Taking on the Living Building Challenge©

By Lori Arguelles, Executive Director, Alice Ferguson Foundation

The Alice Ferguson Foundation has been providing life-changing connections to the natural world through our education program field studies for the better part of five decades.  We believe that connecting kids to nature in a meaningful way has benefits for both the kids and the planet we inhabit.  So when we were facing the challenge of upgrading and enhancing facilities at our Hard Bargain Farm Education Center we decided to go the extra mile and embrace the Living Building Challenge©, which is the most stringent set of green building requirements in existence today.

Currently, the biggest consumer of energy is buildings, or more correctly, the people that inhabit and operate inefficiently and poorly designed buildings are the biggest consumers of energy.  If we’re going to turn the corner on the critical issues of the day, such as climate change, we need to build a bridge between the natural world and the ‘built world.’  So what do we do about it?

For us, the answer was obvious:  Take on the Living Building Challenge© and lead by example. Most green building criteria focus on mitigation, or in other words—doing less bad. The Living Building Challenge© focuses on how buildings can actually help regenerate the environment they inhabit.  It makes perfect sense for an organization like ours to tackle criteria such as net-zero energy, net-zero water, carbon neutral, and non-toxic facilities. After all our mission is quite literally to ‘connect people to the natural world.’

As an environmental education facility we are deeply committed not only to ‘walking the talk’ but also to sharing what we learn in the process.  And there is much to learn!  Part of what we will need to do as part of this process is to help change the supply chain.  The biggest part of the ‘Challenge’ has to do with the non-toxic materials requirements.  And the frightening thing is just how commonplace these toxics are in our homes, workplaces and other locales we frequent regularly.

Our blog will chronicle our journey down the Living Building path as we begin construction on our Potomac Watershed Study Center.  Thanks for your interest and support as we undertake this incredible endeavor.  After all, there are currently only FOUR Living Buildings certified anywhere in the world today.  Together, let’s make sure that in the future Living Buildings are the rule, not the exception.