Ecological Handprints: Construction materials that do more good not just less harm

One of the more interesting and potentially industry game changing announcements coming out from the ILFI 2015 conference in Seattle last week was the launch of The Living Product Challenge (LPC).

Initially introduced at the LF 2014 conference with more detail released this year along with more on the concept of the “Ecological Handprint” (not a new concept, but one that is set to gain more parlance now adopted by the ILFI)

The LPC challenges manufacturing organisations to make products with a positive “handprint” i.e. encouraging products that are net-positive and transparent throughout the entire life cycle. (Ecological Handprints will measure the positive impact that a product causes across its life cycle, such as harvesting more water and generating more energy than was required to make the product)

There could be reservations with a requirement for LPC accredited organisations to hold  other ILFI standards such as Just and Declare, seeming a little incestuous perhaps. However sticking to the LBC approach of philosophy first, advocacy second and accreditation third, lets focus on the philosophy and advocacy to improve the sector, and address certification issues later. Living Product Challenge is looking to operate in an increasingly crowded healthy material transparency and green directory arena, yet the absolute-ness of the criteria, (you do or you don’t) will undoubtedly differentiate.

Buildings that consists solely of products and technologies that themselves do more good than harm, across environmental, social and economic spectrums, in manufacture, construction and in use is a very powerful statement for a regenerative future.

And its an approach of course that responsible organisations within the built environment should be adopting. And here are a whole new set of questions to ask; before designers specify materials; when contractors procure products and as facilities management upgrade/replace products.

The philsophy:

Re-imagine the design and construction of products to function as elegantly and efficiently as anything found in the natural world.

Products are informed by biomimicry and biophilia; manufactured by processes powered only by renewable energy and within the water balance of the places they are made.

Products improve our quality of life and bring joy through their beauty and functionality.

Imagine a Living Product whose very existence builds soil; creates habitat; nourishes the human spirit; and provides inspiration for personal, political and economic change.

Like the Living Building Challenge (LBC), the LPC consists of 20 specific “Imperatives” under seven “Petal” categories. All 20 requirements are needed for full LPC certification, or Imperative and Petal certification options . Many of the imperatives will be familiar to those already au fait with the Living Building Challenge, with a few new additions and definations, for example:

Positive Handprint: The manufacturer must demonstrate that the product gives more than it takes over its entire life cycle,

Net-Positive Waste: Water use and release from manufacturing the product must work in harmony with the natural water flows of the site and its surroundings.

Net Positive Material Health: The product must be safe for human exposure during manufacturing, use and end-of-use.

Human Thriving: The product must contribute to an active, healthy lifestyle and be designed to nurture the innate human/nature connection.

Product Fit to Use: Durability, warranty, and useful lifespan must have a direct relationship to environmental impact and embodied energy.

Equitable Product Access: Products sold to consumers must be affordable to the people who manufacture them, and products used in buildings must not unduly impair the affordability of those buildings.

The Living Product Challenge ‘brochure’ pdf can be downloaded from here. The UK LBC Collaborative will be getting to grips with the LPC over the coming weeks, with a view to providing more information and introduction sessions later in the year.

Sources #LF15 Tweets,  https://living-future.org

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