Site Petal of the Living Building Challenge: What’s Involved?


The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is comprised of seven performance areas, or “Petals”—Materials, Site, Water, Energy, Health, Equity and Beauty—based on 2.0 version. If you are considering targeting LBC certification, it’s important to know what’s involved with each Petal. In this post, we will explain the intent of the Site Petal and its requirements toward certification.

About the Site Petal

The Site Petal focuses on “restoring a healthy coexistence with nature.” It explains where it is acceptable for people to build, how to protect and restore a place once it is developed and encourages the creation of communities that are based around the pedestrian rather than the automobile. The communities should be supported by local and regional agriculture and focus on relying on “people power” – walking and bicycling – supplemented by shared transit.

The LBC envisions that this Petal will help conserve natural resources that support human health and the farmland that provides food for us. The four parts of the Site Petal are Limits to Growth, Urban Agriculture, Habitat Exchange and Car Free Living.

1. Limits to Growth

This section requires that projects be built on greyfields or brownfields, which are previously developed sites that are not classified as sensitive ecological habitats. These habitats would include wetlands, primary dunes, old-growth forest and native prairie, prime farmland and within the 100-year flood plain. Further, the landscape on-site may only include native and/or naturalized species that emulate density and biodiversity of indigenous ecosystems and supports succession.

2. Urban Agriculture

Using a Floor Area Ratio (F.A.R.) as a basis for calculation, all projects must integrate opportunities for agriculture appropriate to the scale and density of the project. For example, if the project has a F.A.R. of 0.5 ≤ 0.74 then a minimum of 25% of the project area must be used for food production.

3. Habitat Exchange

This requirement states that for each hectare (107,639 square feet) of development, an equal amount of land must be set-aside in perpetuity as part of a habitat exchange.

4. Car Free Living

Each new project should contribute to the creation of walkable, pedestrian-oriented communities. A “car free lifestyle” is defined by the potential for a majority of people living in the neighborhood to have a productive and rich lifestyle without need of a car. Therefore, some projects do not even have parking lots on-site, but instead require people to park off-site and walk to the building.

The Living Building Challenge is a highly prestigious and sought after certification that very few projects have been able to achieve. The Brock Environmental Center is one of Hourigan’s projects targeting this certification in order to become one of the greenest buildings in Virginia.

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