Sunday, 21 June 2015

Have you read the latest Sanctuary magazine?  Always a great read and they tucked a pearler in the last pages!

The article was about the Living Building Challenge.  To my eye, it is a fantastic scheme to push designers and builders to consider the future liveability of their constructions.  I thought the scheme was very well thought out and, while certainly a challenge, is a massive step in the right direction!  They call it a path to a regenerative future!  How about that – a future that regenerates our earth?!!! 

Now you probably know, I enjoy seeing how our considered build compares environmentally, so I had a go at measuring us up.
The Living Building Challenge likens buildings to a flower – a beautiful symbol of nature regenerating – so it measures a building against 7 “petals” – which further divide into “imperatives”.  Here’s my take of how we score…

1.      Place: restoring a healthy interrelationship with nature
1.      Limits to growth – only build on previously disturbed ground.
2.      Urban agriculture – and ability to store at least 2 weeks of food
3.      Habitat exchange – for each hectare of development, pledge an equal amount to conservation
4.      Human powered living – pedestrian and bike access; stairs over elevators
1.      Yes, former farm land.
2.      Yes, home vege garden and large, earth-cooled pantry
3.      We haven’t done this as a “financial” pledge, but we have already put in wildlife habitat (our windbreaks are all bird-friendly natives) and we will continue to plant out more.
4.      For single households, they ask to consider reducing car use – bicycles, walking, public transport and alternative fuelled vehicles.  While all of these are not yet “easily” available for us to get to schools and shops, we do seriously consider how we can incorporate more eco-friendly transport into our lives – a hybrid or electric car is part of our future plans – and the kids will all catch the school bus eventually.
5.      Water: operate within the local environment water balance
1.      Net positive water = 100% of water needs collected; no chemical treatments; 100% wastewater kept on site
1.      Yes, rainwater and septic for us – and a grey water system for summer fruit tree watering.
6.      Energy: relying only on year-round solar/wind
1.       105% net positive energy from on-site renewables – no combustion – and with battery storage for resiliency.
1.      After our first 12 months, we will have to see if we are net positive.  We haven’t yet got battery storage – definitely planned for the future.
7.      Health and Happiness: creative environments that optimise physical and psychological health
1.      Civilised environment – every liveable area must have openable windows.
2.      Healthy interior environment – VOCs; no smoking; exhaust fans; entry to decrease particulates; cleaning products
3.      Biophilic environment – deliberately incorporate nature in features and spaces; connect to climate and culture
1.      Yes.
2.      VOC’s – we used two products that were high…; all others, I think we pass.
3.      Strawbales and lime rendered are nature based; windows and verandahs sited to connect to nature;  cultural connections through symbolisms and art
8.      Materials: safe for all species through time
1.      The Red List (a fantastic list of DO NOT USE)
2.      100% carbon offset
3.      Advocate for responsible industry
4.      Source local – at least 20% from within 500km; next 30% from within 1000km; next 25% from within 5000km.
5.      Net positive waste – recycle waste and use at least one recycled material per 500m2
1.      Failed with using PVC pipes – alternatives are available!
2.      We haven’t attempted this calculation – would be interested to see how many trees we should plant to offset.
3.      All our timber is FSC.  They  have developed a system of “Declare” labelling, and if you can’t find them, they ask to inform at least 10 manufacturers.  Good idea!
4.      We certainly tried to keep local sourcing.  Would be worthwhile doing the sums one day.
5.      I think we did this well – used at least 3 recycled materials in our 200m2 and plenty more individual pieces recycled.
9.      Equity: supporting a just world
1.      Human scale (not car) and humane places – relates to building, parking and street sizes
2.      Universal access to nature and place – and not diminish air, sunlight or waterways; address noise pollution.
3.      Equitable investment – for every $1 of the project cost, donate 0.5c to a renewable infrastructure charity.
4.      ‘Just’ organisations – transparent business practices
1.      For a single family dwelling they say max. 425m2 – we are half that and think we should be smaller!
2.      They mention incorporating gardens, benches, art – and including disability access to all these – we have done this J.   We have definitely considered our impact on the flow of rainwater and constructed swales etc to control it.
3.      We will certainly consider this – what a great idea. 
4.      They ask for social justice transparency of at least one major stakeholder in the project (eg us as owner-builders) – another fantastic initiative.  I will do some more thinking on this, but we were certainly mindful of our interpersonal relationships.
10.   Beauty: celebrating design that uplifts the human spirit
1.      Incorporate design features intended solely for human delight and celebration of culture, spirit and place.
2.      Inspiration and education – open day; pamphlets; or website
1.      This is my favourite petal!  Solely for human delight would be the colours I chose – sunny strawbales and a patchwork verandah ceiling J.
2.      Well I have this blog – and we do hope to join in Sustainable House Day one day.

So, all in all, for not having known about this scheme when we were designing our home, I think we have done quite well.  Areas to improve and areas to celebrate!
And I am quietly excited that such a scheme exists!!  Spread the word folks!!


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