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The Greenest Buildings in the World? – the Living Building Challenge

By Mark Warner, Sustainability Manager, Leeds Beckett University (first posted on Low Carbon Leeds)

George Monbiot, via his book ‘Heat’, first introduced me to the absolute truth that:

Efficiency just means you can do more with less, which equals growth!”

Or, at best, we will maintain current levels of consumption which we know is already too much (three planets to much).

Coupled with the fact that we all need to pay the mortgage, feed ourselves and our families and put clothes on our backs; how do we continue to prosper on an economic basis, reduce our environmental impact and have a positive social impact (through our buildings in this instance)?

Enter the concept of The Living Building Challenge. An American standard. A tough one at that. There are three levels of certification, listed here from easiest to toughest;

  1. The Net Zero Energy Certification
  2. Petal Certification
  3. Living Building CertificationLiving Building Challenge logo

My stats on this will be slightly wrong but there are roughly 250 projects that have achieved Net Zero or Petal certifications. But no one has achieved the Living Building Certification.

So, what’s so good about this standard? For me it’s the philosophy of buildings being restorative rather than just ‘less bad’. To get the top slot you have to generate 105% of the electrical energy consumed by the building, treat and produce 105% of the water consumed and you can only build on brownfield sites (unless you can demonstrate an educational need to be fulfilled).

There are more challenges, but these three examples highlight the point of the restorative philosophy. Simply put, you are putting more energy and water back in than you take out. Building on a brownfield site is a brave move for any organisation as there will be a number of issues that will not be attractive; hazardous waste to deal with (old gas sites for example), run down surrounding areas, potential issues of crime to name a few.

But what better way to have a positive impact on society than to build a building (and surrounding biodiverse area) that is a shining example of what can be achieved by individuals who want to make a difference?

There are advantages, lower rates and financial incentives from councils to build in these areas. Imagine starting a trend and turning an area around into a thriving, sought after, business park and making a profit as a result? This would seem to suggest that doing the right thing could be profitable…

Living Building Challenge Aspects - Petals

Sitting within the Estates Team at Leeds Beckett University we are continually pushing sustainability. All of our contractors are achieving recycling rates of 95% plus and energy efficiency is a key factor in all designs. We have made it clear that we want investment appraisals (not cost savings on the project budget) and every option is considered from a whole-life-costing point of view, we specify recycled content in materials (information on this is surprisingly scarce when you dig into the detail) and space options are filled down to ensure buildings are the right size for their purpose. We’ve achieved BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology) and Passivhaus standards and everyone is pleased. Rightly so, but… I’m hoping we get the go ahead for a building that will get us the Living Building Challenge full certification for the Leeds Sustainability Institute.

If we get the go ahead I’m looking forward to challenging current standards and taking my team, the wider estates team, and the design team on an educational journey that will be continued by our post graduate and research teams as well as the people who use the facility.

The New Zealand Education Act specifically states that one of the purposes of a university is to ‘be the social conscience and critic of society’. A building built to such high standards is a good public statement of this purpose.

There are already some good examples around, with one of my favourites being the Packard Foundation HQ.

Restorative has to be the way to go. To the construction industry it must seem like the vegan equivalent for building standards but after the Living Buildings Challenge there is Biomimicary………and the truly organic building.

Mark Warner

Mark Warner is the Sustainability Manager at Leeds Beckett University.  He works within the Estates Team advising on sustainable construction, energy efficiency/carbon reduction, sustainable transport and sustainable purchasing of goods, services and materials.

It’s time to “Learn from Nature” #gvis2015

forest2

“Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything” Albert Einstein

Green Vision recommences with our Green Construction and Assembly Spring Series

Our Spring GreenVision series will explore sustainability issues relating to the Construction and Assembly processes within the Built Environment. Aligned to our Living Building Challenge UK collaborative, the topics in this series will consider innovative restorative sustainability and net positive approaches. Join us on our evening seminars with leading sustainability thinkers and our half day GreenBIM conference in association with thinkBIM in April.

Our first twilight event on 11th February will focus on learning from our natural environment & will feature presentations & discussions around biomimicry. Biomimicry seeks solutions from nature to address sustainability in the construction life cycle, not only for materials but also systems and processes. Our speakers are;

Richard James MacCowan (Director and Co-Founder,Biomimicry UK )

Re-thinking Nature

The world that we live in faces enormous challenges such as climate change, food security, biosphere integrity and freshwater use. Nature can play a strong role to tackle some of the most pressing challenges of our time. Solutions are at our fingertips, they are cost effective and we know how to implement them. Richard’s talk will focus on developments, research, case studies and future opportunities that this vital strand of sustainability can offer our industry.

