The Future of Green Building… The Living Building Challenge

Last month in New York City, I was fortunate to attend the first east coast workshop for the Living Building Challenge. The challenge was created in 2006 by The Cascadia Green Building Council (, one of the three founding chapters and pioneers of the US Green Building Council. The Living Building Challenge has now become part of the Living Futures Institute and has no specific affiliation with LEED. It is a stand alone program that looks to push the boundaries of design, material usage and building efficiency all while focusing on true beauty and being one with nature. I wanted to introduce you to the challenge and give you some insight as to where things are headed in the world of green building.

The Living Building Challenge is exactly that… a serious CHALLENGE. For even the most savvy of green builders and designers it will serve as a formidable foe… The benchmarks are far beyond LEED… Far beyond where any of us think about when it comes to conventional design and construction. This challenge will force you to abandon your comfort zone, your means & methods and think outside of the box. For this, I love the challenge. The challenge has two large hurdles in my mind: Net Zero Water Consumption and Net Zero Energy Consumption.

It is certainly not for everyone. In my estimation, the upfront costs are significant, projecting anywhere from 10-50% more than conventional buildings, but there are virtually no utility costs and you will be among the few, the proud, the pioneers. There is something to be said for being Net Zero both from an efficiency and technology standpoint. It is not easy but just imagine all those dollars saved throughout the lifespan of the building.

There are 7 major Categories within the Living Building Challenge which they call petals. Within each petal category there are imperatives which must be met, 100% in order to receive the petal. If you are able to receive all 7 petals for your building then you will receive the Living Building Challenge Certification. They have just unveiled a lower tier of recognition which is the Petal Recognition for achieving 3 of the petal categories. My impression is this has been well received because of the rigorous and almost impossible demands of all 7 petal categories.

Here are the 7 petals and their imperatives (requirements):

I.) Site

01 – Limits to growth

02 – Urban Agriculture

03 – Habitat/Land exchange

04 – Car Free Living

II.) Water

05 – Net Zero Water

06 – Ecological Water Flow

III.) Energy

07 – Net Zero Energy

Note: No combustion allowed

IV.) Health

08 – Civilized Environment (fresh air and daylight are priorities)

09 – Healthy Air

10 – Biophilia (Reference –

V.) Materials

11 – Red list (DO NOT USE List)

12 – Embodied carbon footprint

13 – Responsible industry

14 – Appropriate Sourcing – FSC Pure, Salvaged or Timber from on site

15 – Conservation + Resource

Note: Only petal which currently requires significant documentation

VI.) Equity

16 – Human Scale + Humane Places

17 – Democracy + Social Justice

18 – Rights to nature – Do not impede others access to natural light, water, etc.

VII.) Beauty

19 – Beauty + Spirit (Nature, delight, joy)

20 – Inspiration + Education

A New Horizon:

I am extremely encouraged by this challenge and the fact that there is someone raising the bar on the design and construction industry. USGBC did this with LEED some 15 years ago. When LEED first arrived, people complained about how hard it was to have 5 different material containers on-site for recycling and how it was impossible to get people to sort their waste. Now it is virtually impossible to find a job that doesn’t recycle its waste. We must continue to push for net zero and challenge people to think outside of the box to get it accomplished. We have a tall task ahead of us and limited resources which are being depleted more every day… let us not forget this.

Photo Of Omega Center, NY

More Information:

For a more in depth look at the Living Building Challenge imperatives/requirements, please go here:

For a look at the cost comparison of a living building vs. LEED Gold, please review this extraordinary cost matrix:

If you would like a presentation, please contact me for more information and we will be sure to assist you with this.


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