The Living Building Challenge Sets the Benchmark for ‘Real’ Green Buildings

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  • The LBC is arguably the most rigorous and challenging of all green building
  • Developed by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), a global network dedicated
    to create a healthy future for all.
  • The ILFI model incorporates buildings, products, and communities.
  • The standard is well suited for implementation on the African continent.

The Living Building Challenge is a global green building certification program and sustainable design framework that sets the standard for the ideal built environment. Based on a philosophy and flexible framework rather than a set of rigid tools, the LBC provides a refreshing alternative to the many green star accreditations.

The Living Building Challenge framework promotes buildings that are regenerative spaces that connect occupants to light, air, food, nature, and community. The buildings are self-sufficient and remain within the resource limits of their site plus give something back. They produce more energy than they use and collect and treat all water on site. An LBC building also creates a positive impact on the human and natural systems that interact with them. At the same time, they are healthy for all stakeholders plus look good.

It sounds farfetched but when considers that the underlying principle is that buildings should mimic nature and natural systems, it starts to make sense. The standard uses a flower as a metaphor to illustrate this principle because a flower is rooted in its place and harvests all its water from the rain and all its energy from the sun. They identify seven key performance areas; place, water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity, and beauty.

The standard specifies that the constructed building must be completely pollutant free. They have compiled a Red List of the worst in class materials prevalent in the building industry. The red list includes commonly-used chemicals that pollute our environment, bio-accumulating up the food chain until they reach toxic concentrations and harm construction and factory workers.

Transparency is promoted in their Reveal label which allows building owners to communicate energy efficiency performance. It provides a verification of energy performance, including three separate metrics: energy use intensity, the zero energy performance index, and reduction in energy use from baseline.

Buildings do not exist in isolation but rather form part of an integrated built environment with many stakeholders. The inclusion of the Living Community Challenge tool is designed to create a symbiotic relationship between people and all aspects of the built environment. The program is a call to action to governments, campuses, planners, developers and neighbourhood groups to create connected communities and address challenges regarding the social divide.

Of all the green building rating tools the Living Building Challenge is arguably the most comprehensive and authentic. It is also the best suited for implementation on the African continent.  The model serves all building sectors from residential dwellings through to large commercial buildings.

The standard is available as a free download and any aspiring young green building professional can do online learning customised to suit their specific area of interest and time schedule. With no barriers to entry and low entry costs, the LBC is the fastest growing green building standard in the world.  Young aspiring green building professional in Africa, what are you waiting for?

Author: Bryan Groenendaal


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Green Building Africa promotes the need for net carbon zero buildings and cities in Africa. We are fiercely independent and encourage outlying thinkers to contribute to the #netcarbonzero movement. Climate change is upon us and now is the time to react in a more diverse and broader approach to sustainability in the built environment. We challenge architects, property developers, urban planners, renewable energy professionals and green building specialists. We also challenge the funding houses and regulators and the role they play in facilitating investment into green projects. Lastly, we explore and investigate new technology and real-time data to speed up the journey in realising a net carbon zero environment for our children.

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