September 19 2013

The Living Building Challenge for Sustainability in the Built Environment

The open Sustainability Colloquium at the University of California, Berkeley is a presentation series featuring sustainability topics from leading practitioners of urban planning, architecture, landscape design, engineering, consulting, construction, development, and research.

Wurster Hall

The University of California, Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design
hosts an open Sustainability Colloquium directed by Professor Gail Brager on Fridays from 1-2pm at Wurster Hall

Eden Brukman began the September 2013 series by setting the context for issues in the built environment as derived from the past thirty to forty years of development patterns adhering simply to code. She described code as being the minimum legal standard, thus representing the lowest quality of practice while the green building movement reflects a more advanced practice in quality and design.

Berkeley College of Environmental Design Colloquium

Eden Brukman is the executive director of the Health Product
Declaration Collaborative, which provides open standards for the disclosure of building materials on human and environmental health

The Living Building Challenge, developed by the International Living Future Institute, is an initiative offering a standardized certification based on a scoring system of the environmental impact on a building, site or community development project. The performance criteria include site, water, energy, health, materials, equity and beauty.

Site considers the environmental factor of location. This includes limits to growth, inclusion of urban agriculture, habitat exchange, educational opportunities from nature and how the design plan considers the surroundings.

• The water criteria is based on accommodations set towards net-zero use, functional ecological water flow and the management of storm water drainage and recycling.

Energy is based on renewable sources for facilitation of an annual net-zero use.

• The health factor is judged by a civilized environment, inclusion of energy and materials that are conducive to healthy air, comfort and biophilic design elements.

Materials are evaluated by the exclusion of materials or chemicals listed on the Red List, the embodied carbon footprint and product sourcing from responsible industries; especially through recycling and reuse.

• For the equity standard, human scale, democracy and social justice and accessibility to nature are accounted for.

• In meeting the beauty criteria, evocation of the spirit, inspiration, and education are sought to certify the project as meeting the Living Building standard.

DPR Construction

Just one of the Living Building case study examples, DPR Construction’s Phoenix Regional Office features net-zero energy provided by a photovoltaic solar panel covered parking lot, among other amenities to meet the Living Building Challenge criteria

This simply provides a basic understanding of the challenge, which can be a tough bar to measure up to. However, the health of the community and environment have a lot to gain from meeting such standards.

Taking a look around your city, what site, buildings or projects do you think can meet the Living Building Challenge?

Credits: Images by Gina Kiani and Living Building Challenge. Data linked to sources.

Gina Kiani

Gina Kiani is a Graduate student at the University of Southern California and will complete a Master of Science in Geographic Information Science and Technology in the Fall of 2014. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of California Berkeley in Conservation and Resource Studies with a concentration in Sustainable Urban Environments. The primary direction of her objectives and pursuits focus on the use of Geographic Information Science (GIS) to facilitate Sustainable Urban Planning. Her interest in GIS concerns how spatial analysis can provide an over-arching context to many of the themes that are relevant to the interpretation of data and information required in efficient decision-making and modeling. With indisputable evidence of anthropogenic induced climate change, she hopes to utilize GIS in areas such as change detection of atmospheric composition and water levels, epidemic outbreaks, deforestation, reforestation, energy and food production etc., to contribute to the continual characterization, monitoring and evaluation of natural resources for sustainability purposes. Her skill-set includes dissecting and performing the critical components of a site suitability analysis, sustainability inventory, spatial analysis, field techniques for GIST, programming and customization, spatial database management, research and dissemination. Her final year of study will include project management and her thesis in GIS for Sustainable Urban Planning. As the Oakland and Berkeley California correspondent for Global Site Plans, she hopes to remain current on relevant development issues and discover emerging GIS strategies while advocating for sustainable planning.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, September 19th, 2013 at 9:43 am and is filed under Architecture, Energy, Engineering, Environment, Environmental Design, Environmental Non-Profit, Housing, Infrastructure, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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