At first glance, one might be tempted to generalize the Living Building Challenge, the world's most rigorous green building standard, as a lofty goal appealing primarily to aging progressives and high-minded architects in the Pacific Northwest. While the Challenge has deep roots in the Cascadia bioregion, advocates of restorative building and design practices from a wide variety of backgrounds have sprouted up around the world in recent years. In the Atlantic Southeast, one ambitious young Ambassador took on the task of advancing the mission the Living Building Challenge to the city of Charleston, South Carolina.
In August 2012, Cadet Kyle Taylor, a Civil Engineering student at the Citadel, signed on with the Ambassador Network to found and facilitate a Living Building Challenge Collaborative in his native Charleston. For most college students, finding time to contribute to (much less organize) a volunteer effort can be challenging. However, a quick glance at Kyle's extraciricular schedule reveals that he's no ordinary student. In addition to attending the Honors College, he is a member of Alpha Company, the American Society of Civil Engineers, Institute of Transportation Engineers, Society of American Military Engineers, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Tau Beta Pi Honor Society, president of The Citadel Political Philosophy Forum, former captain of the Citadel Triathlon Club, and a Team-In-Training athlete.
Kyle's extraordinary initiative and energy garnered the attention of the Citadel (read the interview), in addition to the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE). Some excerpts from the ITE Journal article (available for members) shine a light on Kyle's motivation for facilitating a Living Building Challenge Collaborative, and for staying so busy.
When asked to explain his perspective on sustainability, Kyle responds, "I see sustainability through the lens of some one who has been blessed to swim, bike and run tens of thousands of miles during my undergraduate engineering education in training for numerous ironman distance, triathlons. This distance has allowed me to not only see our built environment, but to assess its utility and experience it to the fullest...In many ways the engineering design and public policy of modern society has turned a blind eye to the things that are most important, namely personal health and personal responsibility. Health is a foremost requirement to a sustainable society, yet our infrastrucutre is not facilitating these ideals."
Kyle also shared an experiment he conducted last summer, when he decided to combine his cycling training regiment with this transportation needs, and adopted his bicycle as his primary mode of transportation around the city of Charleston. At times, he found himself praying for his safety while cycling alongside speeding cars without a bike line or even a road shoulder. Through this experience he realized just how much a built environment catered to the automobile discourages healthier, more sustainable alternatives.
When asked to explain the Living Building Challenge, Kyle showed he's done his homework, "ILFI uses the flower as a metaphor of a flower, to assert that construction should operate much like an independent, living organism. It should efficiently metabolize clean energy, be completely integrated, and by virtue of functions and aesthetics, appear beatiful...the underlying ideas involve using biomimicry in the design of the project to most efficiently accomplish the tasks that we expect. As Aristotle said, 'Nature does nothing uselessly'."
Kyle's dedication to improving his community demonstrates that Living Building Challenge Ambassadors don't always share a common age demographic, background, profession, political agenda, set of regulatory barriers or geography. Instead, they're united by a shared vision for their homes, schools, offices, parks, transportation systems and communities. They're determined to design "Living" spaces. Spaces with the wisdom, resilience and beauty of the natural world.
Interested in joining Kyle and hundreds of other community leaders in the Ambassador Network? Find out more.