Feature Article

The Living Building Challenge: Can It Really Change the World?

May 29, 2009

It’s the year 2060. A developer has gathered a group of designers to answer a request for proposals for a 250,000 ft2 building in Portland, Oregon, built entirely with natural materials and without mechanical systems, plumbing, or electric lighting. The developer represents a company that will profit from the ecosystem services the building provides. With him are a public interest attorney, an infant named Wee One, and a salmon; these others are there to ensure that the building does not harm the socially disadvantaged, future generations, or the site’s ecology.

Sound far-fetched? That’s the point. Ralph DiNola, Assoc. AIA, a consultant with Green Building Services in Portland, used this exercise recently to kick off a charrette for the Oregon Sustainability Center, a mixed-use building that will house three clients whose purpose is to “create an intentional business community in a building that embodies their missions, values, and intentions.” The owners have asked the project team to certify the building through the Living Building Challenge (LBC), a relatively new rating system developed and administered by the Cascadia Green Building Council.