Living Building Challenge Series: An Introduction

In December 2016, Feldman Architecture pledged to the AIA 2030 Commitment and created an Action Plan as a road map to designing carbon neutral buildings by the year 2030. In our Action Plan, originally published in 2018 and updated annually, our studio selected a series of goals to focus our sustainability initiatives around over the next 3-5 years, one of them being designing and building a Living Building Challenge certified project. 

The Living Building Challenge is an ever-evolving certification program enacted by the International Living Future Institute. The program is considered the world’s most rigorous proven performance standard for buildings. The regenerative design framework aims to create spaces that, like a flower, give more than they take – connecting occupants to light, air, food, nature, and community. LBC certified buildings are self-sufficient and remain within the resource limits of their site and create a positive impact on the human and natural systems that interact with them.

The Living Building Challenge consists of seven performance categories, or “Petals”: place, water, energy, health + happiness, materials, equity, and beauty. Based on the building’s performance in these categories, 3 certification pathways are available to pursue, Living Building Certification, Petal Certification, and Zero Energy Certification.  

Feldman Architecture is excited to announce that as of this summer, Curveball will be our first project to attempt to achieve a Living Building Challenge certification. Situated in the Santa Lucia Preserve, a 20,000 acre land trust, the design for Curveball prioritizes sustainability, flexible spaces, and connection to the outdoors, artfully placing two gently curved forms on an open pad within a grove of oaks folded into a steep site. The design respects the existing landscape, and orients public and private spaces towards both distant views, as well as intimate moments with dense tree canopies.

Prioritizing fire resiliency and sustainability, our design envelops the building in durable, low-maintenance modular weathering steel panels and aluminum windows. The eroded material aesthetic reinforces the conceptual merging of architecture and landscape, and a green roof seamlessly emerges the structure from the hillside.  

With Curveball, we aim to achieve full Living Building Challenge certification, however, as this is our first attempt at working within the constraints of this rigorous program, we may pursue a Petal or CORE certification. At this point in the process, the potential challenges include access to solar energy in a densely treed site, access to water, and materials selection – the design may not include any redlist items.  

We are fortunate to be embarking on this certification process with a group of extremely talented consultants, listed below. We look forward to sharing our progress along the way, highlighting our challenges and successes with our community. We hope our journey encourages others to engage with regenerative design, as well as to crowdsource best practices in the certification process.  

Landscape Architect: MFLA
Structural Engineer: Daedalus Structural Engineering
General Contractor: RJL Construction
Mechanical and Energy Consultants: Positive Energy 
Civil Engineer: L&S Engineering
Surveyor: Whitson Engineers
Geotechnical Engineer: Haro Kasunich & Associates
Sustainability Consultant: Corey Squire, Department of Sustainability
LBC Consultant: Phaedra Svec, McLennan Design
Water Systems Consultant: WaterSprout
Planting Advisor: RANA