Taking on the Living Building Challenge

Posted by Rob Nicely on October 13, 2014
Taking on the Living Building Challenge
The solar panels have a great view of the ocean from this Carmel Point home, which is aiming for LBC net zero energy certification.

We consider ourselves lucky because we have clients who not only want to incorporate sustainable building practices into their home, but they fully embrace the latest and highest standards. We’re currently working with a couple on a complete remodel of their Carmel Point home, applying the principles of Living Building Challenge (LBC) and aiming for LBC net zero energy certification.

LBC is not just a new way of building. It’s a new way of thinking and living that carefully considers and respects our finite natural resources and precious environment. It takes Passive House, LEED, Net Zero Energy, and all other sustainable and green design and building practices into a completely different dimension. It’s an ideal, yet it has practical applications that we’re employing today. To say that we are learning a lot and excited about the opportunity to test new technologies, products, and approaches would be an understatement.

On top of significantly reducing energy consumption and producing the remaining energy needed to run the house onsite, meeting the LBC challenge includes avoiding use of toxic materials included on their “Red List.” For things that we routinely use in construction—PVC, certain insulation materials, paints and finishes—we got creative and found viable alternatives.

This 2,000-square-foot oceanside home will feature innovations such as interior blown-in cellulose and exterior Rock Wool insulation—made from post-consumer newspapers and a byproduct of steel smelting, respectively; finishes and fixtures from Green Goods—a company specializing in environmentally sound, non-toxic paints, cabinets, tiles and more. We’re also installing a breakthrough water heating system—the Nexus eWater system. It’s an energy recycling water heater that uses waste heat in the drain water from showers and laundry to heat water. After the system extracts the heat from grey water, it treats and stores water for use in the garden as well as interior non-potable functions like flushing toilets. An approach called “structured plumbing” will enable us to deliver hot water to any faucet in 3 to 5 seconds, wasting only about 1 cup of water.

We are well into this project and thought you’d enjoy following along. We’re also doing a series of short videos that we’ll be posting on YouTube that showcase different, unique processes and technologies we’re using for this home.

Rob Nicely is the president of Carmel Building & Design. If you have questions, send an email to

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