Home Recommended Reading Workshops About RSS

Living Building Challenge

Hawaii Preparatory Laboratory Living Building

Hawaii Preparatory Laboratory Living Building

I am in love with the idea of building a building that is healthy and beautiful and functions like a flower in the environment.  I have spent hours studying the International Living Building Challenge 2.0 and attempting to get a team together to put just such a building in my neighborhood.

Seattle put in 17 proposals for 2011 and Portland 19 – Portland got the go ahead for 3 buildings and their first Living Building project from 2010 is just about ready to begin construction.  We heard all about their efforts recently at the Center for Urban Water in Tacoma, Washington (an amazingly earth friendly building which has been around for awhile)

I have written about one of the Living Buildings in Hawaii, completed, on Biking Architect.

Bertschi School in Seattle  is now on its first year evaluation countdown as the children use the Living Science Wing of their school.  I think starting with a school is extremely powerful as the children helped design and can understand what a Living Building is and how it helps the environment and think this is NORMAL, not just some random concept or idea.

No stick in the mud folks here – and no toxic materials – so theirs is a building which is health giving to each of them and to the city around them.  They are completely contained.  And the composting toilet is the way to go!

There are 7 petals to the L-B concept, with 20 detailed design considerations within the petal format:

  • SITE Limits to growth, Urban Agriculture, Habitat Exchange, Car Free Living
  • WATER Net Zero Water, Ecological Water Flow
  • ENERGY Net Zero Energy
  • HEALTH Civilized Environment, Healthy Air, Biophilia
  • MATERIALS Red List, Embodied Carbon Footprints, Responsible Industry, Appropriate Sourcing, Conservation + Reuse
  • EQUITY Human Scale + Humane Places, Democracy + Social Justice, Rights to Nature
  • BEAUTY Beauty + Spirit, Inspiration + Education

It took 22 people working full time to deal with the RED LIST, which are things that cannot be in a living building (They are most likely in an energy efficient building- your house).


We in the USA are allowed to bring all of these things into our own homes.  Many of them are the active ingredients in our toothpaste, dishwashing liquid, laundry products, carpeting, wall boards, and furniture.   There are now protective laws about Asbestos – a bit too late for all those teachers who taught for years in schools full of this  (My Mother and Aunt).

Portland, Oregon is now listed as the Greenest city in the USA, but it still falls way behind  Vancouver, British Columbia, and most of the European Countries that signed on to the Kyoto Agreement and had governments and individuals who just went ahead with Green/ Sustainable planning.   It is still going to take massive education to get folks to understand how this works.

To be in a healthy environment not only saves people money, but will improve the health of the people within a community, which will once again save money.

There is huge resistance to understanding health – and if people cannot grasp it for their personal understanding then it is going to take massive educational efforts to help focus whole communities and countries and heal the earth.  Not a task for the faint hearted.

It was very exciting to be a room full of people who have been working all along to understand and accomplish healthy buildings and healthy environments.  Having pictures of the 4 buildings completed here in the USA gave people a touchstone of reality they could be very excited about.

Is there something that you are involved with that works towards the health of the earth and your community?  What excites your creative juices and gets them going?

Looking forward to your ideas

Related Reading:
Design with Life in Mind
International Living Future Institute Seattle
Wikipedia Living Building Challenge
Carbon Fast?
Do You Know Your Walk Score?

If you need to be heard, I invite you to come on over to WISE EARS and sign up for our newsletter.

If you enjoyed reading this PLEASE feel free to share this post using the share buttons below

If you purchase anything from Amazon from this site, I will receive a few beans in my bucket, or a donation for a cuppa would be appreciated.

Tags: , , , , , ,

29 Responses to “Living Building Challenge”

  1. Hilary Says:

    Hi Patricia .. what an excellent idea – but as you say you need way more participants and projects in the States ..

    Mum and I have always been very interested in the Eden project in Cornwall – that has an amazing building set up, as well as providing links with other countries around the world, and conserving plants in their various biomes .. It’s in its 10th year now ..


    It is very green conscious .. and I love visiting when I go to Cornwall .. the “What’s It all About” tells you a great deal of it ..

