Living Building Challenge Standard, June 2019

Compendium Volume 3 Number 2 January 2020

The construction and operation of buildings and houses is a major source of pollution and ecosystem destruction around the world. In light of this, the Living Building Challenge invites people to reimagine the built environment as a source of social and ecological regeneration.

Nothing less than a sea change in building, infrastructure and community design is required. Indeed, this focus needs to be the great work of our generation. We must remake our cities, towns, neighborhoods, homes and offices, and all the spaces and infrastructure in between. This is part of the necessary process of reinventing our relationship with the natural world and each other—reestablishing ourselves as not separate from, but part of nature, “because the living environment is what really sustains us” (E.O. Wilson) [International Living Future Institute 2019: 8].  

To that end the Living Building Challenge invites us to collaborate in building houses and buildings – or adapting existing ones – to have a positive, rather than simply less-negative, impact on the social and ecological systems where they are situated. The initiative runs educational and certification programs with several high standards, including, for example:

  • Projects must be observant of and responsive to the local ecological and social context of the sites, and onsite landscaping must seek to emulate local ecosystem function.
  • Access to locally grown food should be assured through onsite production and/or connection to local farms.
  • The site must ensure adequate habitat for local species.
  • Living Building Challenge designers must find ways to encourage pedestrian, bike and public transport options, while discouraging individual car travel.
  • Water should be harvested and wastewater treated onsite using living or natural/non-chemical systems.
  • Buildings/houses should supply their own energy on site (not through combustion), monitor their energy use, and minimize use through conservation.
  • Construction materials should be salvaged or sustainably and transparently sourced, and non-toxic.
  • In the interest of human wellbeing and social equity designs should allow natural light, beauty and comfort in the interior of the building, while the exterior must be accessible and welcoming to all members of the public, regardless of socioeconomic status.

International Living Future Institute, 2019, Living Building Challenge 4.0: A visionary path to a regenerative future,

For the full PDF version of the compendium issue where this article appears, visit Compendium Volume 3 Number 2 January 2020