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Living Building Challenge

Living Building Challenge: Defining the Future and Gaining Publicity


June 29, 2012

Developed over the past few years, the Living Building Challenge (LBC) rating system is a meticulous green and sustainable rating system that is raising the bar for sustainable design. Since its establishment in 2009, only six buildings have been recognized as “living” and have acquired the LBC certification. Of the six certified buildings, PlanetReuse has aided in sourcing and supplying reclaimed materials for two of the first three projects.

Different than any other green building certification, the LBC system takes a step farther than the typical design build ratings and goes beyond design and construction to include the livability and performance of the building. The LBC views building as a process where humans are completely integrated with their surroundings and the ecosystem.

The LBC system focuses on categories of site, water, energy, health, materials, equity, and beauty. It takes approximately 14-16 months to gain this certification. Those buildings that meet all of the LBC standards go beyond the traditional definition of “building” and become a living part of the ecosystem.

This rating system is being used in eight different countries currently and is expected to grow in popularity and eventually become a global standard of building. Thank you to Jason McLennan and Cascadia for providing the vision for the future of sustainability.

Here’s some great press by CNN bringing this vision more to the masses:

Living Future '11 - Panel Discussion: Building Material Reuse: Understanding the Challenges, Celebrating the Successes, and Providing the Tools


April 13, 2011
With increasingly limited resources and a growing awareness around sustainable stewardship, material reuse represents one of the ultimate forms of resource conservation. It not only provides a vision of how to live more sustainably, it can also be economically pragmatic and nurture a community. Such principles overlap greatly with the goals of certification standards like the Living Building Challenge. Despite this potential, reuse remains significantly underutilized. Key to maturing the opportunity is building a greater awareness.  Panelists will address reuse challenges and opportunities, innovative tools and resources available, and strategies to utilize reuse as a vehicle for creativity and sustainability.

Presenter Bios

Kevin R Hydes
Kevin R Hydes, CEO of Integral Group, is a professional engineer and honorary architect in BC. He has been addressing green building issues for 2 decades since first meeting Bob Berkebile on the CK Choi project at UBC. That project opened his mind and curiosity to reuse of building materials, weaving through noteworthy projects such as the Materials Testing Lab and Telus Headquarters in Vancouver and many projects across North America including his own adaptive reuse office in Oakland, California, a low energy LEED Platinum targeted office. Kevin is also founding chair of the Cascadia Chapter and a Cascadia Fellow.

Laura Lesniewski

Laura Lesniewski, AIA is a principal at BNIM. An architect with 20 years of experience, she has spoken nationally on emerging technologies and philosophies in sustainable design, BIM and lean thinking and, most recently, at Brazil’s first Greenbuild in Sao Paulo.  Laura led the design team efforts on the Omega Center for Sustainable Living, which achieved both Living Building and LEED Platinum certification.  She co-authored “Roadmap for Integration” for the AIA’s 2006 Report on Integrated Practice and recently completed FLOW: In Pursuit of a Living Building with Bob Berkebile and Steve McDowell.  Laura is a graduate of MIT and UCBerkeley.

Nathan Benjamin
Nathan Benjamin - LEED AP, Principal + Founder of PlanetReuse & PlanetRestore – a reclaimed construction material broker and consultant predicated on a simple but revolutionary idea: make it easy for people to use reclaimed materials and they’ll do more of it to keep materials out of landfills. He has an Architectural Engineering degree, is on the Building Materials Reuse Association Board and worked on two of the first three “Living” projects. He worked on two of the Reuse Primer’s projects and has presented at the National Demolition Association, Greening the Heartland, GreenTown, past two Greenbuilds, Living Future, and the USGBC Federal Summit.

Liz Ogbu
Liz Ogbu is Associate Design Director at Public Architecture, a nonprofit that mobilizes designers to create positive social change.  Liz directs the public-interest design initiatives, which creatively address critical environmental and social justice issues.  She led development of the Design for Reuse Primer, a USGBC funded e- publication intended to demystify and inspire mainstream material reuse. Liz has written and lectured extensively on sustainable design.  She was a member of the 2010 AIA COTE Top Ten and USGBC Natural Talent Design juries and honored as a "Green Giant" by Steelcase for her work in promoting environmentally and socially sustainable design.

For more info to attend sessions, check out the conference website.

Living Future '11 - Panel Discussion: The Tyson Living Learning Center – First (of Two) Certified Living Buildings – Where do we go from here?


