A living building is a green economy initiative that is defined by the Cascadia Region Green Building Council (CRGBC) as a building that is able to generate all of its energy resources with renewable nontoxic sources. The living building also treats and captures all of its own water.

A living building, to be considered legitimate, must be able to be certified by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), a subsidiary of its Leadership in Energy and Efficient Design (LEED) program. certification can mean that a building is eligible for many tax breaks and other types of parks.The CRGBC, in order to promote the idea of a building that could live on its own, actually launched a challenge to the construction and design communities to pursue adding sustainability in the environment surrounding the building. As of today there are more than 60 different projects spanning North America which are trying to meet the high standards of the LBC group, which are even higher standards than the LEED program.

The first building that was considered for this much higher standard of green sustainability was the Omega Center for Sustainable Living, in Rhinebeck, NY. This building is a 6200 square-foot single-story building which serves many businesses in the area. It features rain gardens that use water runoff in order to irrigate the surrounding plants, solar panels for energy, heating and cooling system that is geothermal, and a 4500 square-foot greenhouse that recycles wastewater.The building also incorporates a design that capitalizes on the natural light flowing into the building, minimizing the need for electric lights. The building is also, most importantly, “net zero,” meaning that the building uses no more energy than it generates. This is the top criteria for certification by the LBC. The building must operate for a full year before it can be considered for this type of certification.

There is one reason above all that the concept of this type of a building has not yet hit the mainstream – the cost. The cost of creating any kind of net zero building that generates only as much energy as it uses is especially high, and there is as of yet no way to bring that cost down. However, the concept of this type of building is definitely possible in the future, as builders begin to source locally for materials and local economies gradually warm themselves to the concept of a green economy which can create jobs.

Many distinguished educational institutions have caught on to the idea of this living kind of building, and are conducting experiments, both thought and actual, which vet the concepts that the current projects are testing in the field. Many studies are expected to be released about this concepts in the coming years.

Another great Green article from Green Halo.
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