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Living Building Challenge

"What if every single act of design and construction made the world a better place?" This is a question posed by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). By its very nature, the construction industry is a major consumer of resources and is responsible for enormous carbon emissions. However, as climate change concerns increase, so does the pressure on construction companies to reduce their environmental impact. A "green" or "sustainable" building is constructed to affect the environment the least. The Living Future Institute is a driving force in raising industry standards and offers the "Living Building Challenge," the most advanced certification program.


The Living Future Institute offers several certifications that apply to any building in the world based on levels of stringent sustainability measurements, with the Living Building Challenge requiring the strictest criteria. The purpose of the certification is to create "Living Buildings" that incorporate regenerative design solutions that improve the local environment instead of merely reducing environmental damage. It demands that developments have a net positive impact by requiring them to operate as cleanly and efficiently as possible.


The program provides a framework for the construction which comprises seven performance categories, or "Petals": Place, Water, Energy, Health and Happiness, Materials, and Equity and Beauty. Each Petal is subdivided into Imperatives, for a total of twenty Imperatives. Firstly, the "Place" Petal considers the construction's location and impact on the environment and surrounding communities. The "Water" Petal seeks to address water scarcity by mandating that buildings use only the amount of water that can be harvested and purify water without using chemicals. The "Energy" Petal focuses on energy reduction and efficiency and depends more on renewable energy sources. The "Health & Happiness" Petal addresses health concerns, such as indoor air quality, temperature, and natural integration. The "Materials" Petal prohibits using materials that negatively impact the environment and human health. The "Equity" Petal aims to create buildings with equal access for people of all abilities, ages, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Lastly, the "Beauty" Petal considers beauty to inspire people, with some areas possibly allowing students to tour to impart knowledge.


Burwood Brickworks in Australia is considered the "most sustainable shopping center" since it was the first retail space to complete the Living Building Challenge. Even though the shopping center has only completed four of the seven challenges (Place, Material, Health & Happiness, and Beauty), COVID-19 has prevented it from operating continuously for more than 12 months, as per the criteria. Nonetheless, the shopping center is expected to meet additional requirements by the end of 2022. Burwood Brickworks has solar panels and renewable technologies capable of producing more energy than it consumes. Besides, the mall's underground floor contains a 500,000-liter water tank that collects and treats rainwater, which is utilized in the facility. Apart from that, the shopping center's 2,000 square meters area is also an urban farm that grows ingredients for restaurants in it.

Nowadays, there is an increasing number of sustainability practices within buildings, but it would be even better if the facilities were initially constructed using sustainable principles. The construction of a sustainable building is challenging that requires overcoming numerous obstacles. However, as industries realize that sustainable decisions benefit businesses, more engineering and construction firms will establish sustainability commitments and adopt sustainable practices in their operations. With standards that aim to raise the bar, such as the Living Building Challenge, the construction industry can move forward in the right direction.

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