April 13, 2011
The Tyson Living Learning Center opened in May 2009 and on October 12, 2010 received full Living Building Status along with the Omega Center in Rhinebeck, New York; the first two certified “Living” Buildings.

In consideration of our next project, several critical themes emerge from our combined experience that we would like to explore with our breakout session:

1. Predictive Energy Modeling + Performance Monitoring
2. Zoning + Code Issues – Where are the barriers in your region?
3. Project Delivery Options –What works Best?
4. Salvaged Materials – How to Integrate into the Design and Construction Process?

Presenter Bios

Neil Myers
Neil Myers has over eleven years experience in financially-focused ecological engineering.  His knowledge of the complex world of economic and project development has helped to generate innovative natural system solutions to such complex sustainability initiatives as watershed restoration, industry and development impact management, green infrastructure and high performance design implementation, pedestrian connectivity integration, wastewater management, and community master planning.  He has been integral in identifying pioneering-type projects and developing the talented team of multi-disciplinary professionals necessary to provide investment positive solutions to satisfy all project stakeholders.  Mr. Myers earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Butler University. 

Matt Ford
Mr. Ford is co-founder of Solutions AEC, and has worked in the design and construction industry for the last 10 years. Mr. Ford’s leadership and mechanical engineering experience encompass a wide range of mechanical systems and equipment. His experience includes engineering and managing biomedical engineering buildings, large commercial buildings for Fortune 500 companies, hospital projects, and large institutional projects. Mr. Ford has participated in varying capacities in the design, construction, and commissioning for numerous LEED Certified/Certifiable projects including; Alberici’s Platinum Certified Corporate Headquarters Building, Cortex I, the William Kerr Foundation Building, and the Living Building certified Tyson Living Learning Center.

Nathan Benjamin
Nathan Benjamin - LEED AP, Principal + Founder of PlanetReuse – a reclaimed construction material broker and consultant predicated on a simple but revolutionary idea: make it easy for people to use reclaimed materials and they’ll do more of it to keep materials out of landfills. He has an Architectural Engineering degree, is on the Building Materials Reuse Association Board and worked on two of the first three “Living” projects. He worked on two of the Reuse Primer’s projects and has presented at the National Demolition Association, Greening the Heartland, GreenTown, past two Greenbuilds, Living Future, and the USGBC Federal Summit.

Daniel F. HellmuthDaniel F. Hellmuth, AIA, is a principal and co-founder of Hellmuth + Bicknese Architects, L.L.C. Mr. Hellmuth is a LEED accredited professional and has over twenty-eight years experience in sustainable design, government, housing, educational, historic preservation, transit design  and planning projects.  Dan was part of the original steering committee that established the St. Louis Chapter of the USGBC.His firm has experience on over 30 LEED projects including LEED NC, C&S, CI, and EB as well as one certified Living Building Project, the Tyson Living Learning Center that is among the first two in the world to achieve this status.

Sign up at the unconference website.

Removing the Roadblocks to Material Reuse - Cascadia Green Building Council's Trim Tab - Winter 2011


January 25, 2011

The Cascadia Green Building Council's Trim Tab is an amazing resource for provocative articles, interviews and news on the issues, designs, and people that are truly transforming the built environment.

PlanetReuse is proud to contribute to this great publication where we review successes as well as struggles when it come to material reuse in commercial and residential projects. 

To review and download the complete issue and to sign up for updates, visit their website.

First Living Building Challenge & Reuse Primer Projects - How PlanetReuse Helped - FALL '10 Newsletter


November 10, 2010
There have been many successful projects that have incorporated reclaimed materials into the buildings.  Recently, an announcement and a publication helped document the process, the successes as well as the challenges.

Cascadia’s first three Living Building Challenge (LBC) Projects were announced recently.  PlanetReuse had the pleasure of working with the design/construction teams on 2 of the 3 projects.  We helped source many materials from areas throughout the United States for the Tyson Living Learning Center in Eureka, MO and the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, NY.  For more information on the LBC and the press release describing the details and the teams, visit the LBC site.

The 15 diverse projects in the Design for Reuse Primer demonstrate new models of “building green.” Material reuse is always integral to a sustainable vision of how to tread lightly on the earth, be economically pragmatic, and nurture a community. From a school for children with learning differences to a center for holistic living, these case studies are intended to provide insights about the material reuse process in a wide variety of context. By discussing the challenges and demonstrating the benefits of reclaimed materials, they hope to demystify and inspire reuse.

