April Fools

ILFI Debuts Self-Help Affirmations for Existing Buildings

Outdated, inefficient buildings find a new path forward—and inward.

April 1, 2024

As the morning sun hits the east-facing curtain wall, Summit Ridge Office Park gazes down at its own reflection in the still waters of a man-made lake. Until recently, the building simply accepted what it saw there: a six-story, highway-adjacent office complex, first built in 1987. Once proud of its blandly handsome exterior, Summit Ridge Office Park (SROP, they/them/theirs) slowly realized they were no longer suited to the times.

totally standard 80s suburban office park.

After despairing of a solution to their obselescence for years, Summit Ridge Office Park became a proud and confident building, where people are happy to work and gather.

Photo: Ira Judy Moine

OMFG, buildings can talk?!

“Tenants were fleeing even before the pandemic,” SROP told BuildingGreen. “People said I was too dated, with too much glare, and apparently it’s always either too hot or too cold in here. And my location isn’t a selling point anymore, now that the mall has so many vacancies. I guess everyone wants to work at the mixed-use development near Exit 21, with a Crumbl and a Wahlburgers, plus a cineplex and all those apartments.”

SROP despaired of a solution until late last year, when a forward-thinking researcher showed up with a plan. Serena McCloud, an impact specialist with the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), approached SROP’s owners with a bold idea to teach buildings to “self-actualize.” A devoted practitioner of new-age manifestation techniques, McCloud told BuildingGreen, “I woke up late one night while listening to an eight-hour recording of abundance affirmations and thought, ‘Why can’t buildings do this too?’ After all, we’re all just embodiments of infinite consciousness, and our entire purpose in life is to evolve.”

With this in mind, McCloud created a pilot program for outdated buildings like SROP. “They just need to believe in themselves,” she said with plain affection, “and there’s no better tool for that than affirmations.” When asked how a seemingly non-sentient, non-verbal building could recite affirmations, McCloud corrected BuildingGreen, retorting, “Uhh, I think you meant to say ‘preverbal’?” and then explained that the impact team started by playing recorded affirmations over loudspeakers every night:

I am a proud and confident building, where people are happy to work and gather.

I provide optimal thermal comfort and indoor air quality, all using onsite renewables.

I live in harmony with my surroundings, and I promote a just and equitable world.

I will serve for centuries as a cherished hub for a thriving community.

Amazingly, changes began to appear quickly (including but not limited to SROP’s newfound ability to speak). For example, McCloud compared multiple photographs of the curtain wall, taken only weeks apart. “Dozens of these insulated glazing units (IGUs) had broken seals,” she said, indicating foggy glass and trapped condensation. “But now they’re as clear as when they were installed, back during the Reagan administration.” Furthermore, when utility costs inexplicably dropped, McCloud carefully drilled into one of the IGUs and discovered it now has argon between its two panes. (Editor’s note: Since this interview, McCloud informed BuildingGreen that the windows have now sprouted a third pane, and the argon appears to be spontaneously morphing into krypton.)

Raze, retrofit … or raise consciousness?

“This changes everything,” said ILFI founder and board member Jason F. McLennan.  “People talk about the choice between ‘raze’ and ‘retrofit,’ but now there’s a third option for existing buildings: raise their consciousness.”

Waxing philosophical, McLennan said, “When we coined the term ‘Living Building,’ we naively applied it to only a small subset of buildings, when in fact everything is alive.” Citing the channeled entity known as “Ra,” he explained the seven levels of Density Consciousness, ranging from purely physical first-level entities like rocks and magma, to supremely enlightened seventh-level entities who ultimately rejoin eternal consciousness.

“I would classify buildings as being somewhere between the first and second densities, depending on how much wood and organic compounds they contain,” said McLennan. “For comparison, animals are at the higher end of the second density, and most humans are at the third. So really, ascension is our birthright, no matter which density we’re at, and it’s only our narrow viewpoint that prevents buildings from evolving.”