    Interesting post – many thanks – cheers Hilary
    Hilary recently posted..Dear World …My Profile

    patricia Reply:

    thank you for your good comment Hilary, and I loved the link through. I think this is an important project/ s but we are certainly meeting up with fear and resistance – huge…

    I can not believe the fear I encountered just at the wedding I went to this weekend – People are so smashed down here they are rather wandering in a haze and denial….and now the campaigning has started for the next election it is awful.

  2. Melody | Deliberate Receiving Says:

    Hi Patricia,

    My uncle is a contractor in the US, and when he came over to Europe, he was just amazed at how common it is for normal homes to have their own solar panels, or for communities to have a solar panel farm. Particularly Germany have made huge strides in green building. I’m convinced that if green options were offered more often, people in the US would gladly choose them in many cases. But they have to know these options exist and contractors have to know how to implement them. You did a great job profiling this issue. Thank you!

    Melody | Deliberate Receiving recently posted..What If You’re A Lot More Beautiful Than You Think You Are?My Profile

    patricia Reply:

    Thank you
    All the countries that did not disregard the Kyoto Agreement are years ahead of making living buildings – as I pointed out a bit by mentioning Vancouver BC…But Germany is way advanced…so with the L-B challenge we are competing with folks that are extremely advanced.
    The USA has a problem here too, in that there is huge amounts of advertizing that this is just a made up problem – we even have a millions of dollars museum that says there is no such thing as evolution…and theme parts promoting Biblical Science…these groups are having a hey day right now…so most USA progress is being worked underground…
    I am just trying to get it out front and let people know there are options that are extremely healthy.

    Our state just voted not to spend any money removing asbestos from our schools – they thought it was a new tax! Think Asthma…rates skyrocketing…it is fairly scary to be promoting this ecological changes here in the USA right now

  3. EdenSol Says:

    Wonderful post, Patricia! Environmental issues and greener living options call deeply to my heart, as well! You’ve done a great job explaining some of the ways we can make huge strides. Thanks for bringing awareness forth!

    patricia Reply:

    I think it is a survival thing, because all of my cancer has been environmentally produced – it is not someone else’s problem.
    Thank you for your kind words

  4. Sara Says:


    You write one of most diverse blogs of anyone I know. Well, except Hillary:~)

    I loved reading about this. I had not heard of it. I hope your group will be successful. Think about it…not long ago the idea of an electric car or the use of wind/solar power wouldn’t have been even dreamed of in this country. Now, it’s becoming more common.

    We’ve a long to go regarding true health changes, but with people like you, I’ve no doubt it will happen!
    Sara recently posted..Apalachicola TripMy Profile

  5. patricia Says:

    Thank you for you words of encouragement – we are truly being yelled and screamed at today by the local folks who think Armageddon is coming so why should we bother…It was an overwhelming meeting of being yelled at…aargh

    But we keep working at it – and I am just so excited that there is a whole city in Germany that is off the grid and self sustaining and fully green…just imagine a whole city with schools and hospitals..and homes helping each other – now that is healthy!

  6. Luke Says:

    I wonder how realistic this can be ? Is there a chance it could be applied on bigger scale ? It all looks good in concept but what the real life have to say about it ?
    Luke recently posted..Online graduate schoolsMy Profile

    patricia Reply:

    There are only 4 large buildings like this in the USA, but in most of Europe there are getting to be whole communities…I want to build a house or duplex here to show that it can be translated to the local community with success…

    Those in the know say that economic and earth recovery is going to come from building this way and I believe it is going to be stronger communities for us all.
    Welcome here and thank you for you comment…
    I have been studying this for years and years…I am hoping it happens while I can still enjoy it..

