Living Building Challenge

A local organization, the Omega Institute, just accomplished what many people have said was impossible – they are one of the first two projects to be certified by the Living Building Challenge (LBC).

The LBC goes way beyond LEED, “it defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today and acts to diminish the gap between current limits and ideal solutions. This certification program covers all building at all scales and is a unified tool for transformative design, allowing us to envision a future that is Socially Just, Culturally Rich and Ecologically Restorative.”

A LBC building must be net-zero energy, net-zero water, non-toxic, provide for habitat restoration on adjacent sites, and urban agriculture is mandated.

One of the most important features of LBC is that it measures the actual performance of buildings. Basically this means that a year after a building was built, measurements are taken to ensure that it is, in fact, net zero in terms of energy and water, etc. This is a big distinction from existing requirements like LEED and CA’s Title 24 which measure performance models and do not hold projects accountable to live up to those models.

LBC has seven performance categories, or ‘Petals’: Site, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity and Beauty. Petals are subdivided into a total of twenty Imperatives:

  • Limits to Growth
  • Urban Agriculture
  • Habitat Exchange
  • Car Free Living
  • Net Zero Water
  • Ecological Water Flow
  • Net Zero Energy
  • Civilized Environment
  • Healthy Air
  • Biophilia
  • Red List
  • Embodied Carbon Footprint
  • Responsible Industry
  • Appropriate Sourcing
  • Conservation + Reuse
  • Human Scale + Humane Places
  • Democracy + Social Justice
  • Rights to Nature
  • Beauty + Spirit
  • Inspiration + Education

The project cannot contain any of the following Red List materials or chemicals:

  • Asbestos
  • Cadmium
  • Chlorinated Polyethylene and Chlorosulfonated Polyethlene
  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
  • Chloroprene (Neoprene)
  • Formaldehyde (added)
  • Halogenated Flame Retardants
  • Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)
  • Lead (added)
  • Mercury
  • Petrochemical Fertilizers and Pesticides
  • Phthalates
  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
  • Wood treatments containing Creosote, Arsenic or Pentachlorophenol

When I visited Omega this summer they mentioned the Red List and how they had to consult an eight page list of banned materials when buying carpeting for their classroom space. I asked if this was burdensome, “not at all, it’s what is best for the people who use our space.”

Bravo to Omega for taking this leap and being a leader. Showing others what could be is a powerful thing.

Milwaukee Public Library Rooftop Solar

Interesting tidbits from this article on the Milwaukee Public Library’s rooftop solar array:

  • The library’s solar electric system is projected to generate 40,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of power a year for the next 40 to 50 years.
  • …the new system will produce less than 10% of its electricity needs per year.
  • …solar electric prices dropped 15–20% between the time the library contracted for the system’s installation and the writing of this case study (March 2010).
  • The library’s solar system will pay for itself over about 15 years, which is a third of its projected lifespan. About 75% of the savings will be from electricity generation and 25% from demand reduction.

Part of me wants to say “timing is everything!”

Targeted Marketing

The Cumberland County Public Library in Fayetteville, NY has a pathfinder on their web site called “Thinking Green, Working Green” to support “Consumer, Developer, Builder and Other Business Professionals.” The site provides suggested search terms to use in the library catalog and beyond and a concise list of web sites.

This is a good example of targeting those in your community that might not think the library has anything for them. It demonstrates a level of consciousness not only about the topic but about marketing to a definable segment of the community that may already be sharing information amongst themselves. Great example of how to tap into an existing group and make the library relevant to them

“Charge It”

The June 7-June 13, 2010 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek had an article called “A New Meaning for the Phrase “Charge It” alerting the business community to the demands electric cars will have for power:

“Two chargers are needed for each car” – one at home and one at work.”

There’s an iPhone app for drivers of electric cars to locate chargers.

People are reporting “range anxiety” – the fear of being stranded with drained batteries.

As President Obama and the car industry march forward with the push for lessening America’s reliance on foreign oil more and more drivers will be looking for a place to “charge it.”

What if public libraries across the country became known for having charging stations? Not a bad marketing idea eh?

If you are lucky enough to be planning a new building, major expansion or just redoing your parking lot consider integrating a charging station into your plans, your community may (eventually) thank you!

Library Journal 2010 Design Institute @Atlanta

Just returned from the Library Journal’s 2010 Design Institute in Atlanta, GA where I moderated a panel: Sustainable Libraries with or without LEED. On the panel with me:

We tackled whether or not LEED is “worth it” (yes); will it cost more (upfront, yes; long term – probably not); “must-have” green features (best answer: building owners willing to make the commitment to green the project); and “green” features to skip (showers in libraries to get the LEED point for bike racks and preferred parking spots for hybrid vehicles).

During the “green must-haves” portion of the discussion David Moore took me by surprise when he focused on water conservation. I was expecting everyone to focus on renewable energy (geothermal, solar) or energy efficient  options as that is what has been most important here in New York, however, given that the overwhelming majority of the audience was from the South East (Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina) they were acutely attuned to the recent drought. Stories were told of people trying to capture the condensation off the air conditioning tubes for a little extra water and using buckets to capture the water coming out of the shower as it warmed up to a reasonable temperature. David expressed that he would be hard pressed not to incorporate water conservation (rain catchment, gray water recycling for toilets, landscaping etc.) features into future projects.

I’ll share more thoughts from this event this week but just wanted to share a bit about the experience as it is so fresh in my mind this morning!

Welcome to Sustainable Libraries

Welcome to Sustainable Libraries. Libraries + Green/Sustainable Buildings is something I strongly believe in.

Libraries connect communities, provide opportunity for anyone interested and are in just about every community in the country – what better place for people to learn how sustainable building practices can change the world.

My day job involves helping libraries find sustainable support to keep their doors open in the form of funding and people power. So it’s all related for me: Sustainable Libraries are libraries that invest in themselves and their legacy throughout their organization – the facility, community connection, collection, technology and staff.

I hope you’ll join me as we watch and collaborate with libraries around the country who are doing their best for their local and global communities.