What is the Living Building Challenge?

“Living Building Challenge is a philosophy, advocacy tool and certification program that addresses development at all scales. It is comprised of seven performance areas: Site, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity and Beauty. These are subdivided into a total of twenty Imperatives, each of which focuses on a specific sphere of influence.

The purpose of the Living Building Challenge is straightforward – 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. Whether your 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.” Click here to download the standard document or listen to an introductory power point presentation.

The Challenge was created on a philosophy that we can learn from nature and build to follow that path

The ILBI adopted the dandelion as it symbolizes strength.  Derived from the French words meaning “lion’s tooth” (used to describe the shape of the leaves), the dandelion’s very name implies natural leadership.   Just as the proud lion symbolically leads the animal kingdom, the Institute seeks to guide the human effort toward a restorative future. Click here to get the full story from ILBI.  The Dandelion is:

  • The dandelion is collaborative
  • The dandelion endures.
  • The dandelion is simple.
  • The dandelion is curative.
  • The dandelion generates no waste.
  • The dandelion spreads elegantly. 
  • Typologies: Is used for the type of project that the challenge is trying to achieve
  • Living Transect: Is used to decide what kind of area the project is going to be renovated or built on.
  • Petals: Refers to the main category of the Living Building Challenge (LBC)
  • Imperatives: Are the credits that need to be achieved in each categories of the LBC
  • Scale Jumping: Refers to the opportunity to go beyond the project boarders or scope to achieve that Imperative
  • Standard: Is the reference guide of the LBC for all project types
How The Living Building Challenge Works:

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.  All the following information is located in the Standard in more detail.

Project team can classify any project under four Typologies and teams must identify the one that aligns with the project to determine which Imperatives have to be achieved.  There are 20 Imperatives in total but based on the Typology of the project not all have to be achieved.  For example: Only 13 are needed for Renovation project but all 20 need to be achieved for building and Neighborhood projects to be certified as Living.  Here are the classifications:

  • Renovation: Used for any project that is going to renovate from single-floor tenant improvements, residential kitchen remodels or historic rehabilitations of a portion of a building.
  • Landscape or Infrastructure (non-conditioned development): Projects for this may be as diverse as roads, bridges, plazas, sports facilities or trails.
  • Building: Used for projects that has a roof and wall structure to be built or renovated
  • Neighborhood: Used for any project that contains multiple buildings in a continuous campus, neighborhood, district or village.

After classifying a project, the team must  pick a Living Transect Category.  Every Landscape + Infrastructure, Building or Neighborhood project must select a type of area the project is located in:

  • L1. Natural Habitat Preserve (Greenfield sites
  • L2. Rural Agriculture Zone
  • L3. Village or Campus Zone
  • L5. Urban Center Zone
  • L6. Urban Core Zone

There are only two rules that need to be followed to achieve full Petal recognition and be certified as “Living”:

  1. All Imperatives assigned to a Typology are mandatory.
  2. Living Building Challenge certification is based on actual, rather than modeled or anticipated, performance and  must be operational for at least twelve consecutive months prior to evaluation.

Projects can also go for “Petal Recognition” if they satisfy the requirements in three categories of the Living Building Challenge, when at least one is Water, Energy or Materials.

How to register a project?

To register a project the team will have to join the Community.  The community section of the website contains resources and support services for individuals currently working on Registered Living Building Projects, and those with a keen interest in the tools and design strategies currently being used to address the requirements of the Living Building Challenge.  Here is the info link to join and for cost breakdown.

After joining the Community, project teams will have to go to the registration page for information on registration cost, Certification process diagram, Certification fees and more.

As part of the Community individuals will:

  • Get technical assistance on projects
  • Be able to ask questions on implementing the LBC or intent of imperatives.  This information is shared with all community members
  • Be able to see and share design strategies, tools and research that has been done for one or more Petals of the Challenge.
  • Access to Educational tools and Studies

Over all the Living Building Challenge is not easy to be achieved but through collaboration, innovation and creativity it is being done.  Check out the Case study link for some more info on these projects.  The Challenge is not an expensive certification process, its documentation process is simplified for project teams and it gives the project team freedom to use their expertise and creativity to find solutions.  For more information on the International Living Future Institute and the challenge go to their website www.ilbi.org.