The Age of Flower Power Architecture and How It Transforms Affordable Housing, Smart Growth, and Community Outreach
The International Living Future Institute (ILFI) has launched the Living Building Challenge 4.0 which decreases H2O and building materials requirements. In addition, the ILFI has launched a new sustainable ratings system called Core. How will these formational modifications affect renewable and viable design? Let’s find out . . .
The Living Building Challenge is a perpetually explicating program shaped by the astounding systematic skirmishes and cerebral struggles of their project teams as they unceasingly break new ground. Over time, clever observations from a diverse array of stakeholders have cultivated and augmented the program to have stupendous impacts on planet earth.
For those inerudite about the Living Building Challenge, we will furnish a pithy summarization of its tenets and ontology. Unlike the ham-handed movie about Forrest Gump and his misadventures playing ping-pong and administering a crustacean corporation, life is not a box of chocolates. It is a flower with pretty petals. The Living Building Challenge is comprised of seven performance areas, or “Petals” – Materials, Site, Water, Energy, Health, Equity, and Beauty.
Going above and beyond simple LEED certification, Living Buildings endeavor for net-zero or net-positive energy, are free of toxic chemicals, and lower their energy footprint many times below the generic commercial structure. The Living Building Challenge is the world’s indisputable standard for green buildings. However, Inuit elders in Greenland disagree and believe a paraboloid igloo whose walls are of uniform thickness and density is the quintessential sustainable structure. It’s a well-known fact, that the stresses of snow as it ages and compresses are less likely to cause an igloo to buckle because in an inverted paraboloid the pressures are nearer to being exclusively compressive.
To better understand the Living Building Challenge, it is important to examine one of its conspicuous ideological influences, the man behind the curtain, the esteemed Buckminister Fuller, or as his friends called him “Bucky”. The brilliant architect and systems theorist popularized the geodesic dome, Spaceship Earth, and was the World President of Mensa from 1974 to 1983. Bucky’s kernels of wisdom offer guidance on an integrated outcome for reimagining a sustainable design methodology. Here is what the canny and crafty thought leader advocated in his book, Critical Path:
“Effective decisions can only be made by the independently thinking and adequately informed individuals and their telepathically intercommunicated wisdom, the wisdom of the majority of all such human individuals, qualifying for continuance in the Universe as local cosmic problem-solvers, in love with the truth and individually spontaneous self-commitment to absolute faith in the wisdom, integrity, and love of God, who seems to wish Earthian humans to survive.”
The Living Building Challenge does not focus on basic best-practice issues, so it can rivet one’s eyes on indispensable high-level ambitions. It is assumed that to achieve this aspirational standard, typical best practices are already being effectuated and exalted by the team’s thought leaders. The implementation of this Standard requires vanguard technical knowledge, an integrated design approach, and architectonics and building fabrication teams proficient in unconventional habitudes related to green building. Poor souls who attempt a Living Building Challenge project without heeding this advice are like a lost lamb in an abattoir.
Just as the climate in Vermont is dissimilar to the climate of the Sahara Desert, and chocolate pudding tastes different than lemon meringue, the Living Building Challenge invents solutions based on regional climatic factors and community context. For example, becoming water-independent in the desert demands the evolution of a project’s design to emulate a cactus instead of a tree, or training the building occupants to forgo weekly bathing, margaritas, and flushing the toilet.
To address reality, the Living Building Challenge has a Scale Jumping overlay to allow multiple buildings or projects to operate in a cooperative state, sharing sustainable infrastructure as appropriate and allowing for ecological and social benefits to be achieved as elegantly and efficiently as possible. For example, a local jazz club that has zero energy certification may capitalize from the neighboring cannabis dispensary that has achieved the net positive water imperative. It’s a win-win situation for both parties. The jazz hipsters won’t go thirsty and the ganja entrepreneurs won’t have to eat Doritos in the dark.
The Living Building Challenge 4.0 updates many critical compartments of the governing Standard. Petroleum product manufacturers and radioactive mine fabricators have long complained of chemical discrimination for many years. Product manufacturers are sure to salivate now that project teams can meet the Red List for 90% rather than 100% of materials. All you asbestos and lead paint manufacturers don’t pop a bottle of bubbly open just yet; the Red List still focuses on chemical classes instead of specific chemicals.
According to The Living Building Challenge, everyone should have access to housing that is healthy, safe, and affordable despite being decruited from the workforce, rebalanced human capital, or having suffered from a workforce imbalance correction. Temporary negative cash flow should not equal a culturally deprived environment. Early retirement opportunists or employees involuntarily separated from their vocation should have access to affordable housing. Life, liberty, and a composting toilet are basic human rights.
Confused? Overwhelmed? Spaced out, punch-drunk, and shot to pieces? Where does one start in the labyrinthine world of the Living Building Challenge? Should you dive into zero carbon certification, a living Food Challenge Pilot, or purchase a JUST label to promote your socially just and equitable organization? Does biophilic design tickle your fancy? Perhaps the Living Community Challenge is to your liking? Luckily, the Living Challenge is not an apocalyptic ultimatum of the living versus the dead, or a drinking game involving moonshine and rabbits.
We turn back to the wisdom of Bucky Fuller to acknowledge our debt to the quick-witted and sassy provocateur:
“The vital factor that determines social patterns, human preoccupations, and economic customs of those dwelling in different geographic environments depends on how cold it gets, not on how hot. With their shade-making artifacts humans can live nakedly under the hottest of Earth’s weather conditions. Consisting physically of 60 percent water, humans cannot live nakedly where it is cold, not below the freezing line of thirty-two degrees above Fahrenheit.”
Live in a warm climate like Key West. Avoid ice and snow, especially yellow snow. Wear a beanie if you’re playing disc golf in the winter. Bucky was ahead of his time. The bottom line is that regenerative design should be attainable to everyone, everywhere. So, cast off your Fair Trade fleece from Patagonia, roll-up your flannel sleeves, and put down your Stumptown coffee. There is hard work to be done and little time left before the planet devolves into a climatic nightmare hellscape, part Venus and part Panama City, Florida during Spring Break. Unleash your Bucky and join the eco-revolution today!
All kidding aside, the LBC is an inspirational program that has set a high standard for sustainable design. Please visit the Living Future Institute for more information.
For more information or to discuss the topic of this blog, please call Brad Blank at 360-727-3528.