Seattle’s Bullitt Center will become the world’s largest commercial building to receive the Living Building Challenge certification from the International Living Future Institute in 2015. Currently, only five other buildings have met the requirements for certification, but more the 200 projects have registered with the aim of becoming Living Building Certified.

Although achieving the certification is near impossible for most project budgets, sustainable design features incorporated into those buildings aiming for the certification are utilized in green building practices worldwide. Even if few buildings can meet the certification’s net-zero requirements, the program has set the highest standard for green building and emerging trends in the coming years are key elements of the Living Building Challenge. Here are seven future trends set by the Living Building Challenge that take net-zero to the next level.

  1. Building in Proper Places

One of the seven performance categories of the Living Building Challenge is choosing to build in a location in which infrastructure can exist harmoniously with its surrounding environment. Building connected and compact communities is important, but not if high-density leads to unnatural living environments. Locations in which natural elements are not lost and instead built into infrastructure are critical.

  1. Net Positive Water Buildings

Not only will Seattle’s Bullitt Center recycle greywater and treat rainwater for drinking, but it will be able to treat and release storm water to nearby sites in particular circumstances. The Living Building Challenge not only promotes 100% of water filtered and recycled on-site, but the capacity to provide treated water to other nearby infrastructure from additional rainwater catchment and recycling.

  1. Net Positive Energy Buildings

With opportunities for onsite energy production through solar arrays and a slew of other efficiency measures, net-zero buildings like the Bullitt Center have the ability to product energy that more than meets the needs of the individual building and can feed unused energy back onto the grid. This enhances energy production at the neighborhood level and could one day foster the creation of robust microgrids in place of a single power source, which is far less resilient for growing cities.

  1. Happy, Healthy Buildings

The Living Building Challenge highlights the importance of fostering innate connections between humans and nature. Biophilic design—incorporating natural features like plant life into buildings—is necessary to promote well-being for building tenants and offers other benefits like improved indoor air quality.

  1. Non-Toxic Buildings

A goal of the Living Building Challenge is to have buildings made with not a single material that negatively impacts human or ecosystem health. The Bullitt Center is the only building built using zero construction materials that are known toxins, carcinogens, mutagens, or endocrine-disrupters.

  1. Equitable Buildings

The Living Building Challenge also highlights the importance of environmental justice through disrupting the notion that because property is owned, its owners can do whatever they please with it regardless of impacts to others. The Challenge promotes buildings that do not block access to resources for others and that promote equitable access to healthy spaces.

  1. Beautiful Buildings

Finally, because people look at and interact with buildings constantly, it’s important they “uplift the human spirit.” Buildings that are unique and aesthetically pleasing are important to the International Living Future Institute. Modern architecture has incorporated visually stimulating features through several design techniques like biomimmicry, another future trend in sustainable design.
Read more about trends set by the Living Building Challenge permeating green building worldwide from GreenBiz.