The Living Building Challenge- Winner of the 2012 Buckminster-Fuller Challenge

Green building and eco-sensitive design is currently at the forefront of our modern ethos.   What this means for the green builders, contractors and architects of NY, and the world, is a period of dramatic change and challenge is ahead if not already begun. A change in the way we think about new buildings and construction, in how we consider “used” materials and how we use and interact with space.

As Scholar David Orr stated-

“We are coming to an era the likes of which we’ve never seen before, we’re in the white waters of human history. We don’t know what lies ahead. Bucky Fuller’s ideas on design are at the core of any set of solutions that will take us to calmer waters.”

 

One of the most prominent voices in sustainability and responsible design since the 1960’s is R. Buckminster Fuller.  Fuller pioneered in fields from architecture, and mathematics, to engineering and automobile design and only patented 12 designs allowing the vast majority of his work to be open-sourced and free to the public.

His life’s mission and philosophy was simple, “to make the world work for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or disadvantage of anyone.”

Even today, years after Fuller’s death his name is still the vanguard of the sustainable design community. The largest testament to his legacy is the R. Buckminster Fuller Institute and their annual international competition the Buckminster Fuller Design Challenge.

According to the institution’s website $100,000 is given “…to support the development and implementation of a strategy that has significant potential to solve humanity’s most pressing problems. Named “Socially-Responsible Design’s Highest Award” by Metropolis Magazine, it attracts bold, visionary, tangible initiatives focused on a well-defined need of critical importance. Winning solutions are regionally specific yet globally applicable and present a truly comprehensive, anticipatory, integrated approach to solving the world’s complex problems.”

In 2012 at an awards ceremony held here in NYC at Cooper Union The International Living Future Institute was awarded first prize for their “Living Building Challenge” initiative.  According to the institute’s website the Living building Challenge is:

-a PHILOSOPHY, ADVOCACY PLATFORM AND CERTIFICATION PROGRAM. Because it defines priorities on both a technical level and as a set of core values, it is engaging the broader building industry in the deep conversations required to truly understand how to solve problems rather than shift them.

-an EVOCATIVE GUIDE. By identifying an ideal and positioning that ideal as the indicator of success, the Challenge inspires project teams to reach decisions based on restorative principles instead of searching for ‘least common denominator’ solutions. This approach brings project teams closer to the objectives we are collectively working to achieve.

-a BEACON. With a goal to increase awareness, it is tackling critical environmental, social and economic problems, such as: the rise of persistent toxic chemicals; climate change; habitat loss; the collapse of domestic manufacturing; global trade imbalances; urban sprawl; and the lack of community distinctiveness.

-a ‘UNIFIED TOOL’. Addressing development at all scales, it can be equally applied to landscape and infrastructure projects; partial renovations and complete building renewals; new building construction; and neighborhood, campus and community design.

-a PERFORMANCE-BASED STANDARD. Decidedly not a checklist of best practices, the Challenge leads teams to embrace regional solutions and respond to a number of variables, including climate factors and cultural characteristics.

-a VISIONARY PATH TO A RESTORATIVE FUTURE

The challenge seeks to encourage designers to bridge the gap between the built environment and the surrounding ecosystems thus reinventing the typical developers’ business model and transforming the role of the building occupant from passive to more of an involved partnership with the earth and her resources.

For all manner of development the Living Building Principles are applicable, whether, “… a single building, a park, a college campus or even a complete neighborhood community, Living Building Challenge provides a framework for design, construction and the symbiotic relationship between people and all aspects of the built environment.”

You can download a complete document that outlines the specific requirements and benchmarks that must be met to receive certification HERE.

