June Green Guru Spotlight: Greener and Cooler - The Living Building Challenge


Students explore the Bertschi School Living Science Building.

Buildings represent a significant opportunity to reduce a company’s carbon and environmental footprint, at least cost, using proven and commercially available technologies. Buildings use about 40% of global energy, 25% of global water, 40% of global resources, and they emit approximately 1/3 of GHG emissions. (SOURCE: UNEP sustainable buildings and climate initiative). Some companies have been building LEED certified facilities and even data centers. Recently, companies have even been in the news for constructing Net Zero Energy buildings. An even lighter footprint can be accomplished by a Living Building Challenge certification, a program of the International Living Future Institute. “Addressing development at all scales, it can be equally applied to landscape and infrastructure projects; partial renovations and complete building renewals; new building construction; and neighborhood, campus and community design.”

The Living Building Challenge certification addresses building site, water, energy, health, materials, equity and beauty. Each of these has “imperatives” or conditions that must be fulfilled, such as net zero energy, net zero water, appropriate sourcing etc. Bertschi School Living Science Building, located in Seattle, was one of the first projects to achieve the Living Building Challenge certification. All the water needed for the building is collected and treated on site through a variety of methods such as cisterns for storage, an interior green wall of tropical plants for treating grey water and a composting toilet for treating black water! All the sustainable features are visible and functional so students can learn ecological concepts that can become intrinsic values. Other buildings to achieve the Living Building Challenge certification are the Energy Lab at Hawaii Preparatory Academy, the Omega Center for sustainable living, and the Tyson Living Learning Center.  That list seems incomplete without some Silicon Valley company buildings, don’t you think?!

Do you know of creative ways Silicon Valley companies have reduced the footprint of their buildings?  Email and enlighten us!


Green Guru: Suparna Vashisht, June 2013
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