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Home > Feature Articles > Municipality Strategies for Sustainable Community Best Practices

Living Building - a Thinking Paradigm Shift

The Living Building Challenge envisions a moratorium on the seemingly never-ending growth outward and a focus on compact, connected communities – inherently conserving the natural resources that support human health and the farmland that feed us.

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As previously disturbed areas are restored, the trend of ineffective land use and loss of biodiversity is reversed and nature’s functions are invited back into a healthy interface with the built environment.

Human behavior and attitudes are the most significant barriers to transforming our surroundings.

"There is a frontier mentality that seems to encourage people to keep pursuing the ‘next frontier’ and to value the virgin site more than the second-hand site. Humanity is territorial by nature and we tend to view our impacts through a narrow lens," says the founders of the International Living Building Institute.

"It is not unusual for us to encourage unhealthy solutions, so long as they are 'not in my backyard' and allow us the social stature to 'keep up with the Joneses'. We must erase the taboo associated with certain forms of transit, and abandoned industrial and commercial facilities, and we must once again value the many other creatures and beings that cohabit the earth with us," they continue.

This Seattle based nonprofit is promoting and educating a paradigm shift in thinking about sustainable communities, culture, design and building.

Their choice of a "flower petal" metaphor helps understand how homes are rooted to its environment, its site and its uses.

The intent of the Site Petal is to clearly articulate where it is acceptable for people to build, how to protect and restore a place once it has been developed, and to encourage the creation of communities that are once again based on the pedestrian rather than the automobile. Such communities should, in turn, be supported by local and regional agriculture, since no truly ‘sustainable’ community can exist that relies on globally-sourced food production.

The continued spread of urban and the edge of wild places in the form of development sprawl threatens the few wild places that remain and our capacity to feed ourselves responsibly, as well as the decentralized nature of our communities that increase dependence on transportation, resulting in burning of natural resources and health-damaging pollution.

Automobiles, often used as single occupancy vehicles, have become integral to our communities when we should be relying on “people power” – walking and bicycling – supplemented by shared transit as the primary mode of travel.

But there is more to look at than transportation. The SEVEN petals of the "Living Building Challenge" looks at every system of a community - much as a doctor looks at our circulatory, muscular, skeletal...etc. systems.

If you would like to put "sustainble" community into a wholistic picture ... or "system", this 34 minute overview of the Living Building Challenge will bear watching ... maybe several times. The International Living Building Institute also provides reports that you can download if you prefer to read during a quiet hour or two. :-)

This is the most thorough approach to sustainable communities that I have discovered...and I heartily suggest you check it out whether you are a green and sustainability professional, a future-thinking entrepreneur who wants to know how to work with the coming sustainable community industry changes ... or community planners, homeowners, parent or grandparent who wants to understand why, how and when you can make a difference.

SOURCE: International Living Building Institute

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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