Yaniv Peer (Associate – Exploration)

Radical Nature

At a time when architecture and society urgently need to reconsider their relationship to the natural world there are few more exciting and innovative ways to find solutions to our current and future challenges than the discipline known as Biomimicry. This field uses nature as a mentor, learning from its ingenious adaptations that have undergone 3.8 billion years of research and development to produce exceptionally well evolved solutions. This talk will explore three projects of the London based Exploration Architecture Ltd and how it is that they use biomimicry in their work to offer new solutions to some of the biggest challenges we face today. 

 

“Stimulating and open discussion make the events a must for construction professionals who wish to improve the performance of buildings”

Jonathan Lindh – Leda Ltd

Bookhere

Other dates for your diary

Water the new carbon

Wednesday 11th March 15, 17:30-19:30

Squire Patton Boggs (UK) LLP, 2 Park Lane, Leeds

 

GreenBIM Half-day Conference

Wednesday 1st April 15, 13:00-17:30

Squire Patton Boggs (UK) LLP, 2 Park Lane, Leeds

Living Building Challenge UK

LBC_logo_clear_no2The UK Living Building Challenge Collaborative met this week at Squire Patton Boggs in Leeds and saw construction professionals, architects, landscape architects, software vendors, sustainability experts and representatives from Leeds Beckett University discuss Standard V3 and the future of the UK Collaboratives.

Martin Brown gave an inspiring introduction to version 3.0, launched earlier in the year, covering the standards principles, petals and key imperatives. This was followed with a great discussion on the Living Building Challenge and relevance in the UK sector.

Martin emphasised that the Challenge is ‘A visionary path to a regenerative future’. Whereas other standards are focused on doing ‘less bad,’ the Living Building Challenge is based on the philosophy of doing more good, that is, restorative sustainability. We should no longer be satisfied with creating buildings that have negative impacts however small they may be, but look to create buildings, structures, and communities that contribute back to the environment and nature.

The Living Building Challenge uses a less technical, but more powerful, softer language than most standards, and puts topics such as beauty, education and biophilic design back into the equation.

Many present commented that a welcomed aspect was the inclusion of ‘health, happiness, beauty, nature’ within the standard.

Indeed the standard uses a metaphor of a flower, with seven petals, each of which comprises of several imperatives, 20 in total. All of these must be met in order to obtain full certification and the status of a Living Building.  We heard there are currently 201 registered projects worldwide.

2015 Plans

We are currently the only collaborative in the UK, however, we will be sharing this status with London due to launch in the spring and interest is growing elsewhere across the country.

During 2015 we will explore each of the Petals individually through workshops which will be held on the second Wednesday of each month, before the Green Vision evening and half day sessions. The timetable will be:

February 11th – Place

March 11th – Water

April 22nd- Energy

May 13th – Health & Happiness

June 10th – Materials

July 8th – Equity

August 5th – Beauty

To drive these workshops, we are looking for ‘champions’ to head each ‘petal’. If you feel that you are an expert on any of the standard areas, or passionate about specific imperatives, or just want to get involved please send us an email at CKEEvents@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

We will also deepen the relationship with projects interested in registering and pursuing certification. And the exciting news here is that we have one potential project ready to register and other in development. Other activities will include design competitions, project charrette support, and a UK overlay to the International Standard with terminology, regulations and standards appropriate to the UK sector.

We are also compiling a library of UK building case studies that illustrate Living Building Challenge concepts. If you are aware of any projects, your own perhaps that addresses any of the standard imperatives or philosophies please do let us know for inclusion into our library.

We look forward to you joining our Collaboratives and getting involved, with your projects perhaps, in this exciting new era for built environment sustainability.

As Martin has said many times, ‘it’s time to heal the future’…

Great healthy buildings & workplace productivity discussion at last night’s #gvis2014

GreenVision & thinkBIM Presents – GREENBIM Conference on the 3rd December 2014

This Conference pairs two revolutionary movements of Green Building and BIM to create environmentally friendly design through streamlined process.

Join thinkBIM & GreenVision at WSP Leeds on 3rd December 14. The day will include a range of Construction professional speakers and roundtables!

For more details and to book your place Click Here

UK-GBC City Conference: Apply to attend

DONT MISS THE CHANCE TO APPLY TO BE PART OF THE UKGBC INAUGURAL CITY CONFERENCE –  closing date Friday 7th November !!

