NEUMANN MONSON ARCHITECTS

Living Building Challenge Petals
A Guide to the Living Building Challenge’s Petal System

As the Stanley Center for Peace and Security prepares for the construction of its new facility, our team performs a thorough quality assurance check of our drawings and documents. While every Neumann Monson project receives a keen eye, the Stanley Center requires extra attention to assure it meets the standards of the Living Building Challenge, the most rigorous measure of sustainable design. Living Buildings are judged against seven criteria known as “petals.” The Stanley Center seeks to fulfill the requirements of each petal, making it one of the most sustainable buildings in the Midwest. Fulfilling each petal requires innovative solutions. Here, we outline each petal and discuss how the Stanley Center will address the requirements.  

Place  

The Place Petal is designed to realign how people connect with the natural environment. Often, the built environment disconnects people from nature, history, and culture. The LBC reverses these unintended consequences by setting requirements for where people build and how to protect and restore already developed places. As a renovation, The Stanley Center has worked with a local historian to understand the ecological and human history of their developed site, the former Musser Public Library building. To further their commitment to Muscatine, the Center surveyed residents to determine how the facility can meet their needs and desires. The Place Petal also sets requirements for landscaping, which must include native plants and an urban agriculture component. The Stanley Center’s outdoor courtyard will feature an 850-square-foot garden that will produce vegetables and herbs for Muscatine Center for Social Action (MCSA), a Muscatine non-profit that provides food pantry services, homeless housing, and other social services.  

Water 

The Water Petal encourages occupants to view water as a precious resource. Water scarcity threatens many regions of the globe; sustaining the earth’s water supply requires both individual and district-level solutions. To achieve the water petal, building owners must produce 100% of their water needs on-site or promote district-level changes to water consumption. The Stanley Center will meet these requirements through a combination of low-flow fixtures and community efforts. Partnering with MSCA, the Stanley Center will replace the shelter’s water fixtures with low-flow technology to decrease wastewater usage in Muscatine.  

Solar arrays for Stanley Center

Solar arrays will produce 110% of the facility’s energy needs

Energy  

The Energy Petal pushes buildings to operate solely on renewable energy. According to the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the built environment accounts for nearly 40% of carbon emissions, which is largely due to our reliance on fossil fuels like coal, gas, and oil. The LBC envisions a future where all energy comes from a safe, reliable, and decentralized power grid. Through solar arrays, the Stanley Center will produce 110% of its energy needs, giving back to the centralized power grid.  

Health and Happiness  

The Health and Happiness Petal focuses on the conditions that create a healthy environment for a building’s occupants. A close, collaborative relationship between the architect, interior designer, building owner, and building occupants creates spaces that promote wellbeing. The LBC requires operable windows in every room, giving everyone access to natural light and fresh air. Additionally, the design must incorporate biophilic principles. Indoor foliage and access to the outdoor courtyard will bring the building’s occupants closer to nature and promote wellness.  

Living walls for Living Building Challenge

Indoor foliage connects occupants to nature

Materials  

The Materials Petal pushes designers and contractors to utilize non-toxic, ecologically restorative building materials. Building materials can lead to many adverse consequences, including personal illnesses, habitat and species loss, and resource depletion. Through the materials petal, the LBC seeks to change the types of materials we use and create a more sustainable and transparent building materials industry. Each LBC project must account for its total embodied carbon, the carbon produced during its material production processes.  

The construction of the Stanley Center facility will use approximately 600-900 materials, and each needs to be carefully vetted by the project team. LBC projects cannot use any environmentally hazardous materials that appear on the “Red List.” To ensure we are using safe materials, we are utilizing the International Living Future Institute’s (ILFI) Declare Label, a product “nutrition label” that transparently outlines product ingredients. 

Equity  

The Equity Petal is designed to foster an inclusive sense of community that is equitable for all. Buildings often outlive their original developers, and so the design should be accessible and inclusive for generations to come. LBC projects must abide by Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) guidelines and must enhance the public realm through features like exterior furnishing, public art, and gardens.  

To further fulfill the requirements of this petal, the Stanley Center became a Just Organization. Created by the ILFI, the Just program assesses company culture to improve equity and inclusion. Neumann Monson joined the Stanley Center and became a Just Organization in 2020 to drive positive change in our culture and profession. To create a ripple effect, we encourage our consultants and construction partners to become Just Organizations as well.  

Beauty  

The LBC believes beauty goes hand-in-hand with caring for the greater good. Although beauty is hard to quantify, the LBC requires a close partnership between architects, building owners, and the public. The building should contain features intended solely for “human delight,” such as public art. Committed to local programming and education, the Stanley Center will also host an annual open house, present a publicly available Living Building case study, and distribute educational materials about the design and environmental features of the building. Through public transparency, the Stanley Center hopes to inspire future developers to take on the LBC and drive healthy, restorative, and beautiful design.