Education center seeks first Living Building certification

The Omega Center for Sustainable Living is projected to achieve LEED platinum, but it was also built to the Living Building Challenge.


The 6,200 sq ft Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL) on the Omega Institute campus in Rhinebeck, N.Y. is not only on track to achieve U.S. Green Building Council LEED platinum, it may be the first building in America to meet the requirements of the Living Building Challenge (LBC), according to an article on Jetson Green. Unlike LEED, whose goal is to make the built environment more sustainable, the LBC takes it even further to outline requirements for buildings to take nothing at all from the environment.

" Living buildings " must generate their own energy, use no outside water, and be built with locally sourced, sustainably harvested materials that do not contain any harmful chemicals. Among countless other green building features, the OCSL has solar panels for net zero energy use, rain gardens for net zero water use, closed-loop geothermal heating and cooling, and automated windows to vent out hot air.

The center has several classrooms, but at the core is the 4,500 sq ft greenhouse containing a water filtration system called the "eco-machine." The eco-machine is the latest in living machine technology which uses a combination of plants, bacteria, algae, snails, and fungi to treat and recycle wastewater. The OCSL handles all of the wastewater generated by the Omega Institute's 23,000 annual visitors and has a daily capacity of 52,000 gal.
"It's not just about compact florescent light bulbs, it's not just about recycling," said OCSL CEO Skip Backus. "It's about looking at what are the systems and the ways of engineering that are available to us now so that we can go to a higher level of sustainability-one that is truly in balance with the natural environment."
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