Katherine Bruce
Sustainability Consultant
AESG, Dubai

The Living Building Challenge (LBC) framework is often considered the most stringent green building certification scheme. Inspired by “nature's architecture,” it sets the scene for a building that operates truly holistically within its environment. Ultimately, an LBC certified building is one that generates energy and resources—rather than merely consuming. To be awarded the LBC certification, buildings must achieve numerous ambitious performance parameters during a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy. The seven parameters, or “Petals” include – Materials, Site, Water, Energy, Health, Equity, and Beauty.

However, to date, the majority of LBC-certified buildings are under four stories in height. Tall tower projects often prevent pursuing certification due to the perceived hurdles the LBC framework poses. In particular, the energy and water nexus net-zero concepts have been challenging to apply at large scale. In addition, critics have continued to disagree on whether the high-rise can ever be classified as sustainable, citing its formidable energy and resource usage.

A methodology for how tall buildings can leverage available resources to regeneration their surroundings will illuminate the life of a truly sustainable high-rise from cradle to cradle. Several innovative strategies—from decentralized energy approaches, to designing for disassembly and building resilience—for applying the LBC framework to high-rises are discussed, with a focus on advancing towards net-zero energy, water and embodied emissions.