Will Bucknell Step Up to The Challenge?


Climate change is becoming more evident. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentration of greenhouse gases have increased” (IPCC WGI AR5). There are few who would argue against the consensus that climate change is not only happening, but is becoming increasingly problematic. It threatens the health and well-being of all species on Earth, from trees to fish to humans. Fortunately, there is room for repair. Adaptation and mitigation plans have proven to be helpful on small scales. These improvements can improve the lives of individuals, communities, and regions. Now these improvements need to spread. People all across the world need to adopt sustainability practices in order to bring about widespread global change.

Sustainability education is going to bring this movement to the forefront of society. This sustainability education, however, cannot be like conventional education. Rather, universities need to employ new methods to integrate this topic into coursework. Sustainability education is most effective when using experiential learning methods. To do this, classrooms need to be redesigned. This sustainable classroom may be an open space, an area in nature, even a building that sustains itself.

On a rural college campus, the Living Building Challenge poses the perfect situation for the new construction of a sustainable building. A Living Building fosters sustainability creativity and innovation better than any other building. This design will enable students to question traditional problems and solutions. The Living Building Challenge is a green building certification program, created by the International Living Future Institute. An important aspect of LBC specifically is that it needs to be considered in planning, design, construction, and maintenance. Therefore, institutions planning to implement such a project need to begin planning very early. In order to encourage this full life cycle approach, LBC uses seven performance areas, called petals: site, water, energy, health, materials, equity, and beauty. Within each petal, imperatives focus on 20 specific key influences and performances of a project.

The Living Building Challenge has already been implemented in buildings across the United States. Among these impressive buildings are several educational facilities, from primary schools to universities. These schools all have several important qualities in common. They are forward-thinking institutions, widely known for their innovative and creative education styles. These schools took on the Living Building Challenge as just that – a challenge. They used their creative resources, their bright minds, and pushed the limits of traditional building design. They questioned building norms and typical classroom design and created spaces optimal for experiential sustainable education. Now it is time for Bucknell to take the Challenge. After years of sustainability initiatives including a trayless cafeteria, a LEED certified building, and the new President’s Sustainability Council, this is the next step. A Living Building would draw the attention of prospective students, alumni, and even donors. It would revolutionize the education at Bucknell, stimulating innovation and creativity. Bucknell, will you take the challenge?

If you’d like to learn more, read my full report! Sustainability_Living Bilding Challenge_Bucknell

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