As members of the UKGBC we are supporting and helping to promote the forthcoming Inaugural City Conference  in Manchester which will be of interest to you if you want to be part of an exclusive group, with the opportunity to shape a greener, more sustainable Manchester

The UK Green Building Council’s inaugural City Conference will, over two days, bring together 100 built environment business leaders, experts and officials from Manchester and the rest of the UK, to find solutions to future challenges and input into development opportunities for the city.

Date:      Wednesday 21 – Thursday 22 January 2015
Time:     10am start on Day 1, and a 4pm finish on Day 2
Venue:   Museum of Science and Industry, Liverpool Rd, Manchester M3 4FP
Fee:       UK-GBC Member – £300 (+VAT), Non-member – £1000 (+VAT)

Click here to download the full conference overview.
Why should you attend?
Opportunity:

Working in partnership with the City Council, the conference has been timed to coincide with consultation on Manchester’s 10-year city strategy, offering delegates the chance to influence this long-term plan – and beyond. Delegates are then challenged to inspire and inform upcoming local developments, translating the long-term vision into real projects on the ground.

Programme: An engaging and innovative two-day programme featuring collaborative workshops, visits to development sites, great speakers (including Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council) and an exclusive networking dinner at Manchester Art Gallery (with Sir Howard Bernstein, Chief Executive of Manchester City Council).

Delegates: The exclusive group of 100 delegates is being compiled by application only, to ensure a comprehensive mix of sectors and different areas of expertise. Attendees will include investors, developers, architects, engineers, contractors, manufacturers and third sector organisations. It is deliberately designed for both those with an in-depth knowledge of Manchester and those completely new to the city.

Programme includes:
• The ‘big picture’ – Manchester in a global context of mega-trends and drivers
• Introduction to the city – past and present successes and challenges
• Council Leader’s keynote and panel discussion
• Sustainable place-making: case studies from around the world
• Collaborative workshop: creating a sustainable vision for Manchester
• Networking dinner with keynote from Council Chief Executive Sir Howard Bernstein
• City tour – viewing current and future development sites
• Collaborative workshop: Implementing the vision “on the ground”

 

Applications
The conference is aimed at everyone across UK-GBC’s network, including investors, developers, contractors, designers, consultants, manufacturers and third sector organisations. It is intended for both those with an in-depth knowledge of Manchester, and those who are completely new to the city.

If you’d like to attend, complete our online application form by Friday 7 November 2014 to stand the best chance of success. All applications will be reviewed and places allocated to delegates by the end of November. We cannot guarantee a conference place for all applicants. Please note, delegates must be able to attend the full two days.

 

Design for Building Performance: New Build and Retrofit

#gvis – Green Design and Preconstruction

A good array of construction professionals attended our GreenVision event on 8th October 2014.  This event focused on Design for Building Performance: New Build and Retrofit and 3 fantastic speakers had been secured to deliver presentations.

Mark Siddall (Principal at LEAP) started the evening by talking about how to avoid the seven major pitfalls that prevent buildings from performing properly.  Mark Warner (Sustainability Manager at Leeds Beckett University Estates) followed to talk about his experiences of integrating sustainability into building projects.  Finally we closed with a presentation from Dr James Parker (Research Fellow at Leeds Beckett University) who talked about modelling and measuring the performance of a workplace retrofit natural ventilation strategy.

Mark Siddall talked about the projects he has worked on and, as a trustee of the Association of Environment Conscious Building, encouraged delegates to join the organisation – see here.   He explained there is a huge performance gap in domestic buildings right across the whole construction industry.  A Passivhaus project that Mark designed and managed has been studied by Leeds Beckett University. It was found that these were the First Homes that the researchers had ever found to actually close this aspect of the performance gap. (He noted that even the Passivhaus Standard did not directly address all of the technical requirements that were needed in order to achieve this.) Mark also talked about problems arising from poorly conceived natural ventilation strategies.  Why are people closing triple vents in winter he wondered?  He suggested that it may be related to comfort and the desire to avoid drafts.  Mark also questioned whether Part F of the building regulations are appropriate for noise standards.  He cited a literature review that he had undertaken with acoustician Jack Harvie-Clark (Apex Acoustics). They studied results from over 1000 homes. Their analysis highlighted that the Part F recommended household noise levels (for mechanical ventilation) will mean that every other person in the property will be dissatisfied i.e. one in two people. Significant steps are needed to address this not only in legislation but in design and construction processes also.  Mark then used the RIBA Plan of Work to help describe how redesigning the design process can assist with more effective and more affordable delivery of building projects. He noted that it is important to get the process right at the start of a project.  Mark encouraged delegates to think about good practice performance standards including the Passivhaus Standard, EnerPHit Standard, AECB Silver Standard, and the AECB Carbonlite Retrofit Standard.  Mark finished his presentation by explaining he is happy to host meetings with people that are interested in building performance and Passivhaus and desire to know more about these subjects. Additional information can be found on the LEAP practice website here 

