Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Zero-Sum Game

A cohesive look at the means by which the built environment can evolve into something that not only conserves energy and water, but actually heal the environment is offered by the "Living Building Challenge" developed by the International Living Future Institute:

This Challenge is a philosophy, advocacy platform and certification program. Because it defines priorities on both a technical level and as a set of core values, it is engaging the broader building industry in the deep conversations required to truly understand how to solve problems rather than shift them.

In going beyond the LEED system which focuses only on the energy and water systems in a structure itself, it quantifies a way of including the embodied energy, the cost of traveling to a site, and an entire matrix of site, material and health issues. This goes beyond a stand-alone project such as the one that NASA is using as a demonstration of zero energy consumption. An article originally from Architectural Record, one of our industry trade journals, has an excellent, discursive article that describes how this Challenge is aimed at transforming the way that the built environment is viewed from an ecological as well as a cost point of view. It quantifies the necessary qualities of natural capital, and factors in the expense of energy and transportation to construct buildings.

This raises the bar considerably above the existing LEED and BREEAM programs, and continues the necessary evolution of benchmarks in the design and construction industry. Since this industry is responsible for the vast majority of pollution and energy consumption today, especially in the United States, it becomes imperative to address the issue now.

In fact, the kids are having something to say about it in the courts.