The Living Building Challenge
Who has never dreamt of living in a treehouse as a kid? For those have had the opportunity, like I did, I’m certain that many of the memories and the things learned there are s ll associated with that very special, in mate place. When we think about the things we learned about kids, we realise that many of the things the grownups were telling us were lies or simplifica ons because they thought we were not smart or mature enough to understand the ma er. When I think about the treehouse, I think of it as a place of learning, not formal learning like in the school, but the place where we played with the insects we captured in a jar, where we communicated with our siblings back in the house with a piece of thread a ached to 2 plas c cups, where we shamelessly shot birds with our slings. We carried many of the things we learned there into adulthood, and I am certain that I would have been a very diﬀerent person today if it was not for my treehouse.
Where does it all fit with the Living Building Challenge? • Trees are one of the most powerful symbols of the natural environment and natural resources, and these are specifically what the LBC is trying to preserve. • Treehouses as places of learning for children remind us that not everything we assume to know is true, and that we need to constantly challenge our knowledge and assump ons. • If trees disappear, treehouses will obvious no longer be able to exist. The analogy is that even buildings, that are currently having a nega ve eﬀect on the natural environment, s ll require that very environment they are destroying.
How is the LBC diﬀerent from other ra ng tools? The 2 current benchmark ra ng tools in Australia are GreenStar and NABERS. LBC has similari es and diﬀerences with both of them: V/S
Both ra ngs are based on actual performance. LBC assesses the performance of a building over one year of occupanc. NABERS on the other hand is a ra ng based on bills. In this sense, the buildings cer fied with NABERS and LBC will both deliver the performance that they boast on paper. The LBC takes into considera on a wide wide spectrum of critaria in its ra ng: site, water, energy, health, materials, equity, and beauty.
NABERS only considers energy, water, indoor air quality and waste, implying that the LBC might be be er suited to address the concept of the ‘new sustainability’.
The LBC does not compare one project to another the ra ng is not benchmarked on the performance of other buildings - it sets an objec ve (eg. zero net energy/water use) and aims that the buildings reach that standard. In this sense, LBC also advocates that buildings should have posi ve and beneficial eﬀects on the immediate environment.
Although NABERS is also a performance based ra ng tool, it compares the performance to peers and neighbours, which can poten ally be misleading if the said peers and neighbours are poor environmental performers. In that sense, a cer fied building could poten ally have high compera ve ra ngs, but s ll not perform that well.
V/S The LBC and the GreenStar tools consider similar ra ng categories such as energy, water, materials, land use (site) emission (health) and therefore look for similar performances in a building. Other than that however, the ra ng system are quite diﬀerent. In order for a building to be cer fied, the building must perform well on EVERY one of the criteria (petals). In this sense, it makes sure that the building performs on every one of the ‘petals’.
One of the major problems with GreenStar is that the credits that a project can accumulate can be traded, i.e. if for example a building manages extremely well on energy, and poorly on IEQ, the overall score might s ll be high but the experience inside the building might not reflect the GreenStar ra ng.
As men oned previously, the LBC makes its ra ngs based on the actual performance of the building a er one year of occupancy.
GreenStar bases its ra ngs on suspected performance, which are not always the same as actual performances. This is where we have the performance gap, where predicted and actual performances don’t match.
Since there are not many LBC buildings in the world, it is hard to use too many examples to see how eﬀec ve this new ra ng system is, but the few that have been cer fied have achieved amazing performances. The Bertschi School is the 1st building to be cer fied with a LBC 2.0 ra ng. Besides all the awards it has won, the school has managed to meet net-zero energy, net-zero water, treatment of greywater through natural processes (green wall and roof) or compos ng toilets. The building therefore not only has minimal eﬀect on its environment, but posi vely contributes to its regenera on. One major condi on that makes this building unique is that it is a school, and therefore the children who will spend most of their me there will learn not only at their school, but from their school, they will see that since their school is designed like that, then why not all the other buildings? Another one of their strokes of genius was to make the diﬀerent processes happening in the building visible to everyone. Here, the stornwater collec on system is made visible through cafeteria. In this way, children can be familiar with these systems and grow up with this kind of mentality and hopefully be aware of the importance of being environmentally cau ous. This brings me back to this idea of a treehouse, a place where kids grow up and learn from what surrounds them, a place that shapes their character. If we manage to get our kids interested right from the start, and not only about minimal footprint, but zero or posi ve influences, we might have a chance to regenerate our environment. ‘What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?’ Henry David Thoreau