Tag Archive for: Living Building Challenge

Becomes Homes of Hope Fiscal Sponsor – Helps with Veteran Housing & Living Intentional Community

SUSAN JULIEN LARIMORETUESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2013 VIA the Grand Rapids Urban Innovation Exchange uixhomesofhopeb

The goal of newly formed nonprofit Homes of Hope and the dream of its founder, homebuilder Rich Bloem, share roots in community. They aim to bring people together to help others thrive by building new homes and restoring neighborhoods, while offering hope and a blueprint for success in life’s journey.

Fueled by a passion for sustainability and changing lives for the better, Homes of Hope, the Green Home Institute, Matt and Kristin Fowler, and many other community members are partnering to make two projects a reality in Grand Rapids: The Nest and Home for a Hero.

The idea for Homes of Hope emerged in April when Bloem bought a vacant lot on the southeast side of Grand Rapids. Initially, he thought he’d construct a home and make a profit. A few days later, he thought otherwise.

“It’s almost as if I had a vision, maybe from God,” Bloem said. “I decided to do something totally different and not for profit.”

Through research, Bloem discovered Life Remodeled, a Detroit-based company that builds free homes for low income families. He wanted to do something similar, but realized he couldn’t do it alone—and didn’t want to do it alone.

“I wanted to bring builders, architects, electricians, plumbers, and other professionals together to do this,” he said.

Bloem shared his vision with a few friends, including Brett Little, Executive Director of . They shared Bloem’s passion and put plans in place to meet regularly. Word got out fast. There were 23 people at the first Friday meeting. Since then, the ever-expanding group meets weekly at the offices of (920 Cherry Street SE). Volunteers are welcome to attend and join one of over 20 committees on everything from construction to communications.

Through these meetings, Bloem was introduced to Matt and Kristen Fowler. They shared their dream of creating a living building in the Baxter neighborhood. Shortly after Bloem visited the Baxter neighborhood and proposed site for The Nest, Homes of Hope partnered with the to make the Fowlers’ dream a reality.

The Living Building Challenge: The Nest 

The International Living Future Institute defines a living building as “a building designed and constructed to function as elegantly and efficiently as a flower: a building informed by its bioregion’s characteristics, and that generates all of its own energy with renewable resources, captures and treats all of its water, and operates efficiently and for maximum beauty.”

The Living Building Challenge through the ILFI is the world’s most rigorous design and construction standard.

“There are 20 requirements to be met in order to obtain Living Building status,” said Kristen Fowler.

According to the ILFI website, only four buildings in the world to date have achieved living building certification. If the living building proposed for Grand Rapids becomes certified, it will be the first building in Michigan to receive this distinction.

The Fowlers have lived in the Baxter neighborhood for several years and, as Kristin said, “We have fallen in love with the people here. Matt and I recognize people need structured programs and assistance, and it is awesome these programs exist, but sometimes, what’s needed is a relationship-based place to just be; a space where people from all walks of life can feel welcome and safe.”

Passionate about seeing healthy food reach the tables of people in the Baxter neighborhood, the Fowlers created the Treehouse Community Garden in 2012. They raised over $20,000 in labor and materials for the garden space. Today, more than 10 neighborhood families are currently receiving fresh, seasonal produce from this garden.

More recently, the Fowlers began raising funds for a living building next to the community garden. To date, they have collected nearly 58 percent of their goal, but also recognize the need for many skilled professionals and donated materials to pull the project off. The start date for The Nest is dependent on funding and materials.

“We are inspired to do this by the radical, genuine hospitality of Jesus; where there is always room at the table for others,” Kristin said. “This is community at its best.”

In addition to a large kitchen and dining area, the Fowlers envision the floor plan to include a library, arts and crafts room, guest rooms, greenhouse, root cellar, and front porch.

The name, The Nest, was inspired by the Sociable Weaver, a tiny bird in southern Africa that builds a giant nest, housing over 100 different species of birds.

“We think this is a beautiful model of how we can all live and function together,” said Kristin.

Sustainable Building for a Vet: Home for a Hero 

Bloem has spent a great deal of time at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. He had always admired veterans for their service and courage, but when he sat down and heard their war stories, he knew in his heart he wanted to do something more.

