutral building attributes required to become certified under The Institute's "Living Building Challenge 2.0 Certification" program pushes the envelope of green building standards so far past LEED that it opens up a whole new (and needed) look for the next gen green building movement.

The "Living Building Challenge 2.0 Certification" is subtitled "A Visionary Path to a Restorative Future." And, visionary it is. While technically quite specific above and beyond LEED, the program is also refreshingly philosophical. There are sections on "Beauty and Spirit" and stipulates that "the project must contain design features intended solely for human delight and the celebration of culture, spirit and place appropriate to its function." Other sections of the certification program are almost manifesto-like, particularly the section on "Democracy and Social Justice."

Image above from International Living Building Institute web site. The program sets its standards sky high and is set to expand internationally.

Technical standards mandatory to receive certification include:

*That certified buildings generate 100% of all energy needed on site with renewable energy on a net annual basis.

*The construction carbon footprint must be carbon neutral.

*The structure must capture or reclaim more water than is used by inhabitants.

*That all projects integrate opportunities for agriculture and have mandatory agricultural allowances based on the floor area ratio of the project.

Naturally, there are cost issues associated with building to such high standards. Hopefully, the Living Building Challenge will lay the groundwork for implementing this kind of building as standard practice and help bring costs down via improved building methods and technology. For a great article about this issue click on this link to the web post on The Daily Green from the editors of E/The Environmental Magazine.

Being an inhabitant of the Hudson Valley of New York, I was happy to hear that The Omega Center for Sustainable Living, upstate in Dutchess County, New York, is one of the first buildings ever to be built under the guidelines of the Living Buildings Challenge program. This Omega Center building is on track to become the first green building to achieve both LEED Platinum and the Living Building Challenge certification.

Omega Center for Sustainable Living, which includes a natural waste water treatment facility that captures waste water and uses it in four constructed wetlands

The building uses solar PV and geothermal systems to be net-zero energy. The waste water treatment facility includes an Eco Machine that captures waste water that is purified with plants, fish and microorganisms. Eventually, Omega hopes to recycle the waste water and use it to irrigate gardens, flush toilets and maintain outdoor gardens.

Click here for detailed info about Living Building Challenge 2.0 Certification Challenge.

You can see more about the Omega Center For Sustainable living here.

And, PLEASE check out Lady Ga Ga's new music video below. Like zero-net energy, carbon-neutral, self-sustaining buildings that grow their own food, it's new, it's futuristically hot, groundbreaking fun and makes a wall flower like me want to get on top of a solar panel, eat an heirloom tomato and dance like there's no tomorrow.

Copyright 2009 Paul McGinniss

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