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    What is the difference between LEED, LEED Platinum, and the Living Building Challenge?


    ML Vidas, LEED/LBC Consultant

    A Living Building Challenge project changes the way you think.

    LEED is a good green building rating system.  In fact, this project is pursuing both the Living Building Challenge (LBC) and LEED for Homes.  The LEED system has accomplished an enormous change in the design and construction industries.  Look at low VOC paints.  Ten years ago, people hadn’t even heard of them.   Five years ago you could buy them in specialty green stores and you paid a premium price to avoid the toxic fumes of VOCs.  Now you can buy low- or zero-VOC paints at any hardware store.  And usually you won’t pay extra.  This market change is the result of LEED bringing greater awareness to designers, contractors and the general public.

    Both LEED and LBC are causing significant innovations in our buildings, but there are tremendous differences in the two systems.  The Living Building Challenge is a performance-based system.  The project must demonstrate that it has attained all the required measures.  After construction is complete and the owners have moved in, there will be a 12-month audit period.  During that time, the owners will share their electric bills and their water bills and demonstrate that they are meeting both net zero energy and net zero water.  Also, documentation on the materials used in the project will be reviewed for compliance with the LBC Red List and Appropriate Sourcing.  Other aspects of the project require documentation, including the Beauty and Equity Petals.

    LEED, on the other hand, is largely a prescriptive system; points are accrued if there are certain features in the project.  For example, a LEED project may attain points for providing bicycle parking and changing rooms with showers for a certain percentage of employees in a commercial project.  In LEED for Homes, a project earns points for not using potable water for irrigation.  LBC, on the other hand, doesn’t have prescribed requirements.  For example, under the Water Petal the imperative is to attain net zero water and provide for all wastewater to be treated and returned to its ecological water flow on site.  But LBC will not have a detailed list of steps to get there.  Instead, the project team has to figure out how to make the project work.

    LBC encourages a deeply integrated team approach to all aspects of the project.  This project team has had numerous discussions around problem solving where we are juggling the energy demands, the water concerns, what’s acceptable to the building code, and what makes sense to build.  We all bring our expertise and experience to the conversation.

    A Living Building Challenge project changes the way you think.

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