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So, what exactly is a ‘living building’?

On Oct. 11, an ambitious “living building” project will break ground on the Yale campus. Mae-Ling Lokko explains what makes a structure a “living” building.

Next week, Yale Divinity School will break ground on “The Living Village,” an unprecedented residence hall that will be the largest living-building residential complex on a university campus anywhere. The project embodies the school’s values by housing students in a way that gives back to the environment more than it takes, and is a key component of Yale’s ambitious Planetary Solutions initiative.

So, what exactly is a “living building”? In a pair of videos, Mae-Ling Lokko, an assistant professor of architecture at Yale School of Architecture, explains what makes a structure a “living” building and the international challenge that inspired the Yale project. 

Living buildings, she explains, are those deemed to make positive contributions to their broader ecology throughout their existence. “A living building takes responsibility and account for everything that comes into its DNA and all of the effluents that flow out into its environment,” she said.

Yale’s Living Village project meets the stringent design standards of the Living Building Challenge, an international certification system that promotes sustainable design and construction.

In a second video, above, Lokko describes the seven performance categories — or “petals” — that make up the Living Building Challenge, including standards related to materials and water use, but also human dimensions such as the ways a design promotes happiness, well-being, and a connection to the broader ecology.

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