Exploring Biomimicry & Biophilia at the Living Future unConference May1-4

I just returned from Portland(ia), at the Living Future un-Conference from May 1-4. They are the folks who brought us The Living Building Challenge, a holistic evolution of LEED (not officially; those are my words). They describe it as the “leading event in regenerative design”. I agree… how about you? Have you ever been? Feel free to share you experience in the comments below.

The International Living Future Institute (ILFI) started out as The Living Building Challenge (LBC) and has since developed these past years into an international movement, working from the residential to city scales, and are expanding into issues such as food. This is their 12th conference, and the third one I’ve been to.

The “un-Conference” is a mixture of networking to create partnerships and community, educational sessions, tours, featured speakers and workshops. The program this year included topics as diverse as affordable housing, leadership, net positive water, materials, multicultural workforces, sustainable wineries, cohousing, the use of data to accelerate advanced building policies, net zero energy, amongst others, as well as workshops about Living Building Challenge.

LBC is very rigorous, and equally beautiful. Most simply, all buildings are living organisms, creating their own life – energy, water, etc. – with no waste. None of our clients have been up for the challenge yet, as it costs more upfront to build – I’m not sure what the return on investment is in years, but I know the upfront cost is more than made up.

You’re probably wondering what the upfront costs are? Well, it depends on the project and while we can’t detail out the $ amount, we can explain where the costs are and how this compares to other builds. However, this warrants another post, so let us know if you’re interested in learning more about this in the comments below or get in touch directly – bill@heliconworks.com – if you’d like to know more.

I attended 7 sessions, including on the first day I took a 5 hour workshop exploring Biophilia – creating place from a deep intention to love life. It begins with what we all know – that we are innately a part of nature, and we need a direct relationship with the earth and all her aspects. Buildings are central in creating places that put us in intimate relationship with nature. The book I recently published, Dwelling: A Poetic Exploration of Home is all about this.

I was centrally interested in learning more about ways to create and build from such a love of all life, so, I took a few other biophilia workshops, as well as:

“Essence to Essence: Reciprocity within Place as a Living Being” with Caroline Robinson and Bill Reed

“Intuitive Kinetics: Poetics of Participation and Passive Design” with Vikram Sami, Steven Rainville and Christopher Gerrick

“Designing with Life’s Principles; Applying Nature’s Deep Patterns to the Living Building Challenge” with Peggy Chu, Joe Zazzera and Diana Hammer.

This last workshop was an introduction to Biomimicry, which even more deeply takes lessons the earth and her creatures have to teach us. I spoke with Dianna Hammer, founder and collaborator, ReGenerous Cities, one of the three teachers of this session – they often collaborate – and asked if they would come here to offer a full-day workshop. I’m trying to bring them here in October; please let me know if you’re interested by writing to bill@heliconworks.com.

Every session was a blend of presentations and interactive explorations – ILFI is demanding, and knows how to have fun!

On a personal note – I found myself wondering where Dwelling to Make Home fits into all of this. I’ve loved the LBC for years, entered a LBC design competition (didn’t win…), our projects are implicitly LBC-aligned, and I advocate their work. I know Dwelling is completely attuned with LBC, and am curious about how I can expand their work.

I got to fly home yesterday – I say it that way as I love looking out the window most of any flight, take in the beauty, and let my thoughts wand and gather. This flight revealed many astonishing sky/earth-scapes, opening windows for me to see what I can offer LBC. So, I day-dreamed and wrote notes for a workshop I intend to offer there next year, as well as to other architects interested – Dwelling – Poetics of Home; Architect as Midwife. You can find the blog post with more details about the workshop on the Dwelling website.

Please contact me if you’re interested in being a part of this workshop – the workshop is open to all architects, designers and anyone interested in developing an engaging and soul-searching process to work with their clients. Our aim is to offer it in September or October (or sooner depending on interest!).

If you would like to experience a Dwelling workshop and can’t wait for this one, join us this Saturday May 12 at Bill’s house for a Dwell to Live workshop. Click on the link for a discount surprise!

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