Living Building at the Phipps Conservatory
While recently in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I was able to tour the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and the new Center for Sustainable Landscapes, an education, research and administration facility.
As you walk through the botanical gardens located in the glass and steel Victorian Greenhouse and the surrounding grounds, then onto the Center for Sustainable Landscapes there are educational stations providing information on the various sustainable attributes. This hybrid educational experience provides a framework to understand the connection between the built environment, the resources it uses, and synergistic ways to interact with the natural world.
Both of these buildings and surrounding grounds are part of the Living Building Challenge, which is a sustainable building certification program described as a, “philosophy, advocacy tool and certification program that promotes the most advanced measurement of sustainability in the built environment.”
By definition living buildings must be net zero energy with on-site renewable sources providing all energy needs. All water needs must be met with water captured, treated and managed on site, and without discharge of waste water into sewers. The buildings must occupy previously developed sites. Demolition and construction waste must be reused or recycled. Interiors must be people friendly and maximize fresh air and daylight. They must in some way serve to educate the public on sustainable solutions. The materials with which they are built cannot contain polyvinyl chloride or any of the other 12 hazardous chemicals on a materials “red list.” Finally, shipping distances for materials are limited to a prescribed radius from the building site.
The Living Building Challenge comprises seven performance areas: site, water, energy, health, materials, equity and beauty. These are subdivided into a total of twenty Imperatives, each of which focuses on a specific sphere of influence:
As I progressed through the tour I became more and more inspired, wondering how we could become involved with the Living Building Challenge in South Florida. What I found is there are Living Building Challenge Collaboratives located throughout the world which are community-based groups that meet in-person regularly to share knowledge and create the local conditions that support development of Living Buildings, Sites and Communities.
Want to learn more or become involved with the Living Building Challenge?
The Spinnaker Group will soon be Ambassador Presenters; professionals who are trained through the Ambassador Network to deliver informal introductory presentations to peers, local organizations, institutions, companies and community groups. Our goal is help build local capacity for sustained discussions on restorative principles and the formation of a local Living Building Challenge Collaborative.
Currently, there are more than 150 Living Building projects currently in some phase of design, construction or operation. Could the next one be located in South Florida?
Written By Trevor Schatz, Project Manager at The Spinnaker Group