Living Building Challenge House

LH1 is an exemplar ecologically-advanced, energy and water plus house in the hills south of Dublin.

The house will be one of the first, if not the first in Europe to conform to the Living Building Challenge the worlds most ecologically pure design and construction standard.

Living Buildings (LBs) take nature as a model and are designed and operated to thrive on their own sites energy and water, to be 100% healthy, offset all their embodied energy and to meet another 16 very sensible, ecological and challenging criteria. The standard is a new deep green rating that moves the bar for low energy (and other resources) design beyond passive, surpassing even nZEB to be, an actively positive force in the environment.  LH1 is designed and oriented to adhere to passive haus and passive solar principles. It is made of timber frame construction (floor deck, walls, roof) and has very rigorous level of fabric insulation airtightness.

LH1 will serve as the heart of the clients new initiative to create a research station for permaculture and edible forestry. This living lab will explore and evolve the practicalities of edible forestry specific to this biome/ ecology  developing knowledge on its requirements and potential benefits. It will be an asset to local biodiversity and augment scientific knowledge on agro-ecological production techniques and practices.

As crucial as its resource performance is, enjoyment of it as a home, is equally important and LH1 is designed to surprise in this regard also. Inspired both by yacht and treehouse, the home is light filled, warm, fresh, health enhancing, and delightful. It takes biophilia to the next level by both immersing the building in nature and dissolving barriers between nature and interior.

LH1 is designed to be A-rated in building energy terms, built to passive house standard with the walls, floor & roof achieving U-values of 0.15 –the PH U-value for Ireland. This is to be achieved predominantly by design efficiency; a layout that is rectilinear and simple, an efficient external thermally continuous envelope and airtight detailing. There will be pre heating windows, a cool larder, hot column for passive, and a MHRV for active, heat recovery as well obviously as grid connected renewables (PV and solar thermal). LH1 is all the more exceptional given the fact that all materials including insulants must be natural/non toxic (ie must conform to LBC’s red list prohibitions).

Design Team;

Architects; Solearth
M & E; Glenn Nunan Consulting Engineers
Energy; Simon Whelan
Structures and Civils; Andrew Riley Structural Engineer
QS: Gardiner and Theobold
Water: Ollan Herr


The Living Buildng Challenge

The Living Building Challenge  is a standard for sustainable design construction and operation of a building that is  deeply rigorous exceedingly challenging and  is modelled on nature itself.  It was originated and is adminstered by the International Living Future Institute http://living-future.org/   based in North America and is widely acknowledged to be the first standard to foster buildings that are beyond sustainable –buildings that   are regenerative and restorative to planet place and person. Living Buidngs have 20 simple but extremely difficult to achieve Imperatives included among which are to be net positive (not just zero or self reliant) in the provision of energy and water (sourced only from the site or immediate environs), to avoid all dangerous ingredients (which is beneficial to health and environment) and to repay all embodied carbon and ethical debits.

As the Living Future Institute puts it;

  • Imagine a building designed and constructed to function as elegantly and efficiently as a flower: a building informed by its bioregion’s characteristics, that generates all of its own energy with renewable resources, captures and treats all of its water, and that operates efficiently and for maximum beauty.
  • Imagine a city block or a college campus sharing resources from building to building, growing food, and functioning without a dependency on fossil fuel-based transportation.
  • Imagine true sustainability in our homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, villages, towns and cities— Socially Just, Culturally Rich and Ecologically Restorative

The Living Building Challenge is an attempt to dramatically raise the bar from a paradigm of doing less harm to one in which we view our role as steward and co-creator of a true Living Future. The Challenge defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today and acts to rapidly diminish the gap between current limits and the end-game positive solutions we seek.

The Challenge aims to transform how we think about every single act of design and construction as an opportunity to positively impact the greater community of life and the cultural fabric of our human communities. The program has always been a bit of a Trojan horse—a philosophical worldview cloaked within the frame of a certification program. The Challenge is successful because it satisfies our left brain craving for order and thresholds and our right brain intuition that the focus needs to be on our relationship and understanding of the whole of life.