With its radical and rigorous requirements, this is more than “green washing”.  This is an excerpt from a statement released by The Fuller Institute after the award ceremony;

“The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is setting the standard for how to build in the 21st century by establishing the highest bar yet for environmental performance and ecological responsibility within the built environment … by “building a new model” and establishing new benchmarks for non-­‐toxic, net-­‐zero structures… The Living Building Challenge goes far beyond current best practices, reframing the relationship between the built and natural environments. LBC seeks to lead the charge toward a holistic standard that could yield an entirely new level of integration between building systems, transportation, technology, natural resources, and community. If widely adopted, this approach would significantly enhance the level of broad-­‐based social collaboration throughout the design and building process and beyond, dramatically reducing the destructiveness of current construction, boost the livability, health, and resilience of communities … the International Future Living Institute is charting a new and critically needed course in an industry that arguably remains one of the most consumptive … The LBC’s model of regenerative design in the built environment could provide a critical leverage point in the roadmap to a sustainable future and is an exemplary trim tab in its potential to catalyze innovation in such a high impact, high consumption industry…”

This is a valuable new asset and tool for the green building and green contracting community in NYC nd abroad in the fight for a greener and livable tomorrow.

 

https://ilbi.org/lbc  -living building challenge website

http://challenge.bfi.org/Winners/Challenge_Winners

http://bfi.org/  -Buckminster-fuller institute website

Salvaging Materials at EcoBrooklyn

Gennaro Brooks-Church, Director of EcoBrooklyn Inc, discusses the significant element of salvaging materials for use in the company’s green renovations. Currently we are wrapping up a full-renovation of a brownstone in Manhattan where we’ve been working hard to attain its stringent Passive House requirements.

Check out our video below, and feel free to leave us some feedback!

Soundproofing between floors

After some research we noticed that one of the most effective ways to reduce impact noise between floors was to put a recycled tyre product between the floor and sub floor. It creates a vibrating cushion that absorbs the impact, thus deadening the sound.

The only problem is that this product is costly. And costly is not green in the slightest.

So we went to the mechanic down the road. He was more than happy to give us some used tires. He has to pay to dispose of them into the landfill. We took the tires and cut them into little strips.

The strips were placed wherever a stud or support beam made contact with the floor above, creating a sound impact barrier between the two floors. Kids jumping, heavy boots and games of basketball should all become less audible from the neighbors above thanks to our technique.


Cutting the tires into strips.


Placing the tire under the joists.


The same tire pictured above but now we have put the support beam beneath it. The tire now acts as a sound barrier between the joists and the beam, breaking the vibration that would normally pass from the joist to the beam and the floor below.


Here is an example of the tire placed between the stud and the footer. It is better to place the tire between the stud and the header to stop sound coming from above. But in this case the stud was supporting the stairs so it didn’t matter.

Hemp – Stonger and Lighter than Cement

I subscribe to some very scholarly journals on green building. I also subscribe to some radical journals on politics and conspiracies. I like to check out the pulse from various sources. And when I start seeing trends overlapping I know it is something worth paying attention to.

This week I was reading in this one very academic journal about the use of hemp fibers mixed with lime to make a concrete-like material that is stronger and apparently six times lighter than real concrete. It is used in France a lot and expanding around Europe.

And then one of my conspiracy journals also spoke about it, but from the perspective of it being this miracle material that was being kept from the building industry due to political reasons (hemp apparently has many uses that threatens existing companies, namely oil and timber companies).

Seeing it in two widely different contects raised my interest. It does indeed seem to be a viable building material on the rise. Worth keeping an eye out for it.

The basics:
hemp grows as a plant, thus CONSUMES CO2.
it grows abundantly and quickly, thus is rapidly renewable.
because it grows, it does most of the production itself reducing embodied energy.
once it is made into “concrete” the CO2 is fixed into the walls, thus it is a CO2 neutral or possibly even CO2 NEGATIVE product.

portland cement requires huge manufacturing power and thus creates massive amounts of CO2. It is the largest creator of CO2 in the building industry. Enough said.

Basically, the connection of hemp with weed smoking hippies is a farce. Hemp has too many positive attributes, from paper, oil, wax, cement (the list is long) for it to be considered negatively.

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