Last month I attended the Living Future unConference in Portland, OR. The conference is arranged by the International Living Future Institute, the administrator of the Living Building Challenge™, “the built environment’s most rigorous and ambitious performance standard.”
We’ve talked about the Living Building Challenge (LBC) here on SustainableLibraries.org before when I went to visit the Omega Center in Rhinebeck, NY back in 2010 [Louise & the Eco Machine] It was my first exposure to a building certified under LBC, and with good reason, Omega, at the time, was one of just two building in the world that had met the challenge.
I was not sure what to expect at the Living Future unConference, it was somewhat unlike any other conference I’ve been to, and in other ways, very much like other conferences I’ve been to. There is a built-in community that is following and engaging with the International Living Future Institute that I was new to. Many session presenters referenced back to information shared at previous conferences, which was a little disconcerting as a first-time attendee. However, overall, presenters had great, real-world examples to share that drove home the innovation, dedication and intelligence being applied to the built environment all over the world.
I was glad to be reminded that many people are striving to make the world a better place. To make buildings healthier, to make better choices for people who work, live, play and live near those buildings or near the locations where building materials are sourced.
The unConference theme was “Beauty and Inspiration,” a tagline that, admittedly, almost made me not want to go. But as I listened to Maya Lin (designer of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC) the first evening and Jason McLennen (author of one of my favorite books on sustainability, The Philosophy of Sustainable Design) the next morning I started to really get into the idea of beauty as it relates to sustainable design.
What do we hear so often when people speak about their time in nature or when those we respect write and reflect on nature’s impact on our lives? It is how awestruck people are by nature’s beauty or the elegant solutions found in nature or the mindfulness brought on by time spent in nature. Very often when we think of “sustainability” it is driven by a desire to preserve that beauty, those solutions and that mindfulness. Beauty is often inspiration, and thus a fitting tagline for the conference, a reminder of what is at the heart of the decisions we are making about our library buildings, operations, policies, collections, programming and more – the improvement of the human condition.
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike. “
-John Muir, The Yosemite (1912), page 256