Living Buildings: Ashoka Fellow Jason McLennan's Architectural Revolution

UPDATE: Since we posted this article, the Living Building Challenge was selected as the winner of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, an annual international design challenge awarding $100K to support the development and accelerated implementation of strategies that have the potential to advance human well being and the health of our planet's ecosystems.

Can you imagine an office building or high-rise tower with no energy bill? It's not easy to do; in the United States, the buildings we live and work in consume more energy per day than any other sector of the economy (including transportation and industry). 

More than three-quarters of that energy comes from fossil fuels. If we’re going to ensure a sustainable future, the building sector is a great place to start, but it’s going to take more than street-facing solar panels and minimum-requirement LEED certifications.

One American innovator is taking on the challenge. As CEO of the International Living Future Institute and founder and creator of the Living Building Challenge, U.S. Ashoka Fellow Jason McLennan is pioneering the future of green building.

McLennan believes that architects and city planners must design with place, climate, and culture in mind to create a sustainable future. And McLennan takes his visionary programming one step further, arguing that green buildings can and must be designed to work in partnership with the ecosystems that they inhabit.

“Buildings need to operate like plants or flowers,” he said. The buildings he designs harvest all the resources they need, including electricity and water, from their rooted position.

“We certified the world's first 'living buildings' in 2010, proving that this idea wasn't just theory, but was actually a proven doable prospect,” McLennan said. “Now we have 100 active projects in 13 countries, and each project has these ripple effects in their communities.”

By 2017, McLennan’s goal is to have certified 50 buildings, and to have registered and shared 500 projects with builders around the world.

“It's not just about the building – the building is just a pilot, it's a demonstration,” McLennan said. “What's really happening is that we're changing the way people think about what's possible, and starting the beginning of a new revolution in architecture.”

See how McLennan’s “living buildings” work: