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HOME - an amazingly beautiful wake up wall to what our planet is facing

HOME - an amazingly beautiful wake up wall to what our planet is facing

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Whole Earth Summit: March 11-13, 2014 - catch it now!!!

I just serendipitously came across

which is happening right now and you can listen to 42 incredibly visionary leaders in sustainable growing, food, water, community, regenerative design, etc for free online for the next several days.

I am currently enjoying a conversation called
Designing Living Buildings & Systems 
between Jason McLennan and David McConville. 

Here is an excerpt that encapsulates what these guys are about:

"Instead of the paradigm where every act of humanity is leading to the degradation of the system that sustain all of us... how about we flip that: how does every act of operation, design, construction, living, in fact, regenerate and heal the places where we are living."

I actually wrote about the project created by Jason McLennan called The Living Building Challenge for a class in Environmental Media last semester and will repost it below, for anyone curious about eco-building and green homes - something that's always inspired me (and I hope to live in one or many of these one day.)

Green Homes: The Living Building Challenge

by Anastasia Avvakumova

There are many eco-friendly home building innovations out there, some seemingly so incredible that it leaves you wondering if you had accidentally stumbled on a science-fiction forum. For example, the North American website Treehugger[i], dedicated to bringing sustainable-living news, solutions and product information to the mainstream, has recently published stories in their Design section ranging from shipping container building to insulation and even 3D printed furniture made by growing mushroom mycelium into the spaces and shapes desired.[ii]

Treehugger’s managing editor Lloyd Alter is also the editor and author of most of the website’s Design articles and himself comes from an architectural background. More than a few of his recent contributions have been following a growing movement of eco-building inspired by the Living Building Challenge.[iii]

This is in fact a certification standard for the world of green building. As defined by their website,

The Living Building ChallengeTM is the built environment's most rigorous performance standard. It calls for the creation of building projects at all scales that operate as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature's architecture. To be certified under the Challenge, projects must meet a series of ambitious performance requirements, including net zero energy, waste and water, over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy.

Ambitious it is, requiring a building to produce all of its own energy through clean, renewable resources, treat its own waste water and, using only non-toxic, responsibly sourced building materials, create a design that is not only functionally efficient, but also aesthetically beautiful. Despite the extremely exacting standards, the Living Building Challenge (LBC) has continuously gained popularity. Following its creation by the International Living Future Institute in 2006, over 100 registered teams have been pursuing the challenge and four projects have been fully certified as Living Buildings, while six more have been partially certified for achieving aspects of the Challenge’s standards.

Despite several eco-building certification schemes already in existence, LBC standards significantly surpass them, requiring project builders to think ultra-sustainably in seven areas: site, water, energy, health, materials, equity and beauty. It is really inspiring to see that so many people and firms have risen to the challenge, creating a movement which has been drawing visitors to the finished physical sites as well online research and discussion.

I see the LBC creating enormously positive impact in two major areas: localized environmental improvements and far-reaching global inspiration.

Localized improvement includes:
-       building a residence, learning center or other type of facility on previously developed land in a way that will benefit the immediate environment (eg. restoring native plants and general health of previously impacted land)
-       using non-toxic building materials, which will ensure the health of human occupants as well as the surrounding eco-system
-       allocating equal amount of land as taken up by the building project to permanent conservation
-       functioning as a closed loop water system, which means rainwater is collected for the building’s use, grey water and black water are treated onsite through processes which mimic the natural world, “such as using a combination of microorganisms, algae, plants and gravel and sand filtration to clean sewage water and return clean drinkable water back to the aquifer,[iv]” in this way symbiotically interacting with the natural surroundings and returning water to the local ecosystem
-       functioning as a net zero energy unit, with surplus energy pumped into the electrical grid.

These standards require builders to redefine industrial building practices and reach for unprecedented ingenuity.

Far-reaching inspiration includes:
-       advocating the green building industry development by refusing to utilize harmful materials, such as are often present in insulation, paint, etc
-       challenging legislation which currently does not allow for 100% private onsite water treatment
-       gradually bringing down the cost of green buildings through the laws of supply and demand, as eco-building gains popularity[v]
-       opening the sites to tours and workshops, creating dialogue and awareness through hands-on education.

It is very beneficial to have reporting sites like Treehugger informing the general public about developments and innovations such as LBC, as the technical industry terms and specs are translated into accessible language and the reporters are free to critique the initiatives, being a third-party observer.

My fascination with eco-friendly homes started over a decade ago with Earthships[vi], after which I also learned about straw-bale, in-situ adobe, cob, and rammed earth structures, with their use of natural and recycled materials, ingenious use of natural light and ventilation, self-contained water and energy systems, green roofs and stunning aesthetic. It may be a small current in the ocean of commercial building, yet green homes are definitely making waves and with the Living Building Challenge raising the bar on sustainable construction, the future of buildings certainly looks bright.

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