When you’re surrounded by people who live and breathe high-performance design, it’s easy to forget that you’re still in the minority school of thought—at least in the United States. That was a common aside made throughout the first full day of the International Living Future Institute’s (ILFI) UnConference 2014, starting with the morning plenary by the institute’s CEO and founder Jason McLennan, and ending with the evening’s Big Bang Dinner by emcee Eric Corey Freed, principal of OrganicArchitect in San Francisco.

In noting that “we have scant time left to make significant change,” McLennan said that it was “not good enough for a bunch of green-building lovers to keep meeting” and exchanging dialogue with each other. As part of the organization’s effort to broaden its sustainability initiatives, ILFI formally launched its Living Future Challenge (LFC) on May 22. As the “framework for the re-making of everything,” McLennan said, LFC will initially include three programs.

ILFI’s token Living Building Challenge is now in version 3.0. The latest release emphasizes resilient infrastructure, regenerative design, social equity and ILFI’s JUST program, and material transparency. Yes, an expanded and updated Red List accompanies version 3.0, which also now speaks to ILFI’s Declare label.

Version 3.0 also removes the Neighborhood typology because ILFI is now distinguishing community-scale projects through its newly launched Living Community Challenge 1.0. The program is intended for designers, planners, and developers looking to reshape community- and campus-scale projects, from the master planning stage through construction.

Rounding out the existing menu of LFC is the Living Product Challenge. Scheduled for release later this year, the initiative will encourage the use of natural products and net-positive manufacturing, and educate consumers, who “don’t all want to be toxicologists,” McLennan said.

More programs in the LFC framework are on their way, he added. Think: Living Future food, enterprises, and lifestyles.

As part of the Big Bang Dinner—named for the heart-pounding drum line that creatively and effectively truncated the cocktail reception and led conference attendees to the dinner—ILFI presented its Living Building Challenge Heroes Awards to eight recipients “for their unwavering commitment to the building industry’s most rigorous performance standard,” said Amanda Sturgeon, ILFI vice president in charge of the Living Building Challenge, in a press release.

The recipients were: Kath Williams, president of Kath Williams + Associates, in Bozeman, Mont.; Caroline Pidcock, director of Pidcock Architecture + Sustainability in Sydney, Australia; Mary Casey, chair of the Living Future Institute Australia board; Lance Jeffrey, project manager at the University of Wollongong, Australia; Johanna Brickman, director of collaborative innovation, Oregon Best; Anthony Ravitz, green-team lead at Google; Pauline Soliza, AIA, LEED Fellow, WRNS Studio partner and director of sustainability; and Joshua Berger, captain and Living Ship project manager of the schooner Adventuress, a National Historic Landmark.

The net-zero-energy Hood River (Ore.) Middle School Music and Science Building, designed by Opsis Architecture in Portland, Ore., was a 2012 AIA COTE Top Ten Project. Its construction includes salvaged materials and it features an educational greenhouse and outdoor garden.

The net-zero-energy Hood River (Ore.) Middle School Music and Science Building, designed by Opsis Architecture in Portland, Ore., was a 2012 AIA COTE Top Ten Project. Its construction includes salvaged materials and it features an educational greenhouse and outdoor garden.

Credit: Michael Mathers


Per tradition, ILFI also announced the projects that received LBC project certifications in the past year. Smith College’s Bechtel Environmental Classroom, in Whately, Mass., was certified as Living, and the Midwest office of the Natural Resources Defense Council, in Chicago, earned Petal certification. The American Samoa EPA office building, the Center for Sustainable Landscapes at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, in Pittsburgh, and David Baker’s Zero Cottage, in San Francisco, were certified as net-zero energy.

Hood River (Ore.) Middle School (shown, above) is the first public school to be certified as net-zero energy. Finally, the Willow Brook house in Auckland, New Zealand, is the first project outside of North America to be certified as net-zero energy.

Incidentally, the number of projects registered for LBC prior to the start of conference was 199. By Thursday’s dinner, the number had increased to 201, Sturgeon said. The newest two projects are among the first to register under LBC version 3.0—regardless of whether they realized it, she quipped.

Read about Living Future UnConference’s May 21 opening keynote by Maya Lin here.