Barn cupola under construction

Barn cupola under construction

Green building is sometimes associated with back-to-the-land, off-the-grid approaches. Homes might be built with straw bales or other natural or “found” materials. Energy production might be completely off the grid. The goal might be to be completely self-sustaining in all aspects of life.

These are proven methods, and I’m filled with admiration for those with the energy and ingenuity to build a home in this way.

The Living Building Challenge has a similar goal: to live lightly on the land. It’s designed, though, to challenge and move forward the conventional commercial building industry, creating opportunity for many people to “build green,” bringing regenerative building methods into the mainstream.

Manufacturers are responding to this challenge, being transparent about product ingredients and finding ways to avoid toxic chemicals. Not all manufacturers are doing so – but enough to provide hope for the future, and the numbers are growing.

We’ve been hard at work in recent weeks nailing down roofing materials. We’re looking at shingle-style clay tiles for the house, and standing seam metal for the barn and the house tower. That combination seems to us to combine the timeless beauty of clay tiles with the Michigan farm vernacular.

But we’ve not settled on the tile, since we’ve discovered that the glaze colors we like contain arsenic and cadmium, both big bad toxic chemicals. We may be in luck, though, as the manufacturer is responding quickly with alternatives, even proposing a color mix created just for us and for LBC compliance. Already on the road to green, this manufacturer may be nudged by our project to take yet another step down that road, helping to protect us all from dangerous chemicals in everyday life and in manufacturing processes – because we’ve been able to leverage the structure of the Living Building Challenge toward the good of all.

And as for roofing material – we’re keeping our fingers crossed . . .

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