Skanska’s Bertschi School Living Building Science Wing – which we completed in 2011 in Seattle – has achieved certification under the rigorous Living Building Challenge program, a green building certification program that integrates urban agriculture, social justice and universal access issues, and the use of healthy building materials. The Bertschi project is the first Living Building on the West Coast and the world’s fourth fully-certified Living Building.
A program of the International Living Future Institute, the Living Building Challenge (LBC) is widely considered the world’s most rigorous building performance standard. A Living Building generates all of its own energy through clean, renewable resources; captures and treats its own water; incorporates only non-toxic, appropriately sourced materials; and operates efficiently and for maximum beauty. A building must perform as designed for one full year of occupancy and pass a third-party audit before receiving certification as “Living.”
The building’s sustainable features are visible and functional to foster dynamic learning opportunities. It is net-zero energy and water; a 20 kilowatt photovoltaic system provides all of the electricity, and cisterns collect rainwater that is used for irrigation and flushing the composting toilet. Excess captured water is absorbed by the on-site rain garden. Other water-saving features include a green roof and an interior living wall of tropical plants, which treats all of the building’s grey water.
In order to meet LBC standards, USA Building’s green building team navigated the strict material requirements to source building products that did not contain any of the materials or chemicals on the LBC Red List. One of the greatest challenges in this effort was finding local manufacturers and vendors who were fully transparent about the chemical makeup of their products. The use of healthy materials promotes better indoor air quality, as well as furthers transparency in the building materials industry.
“The Living Building Challenge is creating a major shift in the built environment — just as LEED did 10 years ago,” said Chris Toher, USA Building executive vice president and Seattle general manager. “Thanks to the Restorative Design Collective, the Bertschi Living Building Science Wing is a model for sustainability in construction, and has challenged our industry to push for more net-zero buildings in our region and beyond.”
A case study of the project can be found here: http://living-future.org/case-study/bertschiscience