The Living Building Challenge at WMU

Mar 11, 2013

LBC building: the Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Lab
Credit Living Building
When is a building like a flower? One answer is: when it is built according to the standards of the Living Building Challenge™. The initiative launched by the International Living Future Institute seeks to reduce or eliminate the effect of human structures on the natural world.  

Western Michigan University senior Giovanni Roberto is part of an effort on campus to bring the Challenge to Kalamazoo. He will help give help give a presentation about the Challenge Wednesday, March 13th, at 6 p.m. at Western’s Office of Sustainability, 2929 W. Michigan Avenue (the former University Bookstore at the corner of W. Michigan Avenue and Howard Street). 


The Living Building Challenge...challenges us to ask the question: What if every single act of design and construction made the world a better place?

Roberto says the Living Building Challenge is a difficult and rigorous process that results in buildings that are environmentally sustainable. He says it is the next step beyond “LEED” certification of buildings that are considered “green”. Roberto says the LBC “flower” has seven petals: site, water, energy, health, materials, equity, and beauty. The ultimate goal: a building that generates its own electricity and handles its own waste with a “net zero” effect on its surroundings. Roberto says the philosophy can also be applied to entire communities or to facilities like parks. It’s also possible to modify an existing building.

 So far, only three buildings in the U.S. have successfully met the Living Building Challenge. Doing so isn’t easy. The Institute requires a year’s worth of data demonstrating that a structure has a “net zero” impact on the environment and meets other requirements. Roberto says some projects only seek certification as a “Net Zero Energy Building”, or as meeting LBC requirements in the areas of water use and materials used in construction. Roberto says he hopes a “living” building will stand one day on Western Michigan University’s campus. He’s working on a marketing plan for the project and helping spread the word about the Challenge.