Taking the Living Building Challenge in Peterborough, Ontario

Pushing green building boundaries the Endeavour Centre is going where no builder in Canada has gone before. This small not-for-profit trade school is building a home according to the Living Building standard, one of the hardest green building certifications to achieve.

Artistic rendition of the 2000 square foot sustainable home being built this sum
Artistic rendition of the 2000 square foot sustainable home being built this summer in Peterborough Ontario. © The endeavour Centre

The Living Building challenge is one of the toughest green building certifications to complete, and has yet to be achieved in Canada. The Endeavour Centre, a not-for-profit trade school in Peterborough Ontario, is setting out to change that when they begin construction this spring on a 2,000 square foot three bedroom home.

At the head of this project is Chris Magwood, executive director of the Endeavour Centre.

A lot of people think we’re far from being able to live lightly, and comfortably, on the planet.  We’d like this project to show that it’s a goal well within reach.

Chris Magwood

While the primary goal of the project is the performance of the building, if Chris Magwood and the Endeavour Centre are really going to shake things up in the housing industry and change the way we build, the building can’t look like something out of the Jetson’s.

The intention is to have this home blend in with the neighbourhood, and really the only tell-tale sign of what’s going on inside would be the solar panels on the roof. This passive solar home will have an odour free composting toilet that turns it's waste into fertilizer, and be used in its own backyard for food production. Other features will be a rainwater treatment system for showers, photovoltaic solar panels feeding the power grid and pre-fab straw bale walls.

The treatment of human waste into useful compost rather than being one of the largest environmental problems facing our waterways is absolutely key to making sustainable change. It’s also something most people would rather not think about.

Chris Magwood

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the industry standard for green building rating systems in Canada, and LEED platinum is the highest award. The living Building standard exceeds that.

There are 7 components to the Living Building Challenge: site, water, energy, health, materials, equity and beauty. As of yet, no building in Canada has been able to succeed in all categories.

When completed Peterborough will have a national showpiece in green home construction, the Endeavour Centre will have an entirely sustainable home to sell, and the students that built it will have certification in green building. Expected to cost $250,000 to complete and cost about 15% over market value, this house will be more than worth the cost when you see (or don’t see) your bills at the end of the month.

Update: When we first posted this story they had yet to break ground, but it is well on the way now. Check out their blog to see where its at now.