The Design for Reuse Primer publication and website are the latest resources of Public Architecture's ongoing efforts to demystify and promote building material reuse.

There are many great projects that are reviewed in the Primer.  PlanetReuse enjoyed working on two of the fifteen projects:
- Omega Center Center for Sustainable Living
- Operation Comeback 5200 Dauphine Street

Both the LBC projects and the Reuse Primer are great proof that reclaimed materials are successfully being used in commercial and residential projects throughout the United States and that PlanetReuse provides services that are very beneficial in sourcing, documenting and coordinating reclaimed materials.

All of the projects had amazing owners and design teams that really pushed the boundaries in incorporation of reclaimed materials. We take our hats off to you – congratulations!

Continue the Earth Day Commitment with LEED/Living Building Challenge Radius Requirements- SP'10- Newsletter


April 28, 2010
Last week’s Earth Day celebration marked a wonderful upsurge in attention to sustainable activities. Many cities planned week-long activities to increase awareness of recycling and energy efficiency, offering significant opportunities to educate youth and shift mindsets for daily routines.

The official holiday is also a good time to consider your personal and professional goals for aiding the planet throughout the year. The Earth Day mindset can certainly apply to the professional world, specifically in how projects are conceived and constructed. A major way to think sustainably in the building process is to source and specify local and regional materials. This cuts down on the fuel consumption and pollution necessary to truck materials long distances.

The USGBC’s LEED requirements have successfully promoted this practice by establishing criteria that encourages sourcing materials within a 500-mile radius. Cascadia’s Living Building Challenge Project requirements raise the bar by requiring all materials to be sourced from within a more restricted radii based on material weight (250, 500 and maximum of 1,000 miles from origin/source and project site). But even projects that aren’t pursuing certification can benefit from local and regional sourcing.

PlanetReuse works with clients to source materials as close to the project site as possible, both for sustainable and financial reasons. “Not only is it good for the environment, it also cuts down on the transportation costs,” said Tim Bensman, PlanetReuse Operations Manager. “Reduced shipping costs, a smaller carbon footprint and landfill diversion all in one makes sourcing local reclaimed materials an attractive choice.”

The company helped source and coordinate many reclaimed materials for the first two projects slated for Living Building Challenge certification in the Omega Center for Spiritual Living and the Tyson Research Center at Washington University. “Providing regional, reclaimed material options can go a long way in helping design teams hit their goals,” said Nathan Benjamin, PlanetReuse’s Principal + Founder.

Sourcing materials locally reduces your projects carbon footprint, an admirable goal whether or not you plan to pursue certification. Committing to this practice keeps the purpose of Earth Day—to promote a more sustainable world—active year round.

Living Future Conference in Seattle: May 5-7.


April 22, 2010

Green building leaders from around the globe have penciled in "the unconference for deep green professionals" also known as the Living Future Conference held this year in Seattle from May 5-7. The theme for this years' educational program will be "Building Hope: Revaluing Community." Keynote speakers will include Janine Benyus, Biomimicry Guild co-founder and innovation consultant as well as renowned author, Jason F. McLennan, CEO of Cascadia, Denis Hayes, past-presenter serving as the Bullitt Foundation President and CEO, and lastly Thomas Crum who speaks Internationally about conflict resolution and stress management.

Collaborating with others on fresh design strategies and current technical information will help provide attendees with an exceptional learning and networking experience. Nathan Benjamin of PlanetReuse will proudly be attending and serving as a panelist during the session titled "The Living Learning Center: One Year Later and Beyond." The Living Learning Center in St. Louis, Missouri was opened in May 2009 and is awaiting its Living Building certification. Session presenters will be St. Louis principal of Hellmuth + Bicknese Architects, Daniel F. Hellmuth and Neil Myers, founding principal of Williams Creek Consulting. Consider attending this event and you won't be disappointed!

For more event information, check out the Living Future Conference website here.

