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Living Buildings: Responsible Design

The construction industry has progressed a great deal in environmentally conscious building efforts.

Taking green structures to a higher level with heightened expectations of what a building can do though, are living buildings.

Living buildings are exactly that – buildings that have whole systems implanted to practically run themselves.

Buildings are considered living if they are able to efficiently create and sustain their own necessities, like energy and water. Renewable resources and on-site conservation techniques are employed to allow the building to function without an excess of energy consumption.

One example of an inclusive living building is the Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington. The building has to pass a rigorous certification procedure and adhere to a strict energy budget to meet its own operative requirements.

The outdoor space encourages eco-friendly travel methods and landscaping has been used to optimize soil conditions to allow water filtration through a practical roofing system. Among the plans are to conserve water by putting a rainwater storage tank capable of holding 56,000 gallons of water, which goes through a sanitation process and is then reused.

It also features a solar rooftop overhang that is planned to generate 230,000 hours of kilowatt power and reportedly runs at an efficiency level up to 83% above a characteristically assembled commercial building. Though this structure undoubtedly cost a massive amount to complete, that is a substantial energy savings.

Another example of a qualified living structure is the Omega Center for Sustainable Living. Located in in Rhinebeck, New York, this building has been constructed with ecologically sound supplies and a layout that incorporates sunlight to naturally reduce energy use during the day. The design has integrated a geothermal heating and cooling system and a greenhouse which assists by filtering the water supply for reuse.

The site will undergo an energy audit to make sure that it is functioning at its efficiency expectations as it was built to not create an excess of energy usage.

For more examples of living buildings and net zero energy productions, check out the Living Building Challenge for case studies.

Along with the price there are challenges to erecting a completely living building, like finding fully suitable materials and manufacturers. The benefits of a living design overshadow the upfront costs, and if demand for these types of smart structures increased the building rates would likely drop.

These examples show that sustainable design can be successfully implemented into livable spaces, and hopefully living buildings will continue to grow into accessible options.

Image Source: Bullitt Center

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