Living Buildings: The World’s Most Sustainable Structures

What’s greener than the highest possible LEED-certified building? A ‘Living Building’. The new Living Building Certification is said to surpass even LEED in its stringency, requiring certified buildings to generate all of their own energy, harvest and treat their own water, use only non-toxic and sustainably sourced materials, operate efficiently and look good doing it. The first three buildings to officially meet these requirements – a private home, a learning center and a center for sustainable living – may just be the greenest in the world.

The International Living Building Institute has fully certified both the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, New York and the Tyson Living Learning Center in Eureka, Missouri for meeting all six criteria during the first year after building. A private home, the Eco-Sense House in Victoria, British Columbia, was recognized with partial Living Building Challenge certification in four out of six categories. Each requirement is referred to as a ‘petal’ on a metaphorical Living Building ‘flower’.


“Imagine working on a project where the only emissions generated came from human breath,” says Ann Baird, owner of the Eco Sense House. “The positive examples set by our home have inspired many others to build in similar ways or to incorporate aspects of Eco-Sense into their existing homes.”

What’s remarkable about these three buildings is not just the fact that they have such a miniscule environmental impact, impressive as their many sustainable and ecologically sensitive features are. It’s the fact that they are also aesthetic marvels, earning the sixth ‘petal’ of certification – for their beauty – with eye-catching designs that serve as stunning examples of the highs that even remote rural buildings can reach.

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