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Choosing a Site for the Living Building Challenge (LBC)

September 30th, 2021 | 4 min. read

Choosing a Site for the Living Building Challenge (LBC)

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When the Stanley Center for Peace and Security decided to build a new headquarters, they envisioned a building that would embody their global, peace-driven mission. Site selection was the first step of the building process. They began with a list of over 30 sites. Working with Neumann Monson, they narrowed their list and found an ideal location: the former Musser Public Library.

Here’s how we facilitated the site selection process.   

Workshopping with the Staff  

The Stanley Center’s staff had many objectives for the new facility. In a visioning workshop, we had them create a list of criteria. They desired a space that was close to downtown, provided daylighting, and allowed for workplace flexibility.

Perhaps most importantly, their new site needed to accommodate potential sustainability measures like the Living Building Challenge (LBC). Dividing the staff into four groups, we asked them to rank the criteria from most to least important.  

Narrowing the List  

After the workshop, we created a formalized system for analyzing each site by applying a point system. The most important criteria received the greatest number of points while less important received fewer. Each site was given a final score.  

Knowing the Center’s commitment to sustainability, we used a separate matrix to measure each site’s LBC potential, accounting for building orientation and the space needed for urban agriculture, solar arrays, and a potential constructed wetland. Several sites were eliminated due to their proximity to the 50-year and 100-year floodplains.

Through this process, the Stanley Center narrowed the list to two preferred sites: an empty lot for a new building and the former Musser Public Library.   

site selection exercise

Stanley Center staff participate in a site selection exercise.

Choosing the Musser Public Library  

Building a new facility presented fewer constraints for the LBC. The former Musser Public Library, however, presented an exciting opportunity to make a tangible impact on the community. The building had sat vacant for over three years. Despite its downtown location, the City of Muscatine had a difficult time selling the property.  

The Stanley Center saw an opportunity to breathe new life into the forgotten structure by transforming it into a model of sustainability. Renovating the 1970s-era building also aligned with their sustainability goals. As architect Carl Elefante succinctly said, “the greenest building is the one that is already built.”  

Learning the Site’s History  

As part of the LBC’s Place Petal, the Stanley Center worked with a local historian to understand the history of their site. The historian revealed the site’s proximity to the original home of Alexander Clark, an Iowan civil rights leader who successfully campaigned for school integration in the 1860s. His son, Alexander Clark Jr., was the first African American to graduate from the University of Iowa College of Law.  

With a donation from Muscatine business leader PM Musser, the site became home to the Musser Public Library in 1901. The original red sandstone building sat on the site until 1969 when an engineering report revealed it was sinking on its foundations. After receiving a donation from the Musser family, the original building was demolished in 1971 and replaced with a modern, redbrick structure.

This building will soon become the Stanley Center’s new home.  

former Musser Public Library

Original Musser Public Library building, courtesy of the Muscatine Journal.

Calling Muscatine Home  

Upon learning the history of the site, the Stanley Center knew they had chosen the right location. From the social and political strides made by Alexander Clark to the Musser family’s commitment to philanthropy and education, the location seemed an appropriate and beautiful setting for this peace-driven organization.  

According to Jen Smyser—the Center’s Vice President and Director of Policy Programming Strategy—the LBC presents the opportunity to demonstrate the Center’s values in a physical way. “My hope is that this becomes a place that inspires people—not just as an office but as a space that tangibly represents our work,” she says.

By sustainably renovating a beloved local building, the Stanley Center demonstrates a commitment to both the planet and Muscatine.