On April 1st through 3rd, the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) held its ninth annual “UnConference." Architects, landscape architects, engineers, ecologists, manufacturers, and other professionals focused on sustainability in the built environment from all over the world gathered in Seattle to discuss this year’s theme of how a sense of place and community can play a role in restorative design. Here are some of the big announcements made at last week’s event:

The Launch of the Living Product Challenge
Complementing the Living Building Challenge (LBC), ILFI's new certification standard aims to encourage manufacturers to reduce a product’s footprint across factors such as carbon, water, and energy, and to make goods through a net-positive impact process. Like LBC, the Living Product Challenge comprises seven performance categories, or petals: beauty, energy, equity, health and happiness, materials, place, and water.

LEED to Recognize Living Building Challenge Energy and Water Petals
The U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC's) LEED system will begin accepting the energy and water requirements from the LBC in an effort to create "harmonization between systems" that are often seen in competition with each other, said USGBC chief product officer Scot Horst in a press release. Projects that meet these two requirements in the LBC will be technically equivalent to LEED.

Brad Kahn via Flickr Creative Commons license The Bullitt Center, designed by The Miller Hull Partnership, in Seattle.
Denmarsh Photography The Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes, designed by The Design Alliance, in Pittsburgh.

New Certifications
ILFI announced seven projects that have achieved LBC certification in 2015:

  • The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Offices in Beijing (China’s first LBC-certified project) and Berea College's Deep Green Student Residence Hall, in Berea, Ky., achieved petal certification.
  • West Berkeley Public Library, in Berkeley, Calif.; Sacred Heart Stevens Library in Atherton, Calif.; and the Mission Zero House in Ann Arbor, Mich., were named net-zero energy–certified projects.

Nine years after the launch of the LBC, there are now 25 projects verified by one of the program's three certification paths: eight have achieved full certification, four have received petal certification, and 12 have achieved net-zero energy building certification. There are also 250 registered projects, covering almost 9 million square feet in 12 states and five countries.
“What has always been considered the most comprehensive performance-based green building standard in the world was once thought to be an impossibility—a bar set too high,” said ILFI’s CEO Jason McLennan in a press release. “A mere nine years later, we have a diverse collection of twenty-five projects that are truly the most forward-thinking and regenerative projects in the world. It is a testament to the power of possibility and a beacon for inspired design.”

Honors and Recognitions

  • ILFI honored Muscoe Martin, an active leader in the green building movement who died on Dec. 28, 2014. Martin was known for his work with the USGBC and the AIA Committee on the Environment.
  • Flooring materials company Mohawk Group received ILFI's 2015 Manufacturer’s Award for its 19 Declare labels across multiple brands. ILFI’s Declare marker is like a nutrition label for the building industry, requiring companies to disclose the ingredients of their products.
  • Colin Fay won ILFI’s #MyLivingFuture photo contest, which challenged conference attendees to share their perspective of place and perspective, with this Instagram.

Upcoming Events 

  • Living Product unExpo: Sept. 16–18, 2015, Pittsburgh. This inaugural event will center on the way materials are designed, manufactured, and delivered. 
  • Living Future “UnConference” 2016: May 11–13, Seattle. The theme will be truth and transparency.

Note: This article has been updated with the correct name of the Natural Resources Defense Council.