My name is Michael Bryan II and I am a second-year Environmental Engineer working in the Office of Campus Sustainability. I was honored to speak at the Living Building Launch on November 2, 2017 as a representative for the student body of Georgia Tech. It was an amazing event that offered many networking opportunities, including the ability to meet the different partners who work behind-the-scenes and around-the-clock to make sure the Living Building is designed.
We’ve probably all heard it before. We need to find renewable fuel sources that can keep up with the energy demands of our twenty-first century lifestyles. Coal, oil, and natural gas are not considered sustainable; once we burn them, they’re gone. It is predicted that the earth contains enough fossil fuels to last us hundreds of years, but once the fossil fuels they run out, our energy source is depleted. It may seem like we have plenty of time to develop better energy solutions. But what about the raising average temperature of the earth, melting ice caps, rising sea levels, and changing weather and climate?
Water. Everybody needs it to survive. We even found it on Mars. Water covers roughly 71 percent of the earth’s surface, but the amount of potable water that is safe for human consumption is at risk due to water shortages and poor water quality around the world. As a result, water scarcity affects over one billion people worldwide. For various reasons such as water overuse, pollution, drought, war, or distance, people cannot get the water they need. It affects places on every continent from developing countries to the United States, including Flint, Michigan, which has had lead-contaminated water, and even the Atlanta metro area has recently entered a severe drought. With the problem in our backyard, the Living Building Challenge urges us to respect water as a precious resource and redefines how we treat our water sources.
Location, Location, Location
Place is the first of seven Petals, or categories, that comprise the Living Building Challenge, and rightly so. All of the elements required for a self-sustaining building are dependent on its location. The climate, region, and natural topography of the project site must be taken into careful consideration because the built environment should seamlessly coexist with its natural surroundings. A living building must be well adapted for its environment so that it can generate energy, capture and treat water, and grow food in the most efficient way.
When hearing the term “Living Building” for the first time, I was reminded of my fourth grade class field trip to Chick-Fil-A Headquarters. We toured the corporate building, marveled at the car collection, including the Batmobile from Batman Returns, and learned about the history of Chick-Fil-A and its famed chicken sandwich, but what I remember most is sitting in the office of the late Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-Fil-A.