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Juan Rodriguez

Living Building Challenge: The New Standard?

By December 13, 2010

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Tyson Center

Tyson Living Learning Center, Courtesy of Sarah Scully

Living Building Challenge standards have been met in at least two buildings, The Omega Center for Sustainable Living, Located in Rhinebeck, New York, and the Tyson Living Learning Center in Eureka, Missouri, achieving full certification after one year of operation. These projects, completed on 2009, have demonstrated that throughout their operation they are in compliance with: net-zero energy and water use. In contrast with USGBC these projects are not certified until they have prove their intended design and requirements.

The Omega Center for Sustainable Living

Omega Center

Omega Center

Located in Rhinebeck, New York and built by Dave Sember Construction met the prerequisites for site, water, energy, materials, human health, and beauty. In addition to use the treated water for garden irrigation and in a greywater recovery system, Omega uses the system and building as a teaching tool in their educational program designed around the ecological impact of their campus.

Sustainable Features

Some of the feature that were incorporated in Omega's construction were:
  • Appropriate solar orientation
  • Daylighting to minimize glare and unwanted solar heat gain
  • Thermal mass for passive heating and cooling
  • Natural ventilation
  • Separate ventilation where appropriate
  • Geothermal heat pump system
  • Photovoltaics and wind power in an effort to achieve a net zero energy building
  • Rainwater collection and reuse
  • On-site ecological wastewater treatment system
  • Outdoor constructed wetland and under-parking treated water dispersal field
  • Bioswales and native plantings in the parking lot for on-site stormwater management
  • Use of treated water for garden irrigation and toilet flushing
  • Zero stormwater discharge from site
  • Limited development and preservation/restoration of habitat
  • Prohibiting the use of the Living Building Challenge's red material list, including PVC, mercury, CFC's, HCFC's, neoprene, and other toxic building materials.
  • High use of salvaged, rapidly renewable and/or high-recycled content materials
  • Materials selected from a tight local/regional radius
  • Interior finishes and adhesives follow SCAQMD 2007/2008 and California Standard 01350 for Interior Air Quality emissions.
  • Tyson Living Learning Center in Eureka, Missouri

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    Tyson Living Center in Missouri, Courtesy of Sarah Scully Part of Washington University and built by Bingman Construction Company, Tyson provides an outdoor laboratory for important research and teaching opportunities. Living Buildings must create all their own electricity and harvest all of their own water. Tyson Living Learning Center actually provides live updates of their power consumption and generation by clicking here.

    Sustainable Features

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    Bathroom Interiors, Courtesy of Sarah Scully

    Some of the features incorporated in the Tyson Learning Center are:

  • Almost 100% of finshed wood was salvaged
  • Generates all the power to operate
  • Local Landscaping Products
  • Runoff, erosion, and water pollution reduction systems
  • Pervious concrete was used
  • All of the water used comes from rain.The water goes through a filtration and purification process.
  • Graywater systems used for irrigation.
  • Variable capacity heat pumps
  • Waterless composting toilets
  • Honor Mention

    The Eco-Sense house in Victoria, British Columbia, was also considered among the first buildings to obtain Living Building Challenge Certification, with the only problem that the owners of the building started to build this house before the LBC became available.

    They found that some of the materials that they already incorporated in the building were not approve by the stringent specification of the materials by the LBC. Sadly enough, they were 'disqualified' to obtain the approval in all categories.

    Materials used in buildings must not use chemicals appearing on a "red list" that are perceived to be harmful, they must come from responsible sources and from within a relatively short distance. Construction waste management and the carbon footprint of the construction process are also subject to stringent standards.

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