Can Certifications make Better Buildings?
Over the last decade LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) has become perhaps the most widely known environmental third-party certification for buildings, helping to bridge the technical barrier of sustainable design between owners and architects. While LEED promotes many positive things within the built environment, it is limited to a prescriptive manner of certification, which can result in theoretically “better” buildings that may not actually perform better than a typical baseline building.
A little less than a decade ago, the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) unveiled a new building certification – The Living Building Challenge (LBC) which focuses on a standard of performance. Branded as “a philosophy, advocacy platform and certification tool” it has established itself as perhaps the most advanced and inspirational environmental third-party certification for buildings. Organized around seven petals – Place, Water, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity, and Beauty – the LBC pushes projects towards regenerative solutions. These efforts are then proven through a 12-month post occupancy verification period required for certification. Less than 10 projects worldwide have achieved full Living Building certification while dozens of others are in various stages, perhaps most notably the Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington (which hasn’t yet completed its 12-month verification). As a firm we have not yet completed a Living Building, however, we recently proposed LBC certification for the early concept of a project. Time will tell if the project ends up pursuing and achieving the LBC, but we thought we’d share a bit of what we learned in the initial process.