Making obsolescence obsolete

ILFI’s pilot program included more than just a suburban office park. “There’s no shortage of obsolete buildings,” said McCloud, “so we chose a wide range of properties, all of which are showing improvements.” Notably, some buildings proposed new affirmations after achieving the ability to communicate:

  • An all-glass skyscraper in Houston, originally tasked with improving thermal comfort, expressed a fervent desire to prevent bird strikes. “I love my feathered friends and can never hurt them,” repeats the building every night—which proved highly inconvenient for the Buffalo Wild Wings franchise at street level.
  • A Missouri hospital, whose ILFI-assigned affirmations addressed toxic building materials, admitted to a deep fear of clowns. “They sometimes come to the pediatric ward, and there’s even a clown mural in the waiting room,” confessed the building. Its daily affirmations now include, “I am safe and secure in the present moment” and “I replace fear with curiosity and understanding.”
  • An Oregon high school has become so excited about weaning itself off fossil fuels that it created its own affirmation, and it occasionally disrupts classes by shouting, “I AM ELECTRIFYING!”

The sky’s the limit

Similarly, now that the Summit Ridge Office Park has tasted success, they are unstoppable. “I want public transit,” SROP told BuildingGreen. “I realize that’s a big ask, considering I’m in suburban Toledo, but I’m determined to pull it off.” 

Which brings us back to the man-made lake (now spring-fed and a host to several endangered species). “Every morning, I look at my reflection,” said SROP, “but instead of seeing a middle-aged office building next to the interstate, I envision a dazzling, mixed-use hub, with trains, and bike paths, and—” 

SROP paused, a little embarrassed. “And airships,” they said quietly. “I want airships, like the Goodyear Blimp, but for passengers. And they won’t pollute at all, and people will fly them all over the world, and they’ll be so much better than airplanes.”

With an audible sniffle, the building said, “We just have to believe.”

a pinterest board showing an airship, bicyclists on a small cobblestone back street, a farmers' market, a hobbit hole, a unicorn pegasus with rainbow, and an old-growth forest with a sunburst.

Summit Ridge Office Park has been exploring their next phase of enlightment on this Pinterest board.

Screen capture: Pinterest

Transforming buildings and beyond

McLennan highlighted the potential to transform far more than just the built environment. “We’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible. If a building can change its physical properties—and learn to talk—then clearly there’s no limit to what we can achieve by harnessing the power of consciousness,” he said, speaking with BuildingGreen via satellite phone from atop the Great Pyramid.

Back at home, McCloud continues to review the data from the fast-growing pilot project. “Initially we only looked for physical changes in the buildings themselves, but we’re receiving anecdotal reports from the occupants as well,” she said in a recent email, citing examples. SROP is now the home of a popular yoga studio, which looks out over the shimmering lake, and the owners report a much higher rate of Kundalini awakening among clients than at their prior location. 

Meanwhile, custodial staff at the aforementioned high school—who hear the recorded affirmations every night while working—report an increase in job satisfaction, an “indescribable sense of oneness with the universe,” and vastly improved personal compliance with ASHRAE 185.2-2020.

More on clowns, sentient existing buildings, and enlightenment

Social Distancing Challenges Tiny House Clown Movement

World’s Smartest Building Shuts Down

We Must Decarbonize Existing Buildings by 2050—but How?

A Mind-Expanding Addition to LEED v4.20

Mind the Gaps: Making Existing Buildings More Airtight

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April 1, 2024 - 11:26 am

There is a lot of serious, scholarly writing out there about sentience, intrinsic value, consciousness, quantum physics, and the expansive question "what is life?" So when I began reading your April 1 article and saw that you actually quoted Jason McLennan saying, "in fact everything is alive," I felt a surge of optimism. It took me a while to realize that some of the material was so ridiculous that this must be made up. And then I felt a sinking wave of disappointment: The idea that "everything is alive" was turned into a joke. Did you actually get Jason's permission to say something ascribed to him? It would not be surprising to hear him say, "everything is alive," but to see it turned into a joke (because, come on, folks, some of the more-than-human world is not alive), is bordering on heartbreaking.

April 1, 2024 - 12:53 pm

Sorry for your disapointment, Margaret! As it turns out, Jason and Lindsay both previewed this and found it funny, and the author is a practicing Buddhist who fully embraces the concepts being spoofed. I think we can all enjoy a good roasting every once in a while. <3