Wednesday, October 12, 2011

International Living Future Institute asks: "What if every single act of design and construction made the world a better place?"

by Paul E McGinniss

Jay Kosa, Community Coordinator of the Living Building Challenge, at the International Living Future Institute, emailed me recently to tell me about the Understanding the Living Building Challenge Workshop which is taking place in NYC on Thursday, November 3, 2011.

Jay said: "We at the Living Building Challenge have been a fan of your blog dating back to your "Living Building Challenge 2.0 Certification Plays Lady Ga Ga to USGBC LEED's Madonna" piece. We're making steady headway with the pursuit of Living Buildings in the Northwest and around the world, and we'd really like to cultivate some discussion about what the city of New York could accomplish through the Challenge."

Cool. Bring on the challenge! What's great about the Living Building Challenge is it is a challenge. And it's part of a growing number of international eco-educational groups taking root in the Big Apple - groups like the Transition Town movement and Kitchen Gardeners International - social media networks which are spiraling out and reaching people online and also on the ground, block by block, trading information and creating social consciousness.

Picture of the Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Lab which was built under the Living Building Challenge standard. Conceived as a high school science building dedicated to the study of alternative energy, the new Energy Lab at Hawaii Preparatory Academy functions as a zero-net-energy, fully sustainable building.

What's appealing about the Living Building Challenge is how much it talks about building not so much just from a structural or technical standpoint but also from a philosophical, even metaphysical standpoint. For instance the challenge is described as: "A visionary path to a restorative future" And it is "at once a philosophy, advocacy platform and certification program". The challenge clarifies: "It defines priorities on both a technical level and as a set of core values, it is engaging the broader building industry in the deep conversations required to truly understand how to solve problems rather than shift them."

Despite how abstract the Living Building Challenge might sound, it is definitely performance based. Thus, while having specific, measurable, technical goals, it "leads teams to embrace regional solutions and respond to a number of variables, including climate factors and cultural characteristics."

And speaking of being performance based - The International Living Future Institute has just announced that it unveiled a Net Zero Energy Building Certification program. This new initiative will surely help foster the idea that all buildings should "perform" and be self sustainable, much like the Earthship model has tried to emphasize, and like the Passive House concept emphasizes as well.

Training and certification programs don't come super cheap these days of "Occupy Wall Street", when lots of the world is just managing to tread water. And there are more and more "green" educational and certification platforms to consider - running the gamut from the NAHB to USGBC. For some, the Living Building Challenge Workshop is a bit pricey, with the cost in the hundreds of dollars for the day, but for building professionals and those serious about green building, it is well worth the cost.

The NYC workshop takes place November 3rd at Acuity Brands Lighting, 5 Penn Plaza, 24th Floor (8th Ave between 33rd and 34th), New York, NY 10001.

It looks like the "Living Building Challenge", which grew out of green building initiatives in Cascadia, Washington State, is taking off internationally with projects emerging around the globe. Currently there are active programs in the United States, Canada and Ireland, with discussions occurring in other countries for future international launches.

In July 2010, The Living Building Institute of Ireland was established by a founding circle of local practitioners to oversee the operation of the Living Building Challenge in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The Institute reports: "It is interested in expanding its program in countries around the globe that have an interest in promoting truly sustainable design and construction practices"

Anyone reading this blog post who has an interest in seeing the Living Building Challenge program in their country can contact the Living Building Challenge to begin discussions. And if you start a challenge anywhere in the world, please let me know as I would love to follow the story and see where it goes.

Copyright Paul E McGinniss 2011

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