St. Louis Building Aims to be Nation’s Greenest

by | May 29, 2009

tyson-living-center2The new Living Learning Center at the Washington University’s Tyson Research Center in St. Louis aims to lay claim to the nation’s greenest building, as it seeks to be the first certified under the Living Building Challenge of the Cascadia Region Green Building Council (CRGBC). No building has yet met the standard, which is said to be the most stringent green building rating system in the world, according to a press release.

Under the Living Building Challenge, a building must comply with 16 standards, including zero net energy and zero wastewater. Other standards pertain to diverting 80 percent or more of construction waste from landfills and obtaining materials from within 500 miles of the construction site to reduce carbon emissions from travel and shipping. Additionally, occupational spaces must have opening windows that give access to fresh air and daylight.

The Living Learning Center will capture rainwater and purify it for drinking and will produce enough solar energy to actually divert extra back into the grid.

Eden Brukman, the CRGBC’s research director, said that 60 buildings in the United States are pursuing Living Building certification. “The Tyson Living Learning Center is one of the first two of these projects completing construction in May, and there are many people throughout the country — and the continent — watching with eager anticipation,” she said.

For the building to be certified, it must be in operation for 12 months, proving that building occupants use it according to plan.

The CRCGB is a chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, which has the nationally accepted LEED green building rating system. Brukman said the Living Building certification is not meant to supplant LEED certification, but to be seen as an add-on certification.

Here are some aspects about the building’s construction:

  • Rainwater that falls on the building will pass through a filter before being stored in a 3,000-gallon underground cistern.
  • Pavement around the building is porous, allowing the ground to absorb most storm runoff.
  • Waterless composting toilets reduce water use. The waste will be used to fertilize grass surrounding the center.
  • A 17-kilowatt photovoltaic system will power the facility.
  • Exposed exterior and interior wood used to build the center, including the cedar siding, came from the grounds of the Tyson Living Center. The wood came from fallen trees and those otherwise slated for removal.
  • Structural wood was sourced from Pocahontas, Ark., about 200 miles away.

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