Living Product Challenge: Design for the Future



Fri, 01 Mar 2019 - 11:27 GMT


Fri, 01 Mar 2019 - 11:27 GMT

Green Nature Building- CC via Maxpixel

Green Nature Building- CC via Maxpixel

CAIRO – 1 March 2019: Sustainable design in the construction industry has become mainstream, and the use of green materials not only lowers the environmental impact over their entire lifetime, but also provides a normal level of comfort, durability and functionality for occupants. In business situations, this allows companies to grow, without growing at the expense of the human health and the environment.

Different Green Building rating systems like LEED for example, encourages and rewards the use of materials for which life cycle information is available and that have environmentally, economically, and socially preferable life cycle impacts. Nowadays Consumers are placing more value on health and wellness than on material objects, and the definition of health and wellness has evolved.

The phrase no longer refers simply to a lack of illness and disease, but to a more holistic state of being, where one’s mental, physical and emotional health are in sync, which in return required materials transparency is from manufacturers, and this disclosure can be done in many ways, with both third-party verified certification documents, and with self-disclosure tools. The important thing is for building product manufacturers to disclose clear information about their products. In Egypt, Compared to consumers in the developed countries a consumer awareness and motivation is crucial for this urgent market shift.

The Living Product Challenge

The Living Product Challenge was launched by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), and it is a philosophy first, an advocacy tool second and a certification program third. The Institute defines it as a beacon to guide how the thousands of things we surround ourselves with are made, asking if it is possible to design and to create our products to function as elegantly and beautifully as anything found in the natural world? It is a call to create our products to be made up of materials that were informed by biomimicry (learning from nature to produce nature’s patterns) and biophilia (the relationship between nature and people) and manufactured by processes that generated more energy and water than they consumed—in facilities powered by renewable resources and designed to foster worker and community health and happiness, a call to imagine our products to improve our quality of life and bring joy through their beauty and functionality, allowing us to envision a future that is Socially Just, Culturally Rich and Ecologically Restorative.

The Living Product Challenge is one of an attempt to dramatically making a paradigm shift from simply doing less harm concept to be restorative, giving more than we take. It aims to transform how we think about every single act of design, production and purchasing as an opportunity to positively impact the greater community of life and the cultural fabric of our society. It is a challenge to immerse oneself in such a pursuit—and many refer to its ability to do so as a paradigm shift, and the products that succeed can claim to be the greenest and most socially responsible of all, and they will serve as models for others that follow.

Since its release in May 2015, there have been 30+ pilot products in the program, where manufacturers work on reducing their environmental Footprint and making their operations Net Positive with respect to impact categories such as water, energy, climate, waste and ecological impacts. In order to reach the net positive companies should decrease their Footprint and increase their Handprint.

The Footprint of an organization or even a person is the sum total of negative impacts caused by the processes that sustain that organization or person. The Footprint of producing a product is likewise the sum total of negative impacts caused by the processes necessary to produce that product
The scope of these processes is called “cradle-to-gate;” it includes both the manufacturer’s operations and all processes of the supply chains such as inputs of energy, materials and equipment. It even encompasses any services the manufacturer needs producing the product.

In order to address the full life cycle of a product, the Living Product Challenge asks manufacturers to not only create factories that produce more energy than they use—and operate within the water balance of their site—but to also become life cycle Net Positive. The first step in this process is to measure and reduce a product’s cradle-to-gate Footprint. Smaller Footprints are still Footprints. We can never achieve a Footprint of zero, and in solely focusing on Footprint reductions, we face diminishing returns.

Handprint measure the positive impact that a product causes across its life cycle, such as harvesting more water and generating more energy than was required to make it. A product is Net Positive if its Handprint is larger than its Footprint.

Handprints must be real and measurable, and there are myriad ways to create them. They can result from engaging the users of products to use them in more ecologically-restorative ways. They can also result from a manufacturer sharing sustainable innovations with competitors or the market at large. Handprint benefits may even go beyond the boundaries of the life cycle of the Living Product, and the company itself, through collaborative efforts with other businesses and organizations to create positive impacts around the world. PRODUCTS WHO’S HANDPRINTS ARE GREATER THAN THEIR CRADLE-TO-GATE FOOTPRINTS ARE CONSIDERED NET POSITIVE WITHIN THE LIVING PRODUCT CHALLENGE.

The Living Product Challenge is comprised of seven performance categories, or Petals: Place, Water, Energy, Health + Happiness, Materials, Equity, and Beauty. Petals are subdivided into a total of 20 Imperatives, each of which focuses on a specific sphere of influence. Designed to transform the market toward the creation of regenerative products, and the ILFI work directly with manufacturers and assessors to identify barriers to progress and, when necessary, put temporary exceptions into place to acknowledge current market limitations and find alternative pathways to certification.

THE LIVING PRODUCT CHALLENGE IS A CALL TO ACTION, to reconcile our systems of production with the natural environment, creating a civilization with greater biodiversity, resilience and opportunities for life with each adaptation and innovation

By Amira Ayoub Hassan
Architect at Living Building Challenge Cairo Collaborative Facilitator



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