USGBC Adopts Living Building Challenge Requirements

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) will now recognize energy and water requirements from the Living Building Challenge within the LEED green building program, the council announced on April 7.

The Living Building Challenge is touted as a program that sets the highest benchmarks for sustainability in the built environment. The move between the USGBC and the Living Building Challenge means that projects achieving energy and water requirements in the challenge will be considered as technically equivalent to LEED.

The challenge is comprised of seven performance categories called “petals.” These petals include place, water, energy, health & happiness, materials, equity and beauty. Petals are subdivided into a total of 20 imperatives. In the category of water, the challenge requires buildings to achieve net positive water, meaning water use and release must work in harmony with the natural water flows of the site and its surroundings. The challenge demands 100 percent of water needs must be supplied by captured precipitation or other natural closed-loop water systems and/or by recycling used water and purifying as needed without the use of chemicals.

Additionally, the challenge requires all stormwater and water discharge, including grey and black water, must be treated onsite and managed either through re-use, a closed loop system or infiltration.

Under the energy requirements, the challenge mandates net positive energy, meaning 105 percent of the project’s energy needs must be supplied by on-site renewable energy on a net annual basis, and projects must provide on-site energy storage using solar panels or other means.

“USGBC and the International Living Future Institute, developers of the Living Building Challenge, share a common commitment and goal to transform the way we design, build and operate our buildings,” Scot Horst, chief product officer, USGBC, said in a statement. “The Challenge plays an important role on the green building performance curve and is a complement to LEED.”

“The LEED steering committee approved this approach; in the world of rating systems there is a sense of competition between systems, and what we’re saying is that what matters is that people are doing good environmental work. We want to focus on them and create harmonization between systems,” Horst added.

Over the last several years, USGBC has made efforts to streamline LEED requirements and better complement existing rating systems around the world, according to the council. In 2012, USGBC announced that it will recognize energy credits from Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) International, the United Kingdom’s green-building rating program, in applications for LEED certification.