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  • Writer's pictureMolly Jones

How to Create a Living Building and Build Beautifully

What is your mission? At Jones Design Studio, we are on a mission to improve lives and heal communities while being a good steward to the environment. And we plan to do that by building beautifully and bringing buildings to life.

Intentional, sustainable building should become the new normal. Regardless of the size or scope of the project, we can create an impact by building beautifully! But what is a Living Building? And what does it mean to “build beautifully”? We recently answered both of those questions while working on a sustainable building project called The Joinery.

The Joinery: A Living Building project

The Joinery is also on a mission to be a shining example of what is possible when we build beautifully. Nathan Pickard had a vision for his new residence. He wanted a home that went beyond sustainability, restoring the neighborhood and giving back to the community. Nathan wanted this project to be an extension of existing passion for urban agriculture, creating community gardens in the middle of food deserts.

What is the Living Building Challenge?

We asked Nathan to consider using an aspirational rating system called the Living Building Challenge. The most rigorous system in the world today, the Living Building Challenge places imperatives on project teams and owners across several areas of a building, including sustainable design. This imperatives include:

  • How a building addresses the culture of a place.

  • How it meets social equity norms and goes beyond them to create a more socially equitable future.

  • How the building restores the natural flows that existed on the site before the building did.

The Living Building Challenge requires us to build beautifully!

Using the Living Building Challenge requires a fundamentally different approach to building. It requires you to build beautifully. To not just create an aesthetically beautiful building, but to be mindful every step of the way. Building beautifully involved intentional decision making that comes from asking three fundamental questions:

  1. Why am I building?

  2. What am I building?

  3. How will I choose to build?

When you continually ask and answer those three questions, you begin to build beautifully. The process is beautiful and the result is beautiful.

A first for Oklahoma!

With The Joinery project, we took the leap and decided to register Oklahoma’s first project seeking the Living Building Challenge certification. With less than two dozen living buildings in the world today, we realized the word “challenge” was intentional. However, we don’t shy away from a challenge and we have mindfully done our work to create a truly sustainable, beautifully-built building!

Are you up to the challenge?

It’s our belief that the building-beautifully approach should become our new normal. Let’s continually seek new ways to build a more sustainable and equitable future for ourselves, our neighbors, our community, and the environment. We can and we will achieve this sustainable future together! It simply requires that we ask and answer those three questions every time we build: Why am I building? What am I building? And how will I choose to build?

No matter the size or scope of the project, let’s approach it with the desire to build beautifully!



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