Living Building Challenge

Living Building Challenge

The Living Building Challenge is a green building certification programme that defines measures of sustainability in the built environment.

The Challenge is comprised of seven performance areas, or ‘Petals’: Site, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity and Beauty. Petals are subdivided into a total of twenty Imperatives, each of which focuses on a specific sphere of influence. This compilation of Imperatives can be applied to almost every conceivable Typology, or project type, be it a building (both renovation of an existing structure, or new construction), infrastructure, landscape or community development.

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Thursday, 10th July 2014

Chris Pottage, Skanska

A few more points:

Mandated rating and disclosure of building environmental performance is critical to creating that necessary demand for green buildings. In Australia this has contributed to a common sustainability agenda across industry and government, and created the necessary demand for green interiors to have driven up the returns on investment (mainly through asset value) and facilitated the business case. A suitable system is required in the UK (commercial and public sector buildings) to break down in use performance by tenant, as opposed to by building. With this in mind mandated DECs in their current form would not serve this purpose

Certain clients/ tenants are ready to use LBC (I keep hearing that Google intended to use it on their new offices in London), however the ‘average consumer’ of such rating systems is still stuck in the cycle of requiring a business case which pays back within a very limiting period.

Healthy buildings for occupants (hopefully upcoming research into metrics for human performance/ health will greatly increase our understanding of the human benefits of occupying green buildings- in turn this could then be translated into an order of financial savings which are likely to greatly exceed the operational savings, and asset value increases which currently make the business case for green buildings.

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Thursday, 10th July 2014

Chris Pottage, Skanska

The ambitious criteria in LBC mean that there is unlikely to be a robust business case attached to projects which use this rating system, therefore it will be organisations/ individuals who have a great interest in reducing environmental impact, and have money to spend who will be most interested in this rating scheme. Therefore public sector organisations are almost certainly out, and clients are more likely to be wealthy domestic property owners; perhaps some high quality domestic property developers; commercial tenants which place a particularly high value in (Socially) Responsible Property Investment and in the potential health well-being and productivity benefits of occupying ‘healthy’ buildings, and commercial property developers- presumably such ‘sustainable’ developments will create an additional asset value, and increased returns through the status, and subsequent demand for such green places. Research from the USA (Eichholtz et al, 2010) and Australia (IPD, 2011) suggests that the highest returns come from the developments with the highest rating scheme scores (LEED, and Green Star respectively).

In terms of design approaches LBC appears likely to place more emphasis on whole life cycle analysis (inc. embodied carbon), and on designing more strictly according to the energy hierarchy. The main benefit of this should ultimately be deeper green construction projects. The knock on effect of this, in an ideal world will be that LBC projects which are developed over the coming 4-5 years will not require revisiting from 2025-2050 when increasingly stringent carbon targets/ budgets will require further reductions. Many current ‘low-carbon’ refurbishments tend to focus on renewable/ low carbon energy generation (because of the enhanced business case brought about by FITs/ RHIs), as opposed to passive/ fabric improvements, or energy efficient equipment. As a result many current projects will require more works in order to increase building efficiency long before the UK reaches its 2050 emissions reduction targets. In short 1 refurbishment, rather than two or more.
Net zero water, and energy appear to be the most consequential differences (in terms of rating tools), as well as the Beauty petal, and the equity petal. It appears that LBC would provide a stricter/ more ambitious alternative to BREEAM (for example) as opposed to complementing it.

I think LBC could progress the sustainability agenda. However that is subject to demand for LBC projects- should a situation arise whereby greater asset values, risk mitigation, and image enhancements associated with LBC projects drive demand for ‘deeper’ green spaces. However, this demand is subject to cross industry/ cross-sector buy in to a sustainability agenda at all organisational levels. LBC could provide a useful tool in creating that demand through its advocacy.

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Thursday, 10th July 2014

Eszter Gulacsy, Mott MacDonald

I see LBC as a tool for US/global clients or clients who want to do something “extraordinary” beyond what LEED and BREEAM can offer, but still want an “off the shelf” packaged rating system.

LBC (along with certain aspects of LEED) assesses indoor environmental quality better than other European benchmarking tools (such as BREEAM or DGNB which concentrate more on energy. In addition, LBC goes a lot further than LEEDv4 in requiring transparency from manufacturers. The LBC requirement is also a lot more stringent than LEEDv4 with regards to material ingredient optimisation, as LEEDv4 has introduced loopholes that allow suppliers to not have to report in a fully transparent manner. In that sense, LBC is the “step change” whereas LEEDv4 is the “incremental change”.

