What on Earth is a “Living Building”…reposted from BCSEA.org


http://www.bcsea.org/
By Ann Baird on October 21, 2010

The BCSEA has many friends and allies, whose work we support and promote. Two of these are Ann and Gord Baird, who walk the talk of sustainable living in the multi-generational cob home they have built in the Highlands, just west of Victoria. Its features include passive solar design, solar PV with grid tie, net zero electricity, energy and water conservation, and solar thermal hot water.

It also includes composting (no flush) toilets, rainwater harvesting, grey water re-use, a living roof, earthen floors, and natural finishes into their exceptionally beautiful, modern and affordable version of earthen architecture.

Their Eco-Sense home has been called “The Earth’s Greenest Modern House”.

So what is a Living Building? Ann writes. . .

A Living Building is a human created structure that functions as if it evolved in place. Because a Living Building is site, climate and occupant specific, there is no limit to creativity in the form and ingenuity of the integrated systems. The building actually participates within its eco-system where energy, water, and resources are shared for mutual benefit.

What a concept eh? But is it possible? You’re damn right it is! Three projects in North America have achieved this visionary ideal…and Eco-Sense, right here in the Highlands near Victoria, BC, is demonstrating one of these exciting possibilities.

“The Living Building Challenge (LBC) calls for a fundamental shift in how we conceive of the built environment,” said Jason F. McLennan, CEO of the International Living Building Institute. “These three projects…are quite simply the greenest buildings in the world.” See full press release PDF.

To achieve their ‘Living’ status, all program requirements must be met and proven through a full year of operation. Eco-Sense was the first completed project, the first to be audited, and the only family home so far. The LBC has taken off and now has over 70 projects registered globally.

A Living Building is rated in 6 areas or petals (for LBC version 1.3), which includes meeting 16 prerequisites. The six petals are: Site; Net Zero Energy; Net Zero Water; Materials; Healthy Indoor Quality; And Beauty & Inspiration. For LBC version 2.0 a seventh petal, Equity, has been added.

Ann and Gord Baird, the owner/builders for their Eco-Sense home achieved 4 of the 6 petals by meeting the requirements for 12 of the 16 prerequisites. Jason McLennan referred their home as “The Earth’s Greenest Modern House”. Eco-Sense has earned “partial” Living Building Certification or “petal recognition” for site, water, beauty & inspiration, and healthy indoor quality.

The Baird’s didn’t fully meet the net zero energy requirement. The family uses net zero electricity, selling its excess to BC Hydro, and it has 60 solar thermal hot water tubes, but they still use propane for cooking and wood gasification for winter heating. To meet the challenge, combustion or fossil fuels are simply not permitted.

The MATERIALS petal also proved to be problematic.
• Materials RED List: YES! They successfully avoided the toxic materials red list (the toughest of all prerequisites).
• Responsible Industry: NO! 100% of wood must be Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), recycled, or milled on site. But alas, they only achieved 90%.
• Materials service radius: NO! Scored perfect…except for the imported Bamboo.
• Leadership in Construction Waste: NO! The three generation family of six produced one can of garbage every two weeks during the build…but alas, they did not fully document their achievements. They also gasified all the wood waste from all the recycled wood for winter heating. Combustion not allowed. (But they did compost all the sawdust.)

So, if a couple of passionate and driven people without engineering and architectural degrees can pull this off, just think what is possible if we collectively take our heads out of the box, unleash our individual creativity, and get to work employing NATURE as our lead architect…just think…

The Bairds’ passion and knowledge is expressed in their work consulting, building, advancing policy, researching, and in the hundreds of tours they have given through their home. They teach that if it isn’t affordable it isn’t sustainable, and they live their motto “Less life stuff…More life style!”

For more media links, click here.

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