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Living Building Challenge at the City of Knowledge

The second Open Talk, by Elsa Yasukawa, who spoke about the Living Building Challenge, was held on September 26 at the City of Knowledge Ateneo.

Before a large and diverse audience, architect Yasukawa talked about the Live Building Challenge, a program established in November 2006, which is related to the USGBC and the Canada Green Building Council. Her talk focused on the creation of Living Buildings, Sites and Communities in countries around the world while inspiring, educating and motivating a global audience about the need for fundamental and transformative change.

The Living Building Challenge maintains a balance with its environment and documents all the features of its ecological region in order to function efficiently by delighting the spirit with its beauty.

The talk highlight was the metaphor of a flower with seven performance areas or petals: site, water, energy, health, materials, equity and beauty, that have to be taken into account for each project that aims to be fully certified under the Challenge.


Among the important issues to be considered, architect Yasukawa stressed that we must take responsibility for our actions and reuse buildings that have been abandoned. All projects must integrate opportunities for proper agriculture within the scale and density of the project. For each hectare of urban development, an equivalent area of land should be used as part of the Habitat exchange. Each new project should contribute to the creation of communities with special emphasis on pedestrians.


Places, buildings and communities that supply their own water should be created. Water in the buildings must come from rainwater storage or other natural sources, which should be filtered without the use of chemicals. Today, stressed Yasukawa, a lot of energy is used only for water transport. To be efficient in water use we must ask ourselves whether everything we do today is necessary, ideally we must minimize water consumption and then try to capture rainwater and store it.


All projects must be very efficient and rely solely on the benefits of solar energy and must work with a sense of community. 100% of the annual energy needs should be supplied by renewable energy systems to be installed at the project site.


The project should focus on best practices for creating healthy environments. Each occupied space must have operable windows that allow access to fresh air and daylight. We need to get in touch with the outside world; we cannot be locked in a windowless place for 8 hours a day. The project should also ensure good air quality by preventing toxins from entering the building.


The choice of materials is an important issue when creating a living building. The project cannot contain materials or chemicals of the worst kind; the construction industry is largely responsible for certain elements that cause damage to our health and environment. It should make a full account of CO2 produced from the construction phase to the projected time, including amounts of CO2 within the property boundaries. All projects must aim to reduce or eliminate the generation of waste during the design, construction and operation in order to conserve natural resources.


It is very important to consider the creation of an environment that upholds the dignity of everybody. We must remember that most of the projects built survive people and society then inherits these constructions. Today there is an unsustainable modernism that benefits more cars than humans, and so it is very important to consider access for people with physical disabilities.


The Living Building Challenge recognizes that it is important to preserve beauty for human delight and celebration of culture, spirit and place. Each project must have elements intended solely for human pleasure in a spiritual sense. The living building should inspire others to emulate the achievements and should act as a model for other projects.

At present there are dozens of Challenge projects worldwide. By joining the living building community one can support, collaborate and participate in this initiative that breaks barriers.

To learn more about the Living Building Challenge go to:

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