The Living Building Challenge (LBC)

The Living Building Challenge

ILFI’s Living Building Challenge Petals. Source: ILFI

The Class of 1966 Environmental Center was designed to meet the certifications of the Living Building Challenge. With under 100 current certified living buildings, the ambition of this challenge is unmatched in the world of green buildings. The LBC requires engaged participation of building occupants in the building operation, and the philosophy of the challenge is to generate good instead of mitigating harm like most other building certifications. It does so through a holistic approach to sustainability in the form of 7 petals.


Rendering of the new environmental center
Rendering of the new environmental center

Additionally, the ’66 Environmental Center is designed to reduce overall operating costs to below that of the average Williams academic building, contribute to the college’s greenhouse gas emissions goals, and create a green, net zero building that will attract international attention.

We believe the project is the first to seek LBC certification for a campus historic structure.

Success is defined in terms of actual, not theoretical, performance. As a leading institution of higher learning, we believe it is our mission to demonstrate extraordinary commitment to higher principles and to show that high performance institutional buildings are possible and practical.

To be LBC certified, the project will have to meet ambitious performance requirements over 12 months of continuous occupancy in these seven areas:

  • Learning and Growing

    The site petal outlines how to make decisions regarding where we build. It delineates where is acceptable to develop, how to restore previously developed areas, and how you can build with a pedestrian-mindset versus a vehicle-mindset.

    The building is located in the central campus corridor, between Hollander Hall and the new Sawyer Library. Edible landscape offers ample opportunities to learn about permaculture and organic approaches to urban agriculture. The kitchen supports produce preservation and community gatherings.

  • Renewable and Green

    This petal describes how to incorporate carbon neutrality, a requirement, in a building. To achieve this petal, the building must operate year-round on pollution-free and renewable energy.

    Photovoltaic panels mounted on the ground and roof—combined with efficient air-source heat pumps, a tight building envelope and thoughtful use of electronics and lighting—are expected to produce at least as much energy as the building consumes.

  • A Closed System

    This petal requires net-zero water use which means all of the water used must come from the site. The intent of the petal is to consider water as a scarce resource and helps us think about questions of waste.

    100 percent of water for drinking, cleaning and gardening is collected and treated on site. Rainwater captured on rooftops is purified using ultraviolet light. Low-flow fixtures and composting toilets minimize water demand and used water is treated in sub-surface wetlands. A monitoring system helps building occupants learn about and adjust consumption.

  • A Breath of Fresh Air

    The Health petal focuses on how to generate healthy spaces inside of the building. Instead of focusing on ways that the indoor work environment can be unhealthy, it uses a philosophy of creating good areas.

    Interior spaces are designed to be healthy and invigorating. Large windows let in light and fresh air, fostering a strong connection to the natural environment. Indoor air quality is enhanced with the use of non-toxic materials and finishes.

  • Safe, Locally Sourced

    The materials petals delineates how to make equitable and environmentally conscious choices when choosing what to use in building construction and maintenance. This includes a complete restriction on red-list materials; these are materials that are worst in their class in terms of their environmental footprint.

    Building materials had minimal negative impact on human and ecosystem health in their extraction and production. The wood was sustainably harvested, local and nontoxic. Preserving the historic Kellogg House and using as much salvaged and recycled building material as possible helped to minimize the project’s carbon footprint.

  • Human Scale, Human Spaces

    The Equity petal outlines how the space will become an accessible building that can promote community-building.

    The center promotes human-scaled interaction, exploration and engagement with its accessible indoor spaces and surrounding habitats and gardens.

  • Preserve and Inspire

    This petal outlines the importance of beauty in our lives. Beauty helps stimulate how we care for each other and where we live which is essential in combatting environmental issues.

    The design plans re-envisioned a harmonious and balanced coordination among an eclectic mix of architectural styles accumulated as the building changed purposes and locations in the years since its construction as Williams’ first president’s house in 1794.

To learn more about the Living Building Challenge and its global reach, visit