  7. Jenny Ann Fraser Says:

    Thank you Patricia!
    This is awesome!
    I am presently working at re-launching my blog with much more focus on environmental issues and what we can do about them. This is a truly great example of what we are capable of if we would make it a priority.
    Thank you!

    patricia Reply:

    Jenny Ann,
    This is quite exciting information for me to share and keep exploring. I have lived with a green-design architect for the past 34 years and we keep plugging along to find funding for one of these projects…
    It is fairly underground work here as we have huge numbers of resistance folks who do not believe there is an environmental hazard…or problem. They are very vocal and very attacking…and then we also deal with the idea that small town folks are not the”Big Boys” so don’t know how to compete or design internationally…getting funding going has taken a tremendous effort..
    but it is so exciting….
    Our home is quite a model for renovation…we just keep working on getting the word out.
    Thank you for your generous words

  8. suzen Says:

    Hi Patricia! Very interesting!!! How sad we are so behind with this. I hear you about wanting to educate en masse about this as I feel the same about food choices and nutrition. Neither, as you so aptly put it, are tasks for the faint of heart. Luckily you sound up to the challenge. I’m so excited you will be doing more blogs on environmental issues – that’s fantastic!

    patricia Reply:

    Yes it makes me sad that we are so far behind and that my partner does not get the opportunity to show his stuff – he has been working on this kind of thing for over 38 years…

    Yep the food issues are the same and folks give them lots of lip service and little follow through. It is a shame

    But we keep at it…
    I only have about 40 readers on Biking Architect for the past 2 years but every other week for 2 years I have been writing about the environment and just these issues and products that people can use right now in their homes…

    I not only want my partner to get an opportunity to do one of these LB buildings, but I want it for our future and for our children….So I keep at it and keep getting excited.

    Every once and a while I just get jealous over the work happening in other countries….
    My husband had to go to China to get an award for his Green Design efforts…ah me

  9. J.D. Meier Says:

    > We in the USA are allowed to bring all of these things into our own homes
    Yum! Aren’t we the lucky ones 😉

    I wonder how much FORMALDEHYDE is the recommended daily allowance. I wonder if I get enough that I don’t need to be pickled.
    J.D. Meier recently posted..Seven Principles for a Better Life by Alissa FinermanMy Profile

    patricia Reply:

    You make me both laugh and cry with your comment. There was so much formaldehyde in this old house and other toxins ( 100 year old house) when we remodeled it made me very ill and my Ovarian Cancer labs were full of toxic materials…my last huge surgery.

    Our Danish friends ran out of the environmental dish soap we sent with them, so they bought a huge economy sized bottle with grease relief = formaldehyde…I just do not know how to dispose of it, but have placed it in 4 sealed bags and put it outside until we can decide. $25 to take it to Hazo house seems hard to take when so many of my neighbors think nothing of this particular brand.

    Have you ever noticed how strong the cleaning aisle smells in the grocery store….that is covering up the toxic stuff…no lie and it is promoted in ads.

    Someday I hope it will be easier to get financing for a LB building than the so called energy efficient – non starters of today.

    Uphill climb

  10. patricia Says:

    I wish folks would put this post on Stumble upon…It needs more readers.

  11. Laurie Buchanan Says:

    Patricia – what a wonderfully educational post, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and learning from it as I enjoyed my morning cuppa tea.

    Being earth-friendly is something we strive for both at home and at our healing studio, HolEssence.
    Laurie Buchanan recently posted..Welcome to Camp Laurie – If Your Dare!My Profile

    patricia Reply:

    This is exciting stuff and the enthusiasm of the children who helped design their school building and do the care giving of it is amazing – I am just concerned that such a huge portion of our population are such naysayers

    We have been at this work for 39 years and will keep pursuing it with joy – the earth needs our creations and insight

    Thank you for your kind words

  12. Deborah Says:

    Hi Patricia, A great project – one that could lead to so many more if it goes ahead.

    I see Hilary mentions the Eden Project – I too love it there, though the humidity got to me a little in the Rainforest I must say! It is not too far from our holiday home so is on our list of places to visit for guests.

    Great to know that the US has people like you who value the efforts and the Kyoto Treaty, The US is so large it really does needs to pull together.

    We do what we can within our small company and I launched a ‘buy green’ website http://www.inthegreencorner.co.uk/ a couple of years ago. If you care to have a look, it has some interesting information and links on it as well as products. I am not trying to sell you anything, honest!

