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Canadian cob house achieves Living Building certification

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Mother Nature Network

 Watch out, there’s a new green building rating system in town, and the first three projects built under its auspices have just received certification.

Described as “the world’s most rigorous green building performance standard,” The Living Building Challenge is the certification arm of the Seattle-based International Living Building Institute, an offshoot of the Cascadia Green Building Council.
Take a look around the Living Building Challenge website, and you'll notice that this isn’t your average green building rating system. Based around the question “what if every single act of design and construction made the world a better place?” LBC certification is gained through seven performances areas also known as “petals:” Site, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity and Beauty.
Gaining full “Living” status is the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, N.Y., (this project isLEED Platinum) and the Tyson Learning Living Center in Eureka, Mo. Last but not least is Eco-Sense, a private home in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia, that’s been bestowed with “Petal Recognition” for conquering the Site, Water, Health and Beauty requirements. 
Completed by owners/builders Ann and Gord Baird in December 2008, Eco-Sense is "North America’s first code approved seismically engineered load bearing insulated cob residence.” Eh? Basically this means that Eco-Sense is North America’s first built-to-code cob — an adobe-like material made from sand, clay, straw and water — home that can withstand earthquakes and support a second story. The cob used in Eco-Sense also incorporates pumice to boost insulation. What’s more, the home has a green roof, composting toilets, a grey water system, rainwater harvesting, passive solar design, solar thermal heating, wind power, solar photovoltaic panels, and more.
And although Eco-Sense is technically a private residence, Ann and Gord Baird fancy it much more than that, dubbing it “a home, a lifestyle, a work ethic and a design for life.” Various educational tours and workshops are held at Eco-Sense with the Bairds turning their home into a full-fledged career with consulting services, speaking engagements, and the like. I mean really, how many homes have their own mission statement?
Our objective is to live a reasonable life where our home is an extension of nature; where the systems incorporate bio-mimicry for both function and beauty. All systems work with nature to create a space that is safe and provide for our needs sustainably without compromising the needs of future generations to enjoy the same level of comfort. Our home will exhibit a practical example of sustainability both locally and globally showcasing luxurious simplicity. We plan on sharing this with others through our actions and education programs to challenge our culture’s desire for a consumer economy.
Given that so many LEED-certified homes can best be described as sleek, modern and high-performing, Eco-Sense comes off as refreshingly — for a lack of better words — folksy. However, as Ann tells The Globe and Mail in a great 2007 profile: "We look at ourselves as being very mainstream. We're just building a house out of dirt." 
Take a few minutes to explore the Eco-Sense website — the Bairds have some truly interesting insights particularly when it comes to green building versus natural building. And finally, a big congrats to Eco-Sense and all the other inaugural Living Building Challenge projects. I'm looking forward to seeing what's next, especially in terms of residential projects. 

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