5 Takeaways from Living Future 2019

Subscribe to Stok Insights
5 Takeaways from Living Future 2019

The annual Living Future unConference continually brings together some of the most passionate and forward-thinking leaders and practitioners of regenerative design to discuss how we can build communities that are socially just, culturally rich, and ecologically restorative.

We were excited to present our research on the business case for human-centric design with the Institute for Market Transformation alongside so many bright minds all focused on collaboration and abundance. Here, a few of the Stok team members in attendance highlight big ideas, news, and themes from LF19.

#1: LBC 4.0 LAUNCH

The newest version of the Living Building Challenge is officially live! Released May 1, 2019, LBC 4.0 aims to (1) simplify the program to allow project teams to spend more time making positive impact and (2) close the gap between LBC and leading mainstream frameworks while preserving its rigor. The ILFI’s flexibility within the new standard is promising, as they strive to make LBC more accessible and tailored to each individual project. We’re excited to dive in! Learn about its intent, review major changes, and see the standard in detail from ILFI here.


High-performance building certifications are typically considered a high add-cost for projects, but the case studies are showing otherwise. The premium may be less than most assume, and this larger upfront investment pays its own way over the building’s lifecycle. Illustrating this, one panelist noted that healthy, Red List-free material selection for their large Materials Petal project added less than a 1.5% cost increase to their materials spend.

In a refreshing discussion on upfront spend, materials costs can pencil out when considering the full lifecycle of a building and the steep remediation costs for hazardous materials prior to demolition. By mitigating the risk of harmful chemical exposure, LBC projects that ensure healthy material selection also mitigate the cost of having to remove the chemicals later in the building’s lifecycle.

So, how does this all work from an owner’s perspective? In a session on the challenges of developing a Living Building in an investor-driven model, PAE, ZGF Architects, and Gerding Edlen spoke to the financial model that’s driving the new PAE Headquarters in Portland, Oregon to fruition, which is targeting LBC certification. The team calculated project costs to be an estimated $21M for a code compliant design and $27M for a full LBC certified building. Looking at the investor model from a full picture and not a first cost standpoint, the investment team shared that an LBC building created smaller tenant improvement allowances, given the additional effort put into the shell of the building to achieve LBC, as well as included grants in the capital stack to achieve investor returns. When this project is finished, it may be the first ever investor-driven Living Building, offering a model for others to replicate.


Embodied carbon has headlined many recent events, and LF19 was no exception. Discussions homed in on the topic in material specifications, noting that embodied carbon disclosure is now a requirement for Declare Labels. Largely fueled by the Embodied Carbon Network, which formed out of the Carbon Leadership Forum in 2017, the movement has gained global traction and is only picking up speed with the help of tools like EC3, Buy-Clean legislation that sets requirements for certain types of materials to get EPDs, and emerging low carbon concrete code.


The LBC Water Petal is arguably the most difficult Petal to achieve from a regulatory standpoint, given that code typically doesn’t favor Net Positive Water strategies. To help with this, the ILFI is working to grow the body of resources available to project teams pursuing this challenging Petal. With the creation of an LBC cost study currently underway, the ILFI hopes to glean best practices and lessons learned from project teams that have tackled the daunting Water Petal to help make it more accessible to others. This marks a trend across all ILFI programs, demonstrating the ILFI’s commitment to making lessons learned from certified buildings readily available to other project teams. The new resource will compile survey results that collect cost information from water infrastructure items on projects.


LF19 dove even deeper into the practice of biophilic design as more than a green wall, discussing Attention Restoration Theory, non-rhythmic stimuli, and the power of sight combined with sound. Companies like Poly are on the forefront of this movement, while research from sources like the Human Spaces Study continue to provide scientific fuel for the practice.

Will you be at any upcoming Living Future events? Reach out so we can connect at the next one!