    Good one Patricia, I wish you all well! :-)
    Deborah recently posted..More haste less speedMy Profile

    patricia Reply:

    Hi Deborah,
    We have worked at these projects for years and years – my partner is a Green Design Architect, but we can not go full force into these projects as we have so many folks who are not believers in ecology….we have to find grants and fundraising to do efficient buildings. The ecology movement is quite underground.

    Our current proposal was just turned down, so now we pick up the pieces and start again for 2012 attempts.

    I am jealous of how far ahead Germany and other European countries are…and yet was delighted to see all our wind farms and ocean current farms as I traveled to a wedding this weekend – the group that is persevering is having an impact, but I think it will take another generation before all this thinking becomes NORMAL – not just treehugger stuff

    Thank you for coming on by

  13. Brittany Says:

    Great idea Patricia, I hope that you and your group are able to make it happen! I’m all about trying to help the environment too, and going green. Most of my work has been on water conservation. I’ve been working in an internship to help people in my town see where their personal water usage is coming from and how they can reduce their usage. Our goal is that our town’s water usage as a whole will be significantly reduced, and looking at articles in the paper, I’d say it’s worked!
    Brittany recently posted..Responses to The Ice Breaker Speech and Shyness ProjectMy Profile

    patricia Reply:

    We have been working 3 years to get a proposal through and I just had to write this post because we were turned down once again and I needed some oomph to get up and get back on track..We just keep working forward.
    I enjoy researching all this material too and making wishes for the future.

    I was inspired when I was about your age my Father moved us to Cleveland, Ohio and the Cuyahoga River caught fire….How could a river be that dirty? I watched the environmental people stand up and and work diligently to clean the water back to its healthy state. I just watch lots of documentaries on water.

    I did not want my beautiful Puget Sound/Salish Sea to suffer the same fate…so I began learning about how we pollute – our laundry and cleaning products are just horrible to our water systems.

    I am so glad that you are busy along the same lines….I think it will take a great many of us in many areas to find success.
    Thank you for your good words…
    Loved your speech by the way…

  14. Talon Says:

    It’s wonderful to be back and reading your wise words, Patricia!

    We have bought green and sustainable products wherever we could in furniture and different products for the renovations we’re always undertaking. Paints, toilets, sustainable flooring options, etc. It’s amazing how much chemicals we’re surrounded with. I’m surprised we don’t glow in the dark! I just wish manufacturers would re-evaulate their present methods of producing products and that the cost of being green wasn’t so often prohibitive.

    How neat it would be to live in a fully green house!
    Talon recently posted..TemporalMy Profile

    patricia Reply:

    Welcome back and I hope you had a refreshing time away.

    Yep I think many of us try to do everything as green as we possible can…I think the researchers mentioned here and the dedicated designers who demand green and healthy products are going to bring the costs down very quickly.

    Europe is already experiencing this and Portland, Oregon has gone so green and healthy, they had about 65 million dollars to give back to their schools – they are saving that much money.

    Yes we paid $30K for our solar panels, but they are almost paying for themselves these days by how much energy we are selling to the grid and our neighbors….
    When one calculates the health care savings ( long term) people are starting to be amazed at how cost effective it can be.

  15. Composting Toilets | The Biking Architect Says:

    […] Building Challenge 2.0 projects in the USA.  Very exciting experience and I wrote about it at PatriciasWisdom I was thrilled to hear about the completed Science Building at the Bertschi School in Seattle, […]

  16. nyc building permits Says:

    excellent post and comments. fascinating information sharing

    patricia Reply:

    Thank you NYC building permits
    permits in this city are extremely hard to get and it is going to take a great deal of education to help those folks understand and our city council…we can not leave it to chance..
    whereas the bigger cities in our area – a person is just assigned to these projects all the way through – What a difference

  17. Codes and Regulations – Help or Hindrance? | The Biking Architect Says:

    […] we had gone to hear and get training at AIA (American Institute of Architecture) lecture on the new Living Building Challenge Project completed or underway.  Those firms were all LEED certified and the Institutes were focused on […]