Making Material Reuse Effortless to Save Time, Money and the Planet - F'09 Newsletter


October 28, 2009

PlanetReuse is predicated on a simple but revolutionary idea: make it easy for people to use reclaimed materials and they’ll do more of it. That’s good for the future of sustainable building and our planet.
Studies show that as much as 40 percent of waste in landfills comes from construction projects. With billions of tons of trash produced annually and global waste production expected to double by 2013, it adds up to a staggering quantity of landfill waste. Reuse—as the purest form of recycling—helps reduce that amount.
But as Nathan Benjamin found, sourcing quality materials for commercial construction often proved difficult, and frequently architects can’t find materials early enough to incorporate into a design. That discovery led Benjamin to found PlanetReuse in 2008, with the sole purpose of taking the work out of the reuse process.
“We make the connection, handle the groundwork and guide clients through a streamlined process,” he said. “Handled efficiently, reuse is one of those rare situations with no downside. Reclaimed materials are typically available at a 15 to 20 percent savings over new. We follow a proven method that saves time and effort. And—vitally—reuse significantly reduces landfill waste.”
It all adds up to the PlanetReuse mission:to make using reclaimed building materials effortless by expertly matching materials with designers, builders and owners, saving projects money, serving LEED efforts and sustaining the planet.
The idea is resonating within the design and construction industry. The first-to-market company, which earned a Lifecycle Building Challenge award for innovation, has grown 300 percent in the last year.
PlanetReuse follows efficient, tested processes for both placement and deconstruction consulting. The company’s sweet spot is the design development phase, where they work with the architect to seamlessly integrate reclaimed materials, often reviewing drawings and specs to provide a fresh perspective. PlanetReuse sources materials, tests for quality, and documents for LEED and Living Building Challenge certification.
While the robust PlanetReuse website displays available materials and offers the opportunity to request specific items, Benjamin likes clients to consider PlanetReuse the most valuable, cost-efficient member of a project team. And if you’re looking for something you don’t see online, just ask us about it. We’ll find it---we love challenges.
“We spend every minute of every day in the reclaimed materials world. And as long-term members of the green building community, we speak your language,” Benjamin said. “It’s our mission to make your world easier through our knowledge of reclaimed materials. Like our clients, we’re very passionate about sustainable design and construction, and know that together, we can make a real difference.”

Salvaged Materials Find a Home in America’s Greenest Building Project - F'09 Newsletter


October 28, 2009
When one of America’s greenest projects opened its doors this summer, the world learned that many of those doors were salvaged. The Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL) in Rhinebeck, New York debuted on July 16 as one of the world’s best showcases for reclaimed building materials. PlanetReuse was privileged to coordinate much of the salvaged building material used in the project.

The OCSL, an environmental education center and wastewater treatment facility, is expected to be certified as the world’s first Living Building Challenge project, the highest measurable standard for sustainable design and construction. The award-winning building was designed by BNIM Architects, with John Todd Ecological Design.

“So much building material heads for landfills, when instead it can find new life in new building projects,” said PlanetReuse founder Nathan Benjamin. “As the world’s greenest building, the Omega Center is a perfect showcase for salvaged materials, but it also demonstrates how easily any building can take advantage of material reuse.”

Using reclaimed materials is one of the purest ways to build green, and an important consideration for Living Building certification. To discover effective ways to incorporate these materials into the OCSL, BNIM sought out PlanetReuse, whose focus is linking reclaimed materials with the design community.

With the design team, PlanetReuse identified key areas for the use of reclaimed materials. They worked with six demolition and reclamation contractors (three not-for-profits and three for profit) to procure and test the materials, sourcing close to the project to reduce fuel consumption. The company provided documentation on every step to support the certification process. The architect and contractor valued PlanetReuse’s insight, to that point that both wished the company had been involved even earlier in the process to assist with schedule and incorporate more materials.

Reclaimed materials within the Omega Center include dimensional lumber, plywood, interior doors, beech wood paneling and toilet partitions, among many others. The materials came from warehouses, schools, office buildings and other projects within the source radius. Reclaimed materials typically offer 15 to 20 percent savings over new and their use earns significant points towards LEED accreditation.

Most significantly, reuse keeps tons of building materials out of landfills.

Omega Institute's Supergreen "Living Building"


July 05, 2009

Congratulations to the Omega Institute, BNIM and Sember Construction on this great project raising the bar on sustainable design and construction. The project team worked to meet the Cascadia Region Green Building Council's Living Building Challenge requirements as well as met and pushed beyond many LEED requirements.

PlanetReuse enjoyed helping the team by providing the reclaimed materials for the project. Check out this great article about the facility in Fast Company: We look forward to attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 16th.

Congratulations on this great accomplishment!

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