Building a flower

A building which receives all its energy from the sun, which collects and re-uses the water it needs, which produces no waste or toxin, which provides comfort and pleases aesthetically.

With the flower metaphor at its centre, the challenge requires a project to satisfy a series of ‘Petals’ and beneath these lie a series of ‘imperatives’ which guide each Petal’s intent. For a full detailed description of the intention and imperatives behind each of the Petals, the International Living Future Institute website is the best resource, from which these brief details have been sourced.


The Energy Petal intends for buildings to rely solely on renewable energy year-round, in a safe and pollution-free manner.

Net positive energy is the imperative. At least 105 per cent of the project’s energy needs must be supplied by on-site renewable energy on a net annual basis, without the use of on-site combustion, and projects must provide on-site energy storage for resiliency.

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yellow sun
red paint brush


The Materials Petal is complex, as the International Living Future Institute notes that presently “it is impossible to gauge the true environmental impact and toxicity of the built environment due to a lack of product-level information.”

Nevertheless, this Petal seeks to create a materials economy that is non-toxic, ecologically restorative, transparent, and socially equitable. It is linked to Declare®, the Institute’s ingredients label for building products, a publicly accessible label and online database. The Materials Petal prohibits the use of Red List products, being the worst in class materials prevalent in the building industry, such as asbestos, formaldehyde and lead. It requires projects to account for the total embodied carbon through construction via a one-time carbon offset. Finally, the Materials Petal requires a focus on waste, specifically a net positive waste outcome. Through the creation of a Materials Conservation Management Plan which explains how the project optimises materials in each phase, from design through to operation and to end-of-life, this Petal demands waste be viewed as a valuable resource.

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Health and happiness

The Health and Happiness Petal focuses on the environmental conditions that create robust, healthy spaces conducive to productivity and for people to reach their potential.

In practical terms, this Petal is achieved through features such as operable windows that provide access to fresh air and daylight, a Healthy Interior Environment Plan which sets out air quality and volatile organic compounds controls, among other measures, as well as a deep exploration of biophilic design elements for the project to nurture the innate connection between people and nature.

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pink heart
blue water drop


The Water Petal seeks to re-define waste so that water is respected as a precious resource.

For a project to achieve this Petal, it must deliver a net positive water outcome for its site. All its water needs must be supplied by captured rainwater or other natural closed-loop water systems, and/or by recycling its used water, purified as necessary without chemicals

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The Equity Petal charges developments with the responsibility to foster an inclusive sense of community that is just and equitable.

Design is important to facilitating the environment this Petal envisages. Culture and interaction must be promoted through human-scaled, as oppose to automobile-scaled, places. Features like seat walls and pocket parks provide places for people to gather and connect, complemented by public art. This Petal also views access to fresh air, sunlight and natural waterways as a universal right, so the project must not block access or diminish the quality of these natural assets for anyone. This means a project must protect its neighbours from noxious emissions with the potential to impact air quality, it must not shade the roof of an adjacent structure, it must not affect downstream water quality, among other prohibited impacts. There’s a ‘public good’ requirement for this Petal too. For every dollar of total project cost, a donation of half a cent or more must be made to charity or to contribute to the ILFI’s Living Equity Exchange Program.

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yellow money hands
green leaf


This Petal is obviously a subjective one, so the Living Building Challenge® acknowledges genuine effort to create beautiful projects with the potential to enrich lives, while seeking to understand the team’s objectives without presuming to judge the application of aesthetic values.

For the Beauty Petal, projects must incorporate features intended solely for human delight and the celebration of culture and spirit, limited only by imagination.

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The intention of the Place Petal is to realign how people understand and relate to the natural environment that sustains us. It highlights the threat of sprawl but warns against overly dense urban centres. It advocates for the restoration of previously disturbed environments and invite nature back in.

For a project to satisfy the Place Petal, it must deliver on a range of related criteria covering on-site landscaping, biodiversity, mandatory agricultural requirements such as area for food production, habitat exchange offsets and provision of pedestrian and cycle access, among others.

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green place