Feature Article

How to Succeed with the Living Building Challenge: 12 Teams Share Tips

The bar is high—that’s obvious—but watch out for some surprising pitfalls. Here’s how dedicated teams have tackled Living Building challenges.

January 4, 2015

The Josey Pavilion in Decatur, Texas, has entered its one-year performance period in its pursuit of Living Building Challenge certification.

Photo Courtesy Lake|Flato Architects
“If there were a LEED Titanium, we’d probably get it.”

But despite its super-greenness, homeowner Abel B’han’s Manhattan townhouse renovation is not going to get Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification. As the “petals”—LBC’s term for its major requirements—fall away one by one, he’s gradually giving up hope that he will get any recognition at all under LBC, or that the project will attain its other lofty goal—Passive House certification.

Yet B’han is hardly discouraged: “Failure to achieve the standard is not a failure,” he maintains. “We will at least make our contribution toward others getting it, and if we can push back against a couple of the New York regulations, we will have achieved something.” He also takes heart from the fact that “we will have achieved a home that is the most environmental possible in Manhattan.”

Not all building owners are open to the risk of aiming for a standard—a standard that can be really expensive—and not achieving it. At some point, the project team needs to go all in or potentially be asked to give up. So how do LBC projects ultimately succeed, despite the long odds?

We spoke to members of twelve trailblazing LBC project teams to find out how they’ve risen to the most difficult challenges of the Living Building Challenge, and we pulled together dozens of tips from these practitioners below.

This is part one in a two-part series and includes tips on Place, Water, and Energy as well as the overall LBC process. The second series will cover Materials.