The Living Building Challenge at River Bend Farm: Health and Happiness Petal

In 2019, The Ecology School is embarking on a rigorous construction project to create a dining commons and dormitory that will exceed the greenest of the green standards in building. We are passionate about living our mission and dedicated to “practicing what we preach” at River Bend Farm. This is why we have chosen to seek Living Building Challenge certification.

The Living Building Challenge is organized into seven performance areas called Petals. (Petals, as in flower. Because the buildings, like a flower, are giving back to the environment more than they take!) The Petals are: Place, Water, Energy, Health and Happiness, Materials, Equity, and Beauty. (In July, we’ll look at the Materials Petal.)

We’ve all been in buildings that, when you walk in, feel cold, dark, and uncomfortable. The ability to be productive in these sorts of buildings, let alone attempt to connect with nature, is near impossible. Nature? What nature? All you see is concrete and unnatural light. AND all you want to do is leave!  Given the fact that
Americans spend 90% or more of their time in and around buildings, careful design of living and working environments is increasingly important. The Living Building Challenge’s Health and Happiness Petal focuses on how we can create a positive backdrop for our lives, making an environmental designed to optimize well-being and human potential.

How does Health and Happiness Influence the Design of River Bend Farm?

“The intent of the Health and Happiness Petal is to focus on the most important environmental conditions that must be present to create robust, healthy spaces, rather than to address all of the potential ways that an interior environment could be compromised.”  -International Living Future Institute

A one all-day exploration of biophilic design potential for the project was conducted in May 2018 to create a framework and plan that outlined how the project would be transformed by incorporating environmental features, light and space, natural shapes and forms, natural patterns and processes, and evolve human-nature relationships. Participants also looked at how the project would be connected to place, climate, and culture.

· 100% of dining commons produce will be grown onsite by program participants or come from local farms to demonstrate a sustainable food system and support Maine’s economy.

· Significant outdoor study and gathering spaces connected by permaculture pathways  as well as an
outdoor theater will enrich community interactions and physical movement, eliminating the barriers of human to nature connections.

· Expansive recreation space for participants throughout the 105-acre property allow continued activity and community building through play and discovery.

· The dormitory’s Energy Recovery Ventilation System is six times more efficient than conventional system,
continuously circulating fresh air while retaining peak efficiency.

· All dorm rooms and hallways contain operable windows, ensuring occupant access to natural light and
connections to natural context.




Photo by Brandon Bernard.

Photo by Brandon Bernard.