The transparency requirement is very new in the UK, though not entirely new in Europe and is very powerful – I think it’s one of the best features of the LBC and likely to be the most controversial too, if LBC gets taken up more broadly (see controversy about LEEDv4 material credits).

The advocacy requirement as related to the materials petal is useful and we have been doing it with various suppliers. We have succeeded in engaging suppliers to reformulate their products in response to Red List requirements and most suppliers are forthcoming with technical solutions as far as the law and technical feasibility allows them. However, I suspect that if and when LBC and the transparency requirement gains more visibility in the UK, a counter campaign from industry and trade associations may be expected, as the level of transparency and supply chain management required inherently favours large companies with significant technical and R&D capabilities. For smaller companies, the level of input required might be prohibitive.

LBC could give you a competitive advantage but the main barrier is finding project owners who are willing to take the plunge and commit to 1) the requirements, which are undoubtedly onerous and 2) to a system where the number of completed projects is small. It takes a real pioneer mentality at the moment.As in the US, some clients in the UK area ready to implement LBC, but these are clients with very high aspirations that are independent of government targets or initiatives. In the current UK climate when even existing environmental commitments are being questioned, LBC is not likely to be taken up large scale in the immediate future. As for the imperatives, I’d say the energy petal has the most resonance with previous UK Government targets and the post-occupancy aspect of the system could be an attraction in itself, as that is something that’s missing from other rating systems at the moment.

I think many occupiers will look at LBC as an alternative to LEED and BREEAM. UK occupiers will often go for BREEAM ratings, LEED is sometimes chosen by US or global firms – however, I believe that LBC (at least initially) will be looked at as another US-based benchmarking system and thus only applicable to the subset of a subset of occupiers (i.e. the most forward thinking of the US/international subset). Unless of course LBC is established as a UK-based alternative/addition to BREEAM.

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Thursday, 10th July 2014

martin brown, fairsnape

There are clients interested in LBC and others who want to demonstrate green or health credentials through their buildings. (I was interested to see a recent survey of building owners in the Netherlands who put healthy buildings as top of their reason for sustainable buildings - ahead of energy) The other group of clients showing interest are nature organisations visitor centres (interesting to note the BREEAM Outstanding, Brockholes Visitor Centre project here in Preston would have considered LBC as alternative if it was known to them a few years back - and may have even been a lower cost option?)

I think we will see the first projects in smaller developments - like the Midge Hole housing design project in Lancashire. However that said, the 6 storey Bullitt Centre in Seattle demonstrates that LBC can be applied to medium sized projects.

I would also flag up a core strength of the LBC is in the certification process itself - the building has to prove its design performance for 12 months and air quality for 9 months - before any certification is awarded. Something central to the performance gap debate here in the UK! Also explains maybe why there are to date only 5 certified buildings. Its a challenge!

But we do need to note LBC is foremost a philosophy as much as a building certification scheme - its about thinking different to the way we approach sustainability - something we badly need - not just doing less bad but making the switch and start doing more good. We call ourselves the 40% sector based on the negative impact - we will probably be happy if we move to being the 35% sector in 5 years!

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Thursday, 10th July 2014

Carolina Passos-Anishetty, BAM Construct UK Ltd

I came across LBC when design managing the sustainability expectations for the new Google HQ project in Kings Cross. I see it as a very young building certification, maybe more directly applied to small scale projects. From our understanding, LBC really suits well small scale developments US based. It definitely suits Google since their corporate priority is the user’s health and well-being.

I find it quite challenging to apply LBC requirements on Large scale projects. For example, Petal Health Imperative 10: Biophilia – “The project must be designed to include elements that nurture the innate human attraction to natural systems and processes. Each of the six established Biophilic Design Elements must be represented for every 2000m2 of the project.” A Large retail or office development would struggle to comply with this requirement– i.e. space constraints and operational requirements to have biophilia fully integrated. The requirement works much better for small scale developments.
Petal Materials: Imperative 11: Red List – for example, In UK is practically impossible to design a project where PVC is not present. PVC will be present in frameworks, in carpets, in pipework, etc etc. As PVC is a problem, it is also impossible to get any carpentry and joinery works absent of MDI. MDI is intrinsic to the vast majority of timber glues. As per MDI, it is extremely difficult to find partitions, raised floor systems, OSB boards, MDFs, without any presence of added Formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is legislated in Europe very differently from the US.
If a product is absent of Formaldehyde, it will definitely fail on MDI based glues. When this happens, which red list material should be selected as most dangerous?

Maybe some reformulation of the requirement or the process of measurement of the chemical ingredient needs to be in place to allow the certification to be applied in a wider scale, outside US.

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