Regardless of the size or location of the project, the Living Building Challenge provides a framework for design, construction and the symbiotic relationship between people and all aspects of community. Indeed, “Living Building Challenge” is not a merely a noun that defines the character of a particular solution for development, but is more relevant if classified as a series of verbs—calls for action that describe not only the building of all of humanity’s longest-lasting artefacts, but also of the relationships and broader sense of community and connectivity they engender. It is a challenge to immerse ourselves in such a pursuit—and many refer to the ability to do so as a paradigm shift.

Projects that achieve Living Building Status can claim to be the greenest anywhere, and will serve as role models for others that follow. Whether the project is restorative, regenerative or operates with a net zero impact, it has a home in the construct of the Living Building Challenge.
The Living Building Challenge is a holistic standard, pulling together the most progressive thinking from the worlds of architecture, engineering, planning, interiors, landscape design and policy. It challenges us to ask the question:

Every Living Buildng seeks to be an act of design and construction that makes the world a better place, an  intervention that results in greater biodiversity; increased soil health; additional outlets for beauty and personal expression; a deeper understanding of climate, culture and place; a realignment of our food and transportation systems; and a more profound sense of what it means to be a citizen of a planet where resources and opportunities are provided fairly and equitably (ILFI).

Since it was launched in 2006, the Living Building Challenge has inspired and motivated rapid and significant change: projects have sprouted up all over North America and beyond— currently, there are efforts underway in a dozen countries with hundred of thousands of square metres of Living Building Challenge projects in progress—each as beacons in the dark showing what is possible; the regulatory environment has embraced a series of reforms; and most importantly, a new sense of possibility has permeated design communities as a result of the successful certification of the first Living Buildings.

LBC Imperatives

LBC has 20 Imperatives all of which must be complied with to be certified as a full Living Building. These are summarised as follows:

1. Limits to Growth; discontinue new building on virgin green field sites

2. Urban Agriculture; in sub and peri urban projects grow food on site / on the building

3. Habitat Exchange; replace all land taken by the building in a conservancy arrangement

4. Car Free Living; adopt mixed use and  mixed mode transport and planning principles

5. Net Positive Water; meet 105% of all water and wastewater treatment needs of the building.

6. Net Positive Energy; meet 105% of the buildings energy needs on an annual basis without combustion

7. Civilized Environment; ensure all usable spaces are naturally ventilated and enjoy daylight

8. Healthy Interior Environment; ensure air quality inside the building is  healthy and clean

9. Biophilic Environment; integrate design elements that nurture our need to be exposed to nature

10. Red List; avoid all of a list of dangerous materials that endanger occupants health

11. Embodied Carbon Footprint; evaluate and  offset all the embodied CO2 in the construction

12. Responsible Industry; use only material from extractive industries that are certified

13. Living Economy Sourcing; encourage a sustainable economy through local purchasing

14. Net Positive Waste divert all waste from the wastestream to reuse and upcyling

15. Human Scale + Humane Places; Create humane and people scaled buildings and public realm design

16. Universal Access to Nature & Place (Equity); Do not obstruct natural amenities and access to nature

17. Equitable Investment; Funding and money flows around the development should be ethical

18. JUST Organizations; Organisations involved in the project should be fair to the people involved

19. Beauty + Spirit; A genuine effort to create delight, beauty, sense of place must be pursued in the design

20. Inspiration + Education; The project should educate and inspire visitors and later living builders

See full  Living Building Challenge 3.0 document for more detail.

There are over 210 buildings registered to become (ie under design or awaiting certification as) or certified (20 currently) living buildings in the world. The vast majority are in North America though a growing number are being developed in Australia and New Zealand. 3 of these are in mainland Europe – none of them in Ireland or the UK. None of these European candidates are houses.
This LH1 project thus intends to be the first Living Building in Ireland/UK and may well be the first Living House in Europe.

Approved Materials



Contract Value:
Not disclosed
Stepaside, Dublin, Ireland
Runner Up, Green Design, SEAI Energy Awards 2015