“The Greenest Building May Actually Be a Neighborhood
Nate Berg. April 10, 2012
Green building might be little more than a fringe hippie idea if not for certification. The medals and honors now available through rating systems have enabled a good and altruistic effort to become a highly marketable quality. LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – is now the most well-known and well-used certification system, claiming nearly 9 billion square feet of space participating in its various certification programs globally. But it’s not alone, and it’s not necessarily the greenest of the green. The relatively new Living Building Challenge has been steadily gathering fans in the green building community for tougher-than-LEED standards such as net-zero energy and net-zero water.
“The Living Building Challenge has emerged as the high bar in sustainable design,” says Walker Wells, director of the Green Urbanism program at the advocacy organization Global Green USA. He’s had firsthand experience with both LEED and the Living Building Challenge and likes the fact that the Living Building Challenge requires many of the highest possible standards.
One house at a time, though, is a slow go. So Wells and his colleague Ted Bardacke have decided to see how well the Living Building Challenge could be applied to an entire neighborhood. They’re teaching a design studio for urban planning grad students this spring at UCLA to test it out.
This is a concept that’s been emerging in recent years. Since 2007, the U.S. Green Building Council has operated the LEED for Neighborhood Design rating system. Global Green USA has been involved in two projects certified under the system, and while Wells says LEED-ND is a good program, he notes that some of its requirements don’t go far enough.
The Living Building Challenge requires that every project meet each of its 20 strict requirements to achieve the certification. All sites, for example, have to be either greyfields or brownfields, meaning that they’ve already been developed and that they often have some environmental degradation as a result. This idea of renovating existing development to reduce its impact has huge potential in a highly developed world. And at the neighborhood scale, even more so.
“The idea is, how do we take place that’s already there, that has some development opportunities and plug in new stuff and modify what’s there so that it can achieve some standard of sustainability?” says Wells. “How aggressive or radical do we need to be thinking in this effort to redesign and retrofit cities?”
Via: The Atlantic Cities
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