Place Petal

Place Petal

The intent of the Place Petal is to realign how people understand and relate to the natural environment that sustains us. The human built environment must reconnect with the deep story of place and the unique characteristics found in every community so that story can be honored, protected and enhanced. The Place Petal clearly articulates where it is acceptable for people to build, how to protect and restore a place once it has been developed, and how to encourage the creation of communities that are once again based on the pedestrian rather than the automobile. In turn, these communities need to be supported by a web of local and regional agriculture, since no truly sustainable community can rely on globally sourced food production.

The continued spread of sprawl development and the vastly increasing number of global megapolises threatens the few wild places that remain. The decentralized nature of our communities impedes our capacity to feed ourselves in a sustainable way and also increases transportation impacts and pollution. The overly dense urban centers in turn crowd out healthy natural systems, isolating culture from a sense of place. As prime land for construction diminishes, more development tends to occur in sensitive areas that are easily harmed or destroyed. Invasive species threaten ecosystems, which are already weakened by the constant pressure of existing human developments. Automobiles, often used as single-occupancy vehicles, have become integral to our communities when we should depend on “people power” —walking and bicycling—as the primary mode of travel, and supplement it with shared transit

Ideal Conditions and Current Limitations

The Living Building Challenge envisions a moratorium on the seemingly never-ending growth outward, and a focus instead on compact, connected communities with healthy rather than inhumane levels of density—inherently conserving the natural resources that support human health and the farmlands that feed us, while also inviting natural systems back into the daily fabric of our lives. As previously disturbed areas are restored, the trend is reversed, and nature’s functions are invited back into a healthy interface with the built environment. Human behavior and attitudes are the most significant barriers to transforming our surroundings. There is a frontier mentality that seems to encourage people to keep pursuing the next open territory and to value the untouched site more than the secondhand site. Humanity is territorial by nature, and we tend to view our impacts through a narrow lens. It is not unusual for us to encourage unhealthy solutions, so long as they are “not in my backyard” and allow us the social stature to “keep up with the Joneses.” We must erase the taboo associated with certain forms of transit and abandoned industrial and commercial facilities, and we must once again give our regard to the many others that cohabit the earth with us.

Projects may only be built on greyfields or brownfields: previously developed sites that are not classified as on or adjacent to any of the following sensitive ecological habitats:

  • Wetlands: maintain at least 15 meters, and up to 70 meters of separation.
  • Primary dunes: maintain at least 40 meters of separation.
  • Old-growth forest: maintain at least 60 meters of separation.
  • Virgin prairie: maintain at least 30 meters of separation.
  • On prime farmland.
  • Within the 100-year flood plain.

Project teams must document site conditions prior to the start of work and identify the project’s “reference habitat(s).”8 On-site landscape must be designed so that as it matures and evolves, it emulates the functionality of the reference habitat with regard to density, biodiversity, plant succession, water use, and nutrient needs. It shall also provide wildlife and avian habitat appropriate to the project’s Transect through the use of native and naturalized plants and topsoil.9 No petrochemical fertilizers or pesticides can be used for the operation and maintenance of the on-site landscape.

The project must integrate opportunities for agriculture appropriate to its scale and density using the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) as a basis for calculation. The table below outlines the mandatory agricultural requirements for all projects. Single-family homes must also demonstrate the capacity to store at least a two-week supply of food.


Project F.A.R. Minimum Percentage Required
<.09 50%
.10 < .24 30%
.25 < .49 25%
.50 < .74 20%
.75 < .99 15%
1.0 < 1.49 10%
1.5 < 1.99 5%
2.0 < 2.99 2%
< 3.0 1%

For each hectare of development, an equal amount of land away from the project site must be set aside in perpetuity through the Institute’s Living Future Habitat Exchange Program or an approved Land Trust organization. The minimum offset amount is 0.4 hectare.

All Projects

• Secure, weather-protected storage for human powered vehicles that
provide facilities to encourage biking.

• Consideration and enhancement of pedestrian routes, including weather protection on street frontages.

• Promotion of the use of stairs over elevators through interior layout and quality of stairways.

• Advocacy in the community to facilitate the uptake of human powered transportation.


• A transit subsidy for all occupants of the building (if owner occupied)
or a requirement for tenant employers to provide such a subsidy.

• Showers and changing facilities that can be accessed by all occupants of the building.

• At least one electric vehicle charging station.


An assessment of how the residents can reduce their transportation impact through car sharing, use of public transportation, alternative fueled vehicles, or bicycles is required.