By Jonathan Tucker
Launched in November 2006, the Living Building Challenge (LBC) has already proven to be a transformative program, with over sixty projects in various stages of development around North America and beyond. The Challenge inspires green building teams to leap forward and innovate new techniques – to demonstrate that ecological balance in the built environment is possible using current technology. To be “Living” the building(s) must achieve each of the Challenge’s environmentally critical imperatives (no exceptions). It must generate all of its own energy onsite using renewable sources; capture and treat all of its own water; be constructed of nontoxic, sustainably sourced materials; use only previously developed sites (ending sprawl); and be beautiful and inspiring to its inhabitants. Unlike LEED, Challenge certification is based on 12 months of actual, not predicted, performance, ensuring that environmental claims reflect reality – not hype. Thus, to be “Living” a building must both inspire and educate the people who interact with it, transforming end users and visitors into agents of change. This single unifying standard catalyzes comprehensive change within the built environment, while giving end-users and policy makers a clear path toward true sustainability. The Challenge is now poised to make a bigger leap into countries around the world.
By Ashley Thorfinnson
Desertification is occurring on 25% of the land area of Earth, degrading 73% of the world's rangelands and causing widespread poverty. By reversing desertification, we could create innumerable positive consequences: mitigating climate change, droughts and floods, and reducing poverty, social breakdown, violence and genocide. Yet most attempts to date have not only been ineffective, but have been band-aid solutions that do not address its real "root" causes. Enter Semi-Finalist Allan Savory and his surprising trimtab approach to reversing desertification that he calls "holistic rangeland management." Nearly the exact opposite of prevailing theories that blame desertification on overgrazing, Savory's solution centers on dramatically increased livestock numbers to reverse desertification. The tremendous success of Savory's counter-intuitive solution is evidenced through his work with Operation Hope at the Africa Center for Holistic Management (ACHM) in Zimbabwe. For hundreds of years the 6,500 acres of the ACHM were barren, dry fields until 1992 when Savory increased the livestock by 400% and managed them through holistic, planned grazing. Over time, the barren fields were transformed into green grass and open water, full of water lilies and fish.
By Jonathan Tucker
When the dominant industry of a given area collapses, and its dependent neighborhoods follow suit, how do these socially defunct urban communities rebuild cohesiveness?
One proposed solution to this problem is the endeavor of GrowTown, a 2010 BFI Challenge Semi-Finalist. The project’s mission states, “GrowTown is a non-profit organization dedicated to enabling neighborhoods, left fragmented in post-industrial cities and landscapes, to self-organize. Through grassroots community-driven design and local leadership, the local food economy is the catalyst for growing resilient and sustainable neighborhoods that can respond to the important challenges of our time.”
Their scheme advocates a comprehensive system that “facilitates small businesses associated with the local food marketplace, and the sustainable recycling and reuse of existing assets and infrastructure. We support innovation and growth of small cottage industries and local businesses, especially those that employ and empower local youth and encourage local mentoring relationships. Local economic and social life creates the fertile ground that invites further levels of growth and development.”