The Living Building Challenge

February 12th, 2020

Dear Readers,

In all honesty, this blog was originally labeled as “Blog 14.” William has encouraged me to maintain a pile of blogs just waiting to be posted. That way, when we eventually do get a piece of land and the true insanity begins, you all should hopefully still have something to read every Wednesday.

So, why has this blog received special attention and been promoted up the queue? Well, William and I truly have been blessed to learn something new every day. Every day we come across some new tidbit of information, some inspiring resource, some sort of challenge or conundrum which we add to our ‘to-be-solved’ list. The Living Building Challenge falls under all those categories… William stumbled upon this ‘challenge’ a few days back, and it has begun a whirlwind of hopes and ideas.

About the Living Building Challenge

At first, I thought the Living Building Challenge was some sort of competition. It is not. It is a standard for building, and living, techniques sponsored by the International Living Future Institute. What is so gosh dang cool about this institute is that they not only set a standard for holistically sustainable buildings… but they also challenge manufacturers and communities to be holistically sustainable. William and I thought we were being idealistic… but this institution has shown us that we were actually being quite realistic and that there are individuals who share our views.

Their main premise is that buildings should be like flowers. It may sound cheesy and unconventional… but it makes logical sense. To us, anyways.

  • Like a flower, a home should receive all of the water it needs from the natural water cycle: precipitation, infiltration, evaporation… you know… basic nature things we learned in elementary school.
  • Like a flower, the home should receive all the energy it needs from the sun, and actually give more energy than it takes (be net positive).
  • Like a flower, the home should give habitat to different organisms.
  • Like a flower… the home should be beautiful. 

Here is a quick review of their challenges. Please do visit their website for more in depth information! They have a lovely website:

Living Building Challenge

There are two main rules to follow when attempting to meet the Living Building Challenge standards:

ONE: “All Imperatives assigned to a Typology are mandatory.” ¹ The ‘Typology’ are symbolically referred to as the ‘seven petals’ and are the performance areas the home or building must incorporate: place, water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity, and beauty. There are 20 imperatives. The imperatives are detailed requirements for each petal. For example, under the petal of ‘place,’ the home must meet the requirements of limits to growth, urban agriculture, habitat exchange, and human-powered living.

TWO: “Living Building Challenge certification requires actual, rather than anticipated, performance demonstrated over twelve consecutive months.” ¹ Which is AWESOME. Rather than building the home and receiving the recognition that goes along with meeting whatever sustainable, rigorous standards were required… the home must be built sustainably, and then lived in sustainably for a whole year before it receives recognition.

Living Product Challenge

The Living Product Challenge also has the same seven petals: place, water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity, and beauty. They also have imperatives that give specific requirements for each petal, however, they are tailored towards manufacturers and the products they create. To summarize the backbone of the Living Product Challenge, manufacturers are being called to create products that are not only healthy and free of toxins, but the creation process itself is to be healthy for those working, thereby upholding their human dignity. Manufacturers must also be net-positive: giving back more to the environment and society than they take. 

Living Community Challenge

Again, the Living Community Challenge also has the same seven petals, as well as imperatives that are appropriate to the challenge of creating a sustainable community. The Living Community Challenge aims to create an interconnected structure of people and nature. The community should be net positive with its water and energy- they create their own energy and capture and treat all the water they need. A Living Community should also provide spaces for people and nature, thereby promoting multipurpose as well as a sense of holistic health.

In Conclusion…

Overall, William and I are in awe that such a standard exists… not only is it an option for individuals, businesses, and communities to strive for… but people are actually choosing to do so. There are already multiple manufacturers who have met the Living Product Challenge- from carpet manufacturers, to manufacturers of insulation, tables, tile flooring, and sunshades. William and I are excited to check those manufacturers out more thoroughly when we go to design our own home. We are also excited to see how the Living Building Challenge continues to catch on, and we hope that our home too can be a part of that movement.


Shelby Aldrich

1. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “History of Kinzua Bridge State Park.” Accessed on 18 Feb. 2020.

1 Comment

  1. Great content! Super high-quality! Keep it up! 🙂


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© 2020 Sustaining Tree