Mark Warner began by saying these types of events are excellent opportunities for sharing experiences (positive or negative) and getting like-minded people together.  Mark explained how we (Leeds Beckett University) want to be the educated client, informing the design team with actual data.  Mark described how it has taken 8 years to get sustainability into the University’s corporate strategic plan and it’s important now to prove that it works.  Mark talked in detail about problems with specifying recycled content into tenders. He explained we ask for investment appraisals not ‘value engineering’ or cost cutting when looking at energy efficiency.  The University has a responsibility to be the social conscience and critic of society (New Zealand Education Act) and using recycled products is very important in closing the loop.  The University achieves 90%+ recycled rates on construction projects.  Mark explained that some of the supply chain cannot provide information on recycled content of products.  Mark’s plea is that everybody starts asking for recycled content in tenders so if lots of major organisations do this they will have to start to listen.  Mark confirmed there are 2 Passivhaus townhouses on the Headingley campus.  Mark works very closely with the research school when working on tenders.  The Portland building is currently undergoing an extensive refurbishment to open up existing vents to naturally ventilate floors.  Mark explained it seems to be working well so far but further research is required by Dr James Parker (the next speaker) to validate our design and in use experience.  There are still another 7 floors to be refurbished and Mark agreed this echoes what Mark Siddall said previously about highlighting problems early on in a project.

James Parker began by praising Mark Sidall.  James talked about a case study on the University Calverley Building which has a 60s built concrete frame.  James explained it’s important to remember this building had been very well insulated.  Focus was on the top 3 floors to begin with.  James explained his department is keen to look at domestic buildings.  The study looks at what buildings are made of, internal heat gains and understanding what is inside.  Analysis was carried out on overheating and heat gain.  Occupancy levels are an important factor and extremes have to be considered such as maximum staff levels and all computers being switched on.  James talked about early design analysis and the impact of local shading and heat gain from the sun.  James joked that we should build really tall buildings in front of buildings that overheat!  James explained the study looks at overheating and different things that can be introduced such as blinds.  If you reduce heat gain then you also reduce electricity.  James described how an isolated study had taken place on room 1010 which is a busy office that is always occupied.  The study had looked at this office on one of the hottest weeks of the year.  James stated to be a more informed client you need to understand more.  It is really important to test, examine and monitor and to feedback to the design team.

IMG_7159

Q and A summary

Observations from the floor included:-

  • Concerns about the EPC on existing buildings. Is this still worth the paper it is written on?
  • EnerPHit standard uplift and not being comparable
  • Is the PH Quality Assurance the best standard?
  • How will the CIBSE comfort model affect things?
  • Has testing been done on fluid dyanmics?
  • You’ve transformed a building into a building that is performing better. It’s important to put your study into perspective.

Mark Warner agreed that the results of the study have been great and the information gleaned will be used in future design.  James agreed it is cheaper and easier to deal with issues at the start of a project.

Some slides from the presentation given by Mark Siddall can be found here.

LEAP_Focus Finder_CENE_Leeds [Compatibility Mode]

Our next Green Vision event will take place on 12th November 2014 and will focus on Workplace Productivity: The New Business Case for Sustainable Buildings.   To hear more about this event and to book your place see here

Author:  Donna Lee

Workplace Productivity: The New Business Case for Sustainable Buildings

Join us on 12th November 2014 from 17:30-19:30.

This twilight seminar will focus on discussion and knowledge sharing on the topic of workplace productivity and healthy buildings.  We have secured 3 fantastic speakers and this event promises to be very interesting and informative.

To read more about this event and to book your place see here

Building Design and Performance

Don’t miss out on networking and speaking to designers , contractors , engineers and clients  all interested in Building Performance and quality environmental design . We will be hearing three perspectives on Building Design and performance and how this can best be done …

 

So far down to attend are the following:

Leeds Beckett University Estates

Rance Booth Smith Architects

Fairhurst

William Birch and Sons

BAM construct

Mott Macdonald

Leeds Beckett University

Leeds Sustainability Institute

Martin Walsh

East Riding of Yorkshire Council

Leeds Environmental Design Associates

University of Leeds

 

Don’t miss out Book here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is the future of UK Sustainability Standards Collaborative?

Following the conversations in the construction media, you may think that clients are forced to make a choice between BREEAM or Passiv Haus or One Planet Living, or that the youngster on the block, Living Building Challenge, is setting itself in competition with the established standards.

