Green certifications litter the building community with any number of requirements, but those standards shouldn’t be the aim.

Jason McLennan, CEO at McLennan Design and founder/creator of the Living Building Challenge, warns against meeting minimum standards because they are a low bar. He points out that if you pay attention to what the best of the best is doing in terms of sustainability, they are greatly exceeding the standards.

“I try to get people to think about what sustainability really should mean,” McLennan says. And it’s why he created the Living Building Challenge, which pushes people to go much farther with sustainability than they have in the past. When he launched the organization in 2006, it was deemed impossible to achieve, and now there are more than 350 participating projects. Projects that meet the challenge will never have energy bills or water bills, which is a definite tribute to how industry leaders are thinking about sustainability and incorporating it into housing even today.

Not only do these projects benefit from not having any ongoing water or utility costs, but also they differentiate themselves in crowded markets and can earn a premium price because they are a better product.

“We are showing that this future is possible now,” McLennan says.

But what’s beyond that future? McLennan took on a personal challenge when he decided to start the Living Building Challenge, which has proved to be a success. He acknowledges that sustainability is a fast-moving field and the economics are constantly changing, so innovation is key. But, he also says that the innovation doesn’t have to be an overall massive and disruptive transaction. He encourages housing leaders to find ways to innovate on a monthly or yearly basis—even finding ways to do it that are slow and simple. He suggests embracing new technology, hiring a better design firm to think differently, or to just take a new look at a particular issue and try to change it for the better.

McLennan will lead a group of panelists at the 2017 HIVE conference to explore how structure and software are coming together to leverage design for healthy living. He points out that when he started his career, sustainability wasn’t taken seriously and says that it’s been wonderful to see a transformation in the past couple of decades. Now, there are different and maybe even more challenges—from politics to global warming to technology—that need to be addressed.

His HIVE panel will needle into these pressing issues and the transformation it will take for positive change regarding how we get our energy and how we run our society. Register now to join the discussion.

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