Postcards from the 'Unconference'
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Lots of big news from the 2011 Living Future event in Vancouver, including the winners of the Living City competition. The 2011 Living Future "unconference" in Vancouver is a hopping, high-energy event. As usual, CEO, host, and MC Jason McLennan h... This competition, jointly sponsored by the International Living Building Institute and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, challenged designers to create a new global vision: a breathtaking, compelling model for the future of civilization. Unleash the power of your imagination to envision a city capable of thriving through the centuries. The designs had to apply Living Building Challenge criteria to an entire city, and demonstrate pedestrian street life, new infrastructure for water and waste, net-zero energy and water, and agriculture integrated into the community. Look for more coverage on this early next week, though, and a full spread on the winners in an upcoming issue of Metropolis (editor Susan Szenasy was also a juror). In addition to first and second prize winners, there were five special recognitions, two people's choice awards, and three recognized in a living communities category. Living buildings or a living future? In line with the goals of the Living Cities awards, the International Living Buildings Institute (ILBI) is evolving to take on more of the activities previously managed by Cascadia Green Building Council (which is a chapter of both USGBC and Canada GBC), changing its name to International Living Future Institute (ILFI). "As our pioneering project teams have discovered, 'green buildings' don't exist in a vacuum," said CEO Jason McLennan in a press release. "They are part of a web of influences moving from the materials we build with, to the structures we create and maintain, and on to the communities we inhabit." The new name formalizes the Institute's evolution from focusing on single buildings, and rationalizes its international scope. Although McLennan has come out recently as a strong defender of LEED (in Cascadia's publication Trim Tab, and at the conference, among other places), the new ILFI could present competition for LEED at the deep green end of the spectrum. That will be interesting to watch over time. Incentives for revealing ingredients IFLI is also launching its "Declare" program, which aims to give manufacturers incentive to reveal ingredients, even if they are not red-list clean. This will involve a branded label and master database that Living Building Challenge participants can use for research as well as forums. Looks like BuildingGreen and the Healthy Building Network may be able to help out with this effort, although at this point it's still pretty conceptual--stay tuned for details. Renovating vs. building new All the sessions I've been in (as an attendee in two and facilitator in one) have been high energy and engaging. At one, Ralph DiNola and others shared initial results from a life-cycle study on renovating existing buildings versus building new (this study was mentioned in Tristan's recent blog post, "Does Saving Historic Buildings Really Save Energy?" ). The preliminary results are showing pretty long carbon payback times for choosing to build new rather than renovate the old. While these results probably don't surprise anyone, it's essential to get the quantitative side of the picture. Good data helps us make smarter decisions about when a retrofit makes sense and when tearing a building down might be the best idea. The researchers are committed to transparency, and will share all their assumptions and data in a final report in a couple of months. We'll likely be covering most of this news in more depth in Environmental Building News soon. In the meantime, you can follow my tweets from the unconference at @nadavbg.