Sustainable design and construction professionals in the Green Vision debating area at Leeds Eco Fair on 22nd May 2014 heard that whilst all these approaches provide tools, guidance and certification, the future is collaborative, and that these standards can compliment each other.

Green Vision 2012, Green Building Drivers for 2012 presentation at Squire Sanders, Leeds

 

Chair John Alker (UKGBC) kicked off the panel debate with an audience poll, checking who has used the tools represented today, few hands were raised, and secondly who is here to learn more, most hands were raised.

John then invited the panel, Martin Brown UK (Fairsnape / Living Building Challenge UK Ambassador), Chris Herring (Passiv Haus Trust), Martin Townsend (BRE/BREEAM) and Sue Riddlestone (BioRegional / One Planet Living) to introduce the standards.

Sue Riddlestone reminded us of the concept of living within planetary boundaries, and how the One Planet Living scheme, based on 10 principles of sustainability, creates a common language for holistic living.

Martin Townsend reminded us that the popular BREEAM assessment method and rating system for building sets the standard for best practice in sustainable building design.

Chris Herring described Passiv Haus as a leading approach to low energy buildings focusing solely on the need to get our buildings performing efficiently, and that there is really no point designing buildings that look great if they do not perform correctly and efficiently.

Martin Brown introduced the Living Building Challenge as a regenerative sustainability philosophy and advocacy tool, based on required practices, not just current best practice, to stir the pot with other green standards, as arguably they are not challenging enough to address the broader sustainability agenda.

Questions from the audience included zero carbon homes for 2016, and how to value sustainable buildings by more than just financial measures.

Martin Brown saw the industry as being too unresponsive on the 2016 issue, that even after 8 years to prepare for the target we are still awaiting Government lead rather stepping forward with industry solutions. But importantly taking a broader look at benefits of health is essential, looking at health and social issues which we need to value alongside energy costs.

Chris Herring saw Passiv Haus being driven by those with vision, initially by passionate individuals but now a mixture ranging from schools to offices.

Martin Townsend commented on the need to understand where the government is at the moment with the Housing Standards Review, and really examine how we get to the ambitious 2016 targets, and bring the consumer on board to say I want lower energy bills.

Sue Riddlestone stated if we are serious about being sustainable get zero carbon in the building regulations, train the sector and alert the consumer.

John Alker invited comments and questions from the audience:

“I see the Living Building Challenge as a way of being, but it has to be the client that decides, so let’s have things from a client’s perspective rather than to beat a particular standard”

“How does Passiv Haus advocate healthy building products”

“Competition is a good thing, but are we competing against each other? Is there a danger that the standards are starting to compete and the vision of sustainability is lost?”

“The whole process is key”

“Speaking from a contractors point of view we need to see it as a driver for change and not the extra cost”

John Alker challenged the panel members to address these great comments , adding that you are all working in the same space, so, if we wanted to use all the standards, could we, should you not be doing this together?

Martin Brown commented its not just about tools, standards or accreditations, but a mindset for real and wider sustainability, and that whilst LBC is stirring the pot, it both compliments and challenges the other standards to reach farther.

Martin Townsend saw competition between standards as healthy, giving the customer choice, but that we need a common way to measure the same things, have consistency in systems, noting that the pace of change is not as quick as it needs to be.

Chris Herring reinforced the focusing on building performance; focus on the Passiv Haus standard “all the rest, including healthy building products is just fluff”

Bringing realism to the discussion Sue Riddlestone said we have to take a whole lifestyles approach, for example we use as much energy driving a car as a house.

A point picked up by Martin Brown – that we focus too much on ‘the building’, forgetting the community, social equality, human and diversity issues central to sustainability, observing the unacceptable and unjust practices in Qatar were producing high performing building “Lets not loose sight of the purpose of sustainability here”.

John Alker challenged the panel on how would you persuade a client to use your tool and how do you get across a business case.

Chris Herring saw the most important sell was to get people to visit a Passiv Haus, see first hand, consult the website and speak to somebody who actually live in one of the houses.

Martin Brown said we are selling the future built environment – healthy buildings that contain no harmful materials, have fresh air, using only sunlight are energy efficient but importantly, foster creativity and are a joy to live or work in. Martin suggested reading the LBC standard over the long weekend (Version 3 is out today) there will be something in there that will challenge your thinking, make you say wow.

Martin Townsend would ask clients the question “do you want a happy, healthy workforce, happy staff with water and energy savings”.

John Alker observed the obvious in that the people on this panel are passionate about this suggesting as leaders they come together regularly to discuss common ground, in panels and around the table, exploring future collaboration.

Author – Claire Bowles

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