“The Living Building Challenge™ is a building certification program, advocacy tool and philosophy that defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today.”

The Living Building Challenge

The The Living Building ChallengeSM  is endorsed by the Canadian and US Green Building Councils and administered by the International Living Futures Institute. The Living Building Challenge research is fundamental to Harmony Habitat’s deep green approach. It is a systems based, ecological, philosophical frame of reference for design . The goal is to create buildings that function as elegantly and beautifully as nature’s architecture, working with natural forces instead of against them.

The Living Future’s Institute asks, “What if every single act of design and construction made the world a better place?”

Twenty Imperatives for Living Buildings

LBC certified buildings must meet the requirements of 20 imperatives. These are listed below under the headings of each of the seven categories or “petals”.

1. Limits to Growth

To curb sprawl, restore natural ecosystems, and protect productive agricultural lands and ecologically sensitive areas from the negative impacts of development.

2. Agriculture

To re-establish a tie between humans and their nourishment, and reconnect communities to the land, since no truly sustainable community can rely on globally sourced food production.

3. Habitat Exchange

To expand existing thriving wilderness areas and protect them from destruction caused by development and building material extraction.

4. Human Powered Living

To reduce transportation-related environmental impacts and encourage compact, connected communities that support a productive and rich lifestyle without need of a car.

5. Net Positive Water

To meet all water demands within the carrying capacity of the site and mimic natural hydrological conditions, using appropriately sized and climate-specific water management systems that treat, infiltrate, or reuse all water resources on site. 

6. Net Positive Energy

To rely solely on renewable forms of energy and operate year-round in a safe, pollution-free manner.

7. Civilized Environment

To improve occupant health by providing a direct connection to the outdoor environment.

8. Healthy Interior Environment

To improve occupant health by reducing or eliminating indoor pollutants.

9. Biophilic Environment

To promote designs that bridge the divide between natural and built environments.

1.0 Red List Free

To eliminate the use of worst-in-class materials/chemicals with the greatest impact to human and ecosystem health.

11. Embodied Carbon Footprint

To minimize project’s embodied carbon through design as well as to offset project’s climate-change related construction impacts

12. Responsible Industry

To reduce the damaging environmental and social impacts related to industries that rely on natural resource extraction and plant cultivation

13. Living Economy Sourcing

To support investment in local economies that stimulates local economic growth, strengthens community ties and development, and minimizes environmental impacts associated with transportation of products and people.

14. Net Positive Waste

To reduce environmental burdens from the extraction, processing, and disposal of materials and turn waste into a valuable resource through beneficial reuse.

15. Human Scale and Human Places

To create human-scaled places that promote human interaction. 

16. Universal Access to Nature

To create places that are accessible to all, while allowing public access to fresh air, sunlight and waterways.

17. Equitable Investment

To ensure all private and for profit projects contribute to the public good in an amount commensurate with the project expense

18. Just Organizations

To promote the business practices of organizations that support a responsible, equitable living future

19. Beauty and Spirit 

To ensure that beautiful living buildings contribute to their communities sense of place, delighting and inspiring their occupants for generations to come

20. Inspiration and Education

To teach and encourage project occupants and visitors, as well as other design teams and the public, by providing explanatory informationabout the project through a v variety of means.

The Red List

The Living Building Challenge materials petal requires avoidance of a list of ingredients named ‘The Red List“.

Here’s an inspiring 7 minute video about LBC and a congratulations to its founder Jason McLennan, who won the 2016 Award of Excellence from the Engineering News Record.

“As Eden Brukman, vice president of the International Living Future Institute, will tell you, the list starts at the end, ‘shining a light on where the industry needs to go.’ Right now, there are limitations that prohibit any builder from truly complying with the Red List, but Brukman says the point is to push the industry in the right direction, fostering innovation and communication.’The Red List is providing people with a shifted mindset that is going to really impact the way we think about products,’ Brukman says.”

Read the basics of the standard

You can read about the basics of each of the petal here:

To achieve certification, applicants must register their building with the ILFI and then document performance for 12 months.

One page summary of Living Building Challenge – an article by EcoHome.net

To download a detailed pdf document about the Living Building Challenge, click here.

The founder of the Living Building Challenge introducing the concept

Three minute intro to the LBC

A 15 minute TED talk by founder Jason McLennan

One 4 minute video discussion by an excellent speaker.

Another longer discussion by Jason McLennan – 22 minute video

This 6 minute video discusses integrative design in the context of the design of the LBC Phipps Centre in Pittsburg

Living Building Challenge Research 

(excerpts from the Living Futures website)

“The biggest barriers to a transformed built environment and re-focused building industry are not technical: we have the skills and technology needed to thrive in partnership with the resources that sustain us. Instead, as many innovative project teams have found, outdated regulatory and financial structures can make it difficult to implement ecologically wise building practices that advance public health and enhance the long-term resiliency of the built environment.  These barriers are the guiding force in our research and advocacy agendas. For reports on water, energy, codes, finance and building reuse, visit the LBC Research section. ”

“The purpose of the Net Zero and Living Building Challenge Financial Study: A Cost Comparison Report for Buildings in the District of Columbia was twofold. First, to investigate costs, benefits and approaches necessary to improve building performance in the District of Columbia from LEED Platinum to zero energy, zero water and Living Building status. Second, to advise District government on policy drivers related to deep green buildings and to analyze the opportunities for the District to offer incentives to advance most rapidly toward zero energy, zero water and Living Buildings.”