“If you look at the statistics about veteran depression, suicide, and post-traumatic stress disorder, you understand support of veterans is needed,” Bloem said.

This spring, Bloem will lead the transformation of the lot at 336 Donald Place SE into a LEED-certified and cost-efficient residence.

“Homes of Hope doesn’t want it to end with the built house, we also want to offer hope and a blueprint for success. It’s part of our vision,” Bloem said. “If someone needs counseling or training to get a job or deal with an addiction, then we want to help people find it.”

Volunteers of America and Wounded Warriors are taking charge of the veteran application process and selection. The plan is to surprise the selected recipient with the news on the July 4, 2014.

Transformative Change through Collaboration

Through the collaborative work of Homes of Hope, the , and the community, positive changes are beginning to take place in neighborhoods and in people’s lives.

“What we’re doing isn’t about any one individual. It’s about bringing people together to help others, make a difference, and lead by example,” Bloem said.

Brent Fisher with Green Property Management and Homes of Hope Board member agreed.

“It’s truly marvelous to see what can come to fruition when people put their mind to good purpose and collaborate,” Fisher said. “I appreciate being on a team that’s a catalyst for positive change in our great city.”

Kristin said she and Matt are humbled by the generosity and support of the community and are, “excited to create a place of light and hope. We are hopeful people will follow our example. We want everyone to ask themselves what they can do in their own neighborhoods to make the world a more beautiful place.”

Homes of Hope’s website is currently in development. To learn more or volunteer, contact homesofhopemi@gmail.com

Susan Julien Larimore is a freelance writer for UIX Grand Rapids

in 2005 was labeled as a Michigan Energy Demonstration Center. In keeping up with our title we are moving forward with innovative and tangible projects that show case sustainable building. One aspect of this partnership is that The Nest will showcase design using Stawclay or a type of cob for the structures thermal envelope. Straw & Clay are both natural, non toxic waste products that are usually burned or landfilled. We will be teaching other builders how to utilize this abundant resource. 
You can help support these projects Below!
Homes of Hope General Fund Donation 

The Nest – Living Building Challenge Registered Home  – thenestgr.com

Home for a Hero Fund 


Michigan's First Registered New Living Building & LEED Home – Burh Becc @ Beacon Springs

sketch of house on land

Beacon Springs: The Vision

Beacon Springs (Near Ann Arbor) offers hope for life springing from a sustainable dwelling, polyculture gardens amid oak savannah, and a lively gathering place. It is a beacon of hope for a happy, healthy and sustainable future for all.

Sustainable dwelling

Our house at Beacon Springs is named Burh Becc, meaning, in Old English, a dwelling by a creek. This is the origin of our family name Burbeck. Several natural springs on the north edge of the land feed a small creek which runs past the house. Wildlife is drawn to this source of water and vegetation, as were we when we first came to the site. Burh Becc has been designed as a “living building” using the Living Building Challenge standards of the International Living Future Institute (visit living-future.org). A living building becomes an alive component in a sustainable ecosystem, integrated with the natural environment in a way that nurtures and sustains that environment. It is because of this living nature of our house that we have given it a name, and we have designed and built it to serve many future generations.

Water. Our living building uses the rain and snow falling on the roof as its only source of water.

Energy. Burh Becc depends on the rays of the sun for most of its energy needs. Heat is provided mainly through passive solar design. Natural ventilation is provided by the wind drawn through the house by the tower design. Heating and cooling are augmented as needed by a photovoltaic-powered geothermal system.

Waste. Our house is designed to reduce waste products that need to be removed from the site and eliminate materials toxic to human or environmental health. 95% of the by-products normally considered waste are integrated back into the site ecosystem, or are recycled, repurposed or reused by the broader community. A 95% materials efficiency standard was also followed during the construction phase of Burh Becc, leaving only 5% for the local landfill.

Farm amid oak savannah

The farm at Beacon Springs produces food for the local community, particularly those with limited access to fresh produce, as well as for our own table. As with the house, the farm has become an integral part of the ecosystem. Following the principles of permaculture, plants, trees and animals work together for abundant and sustainable production of food. These permaculture methods also restore the fields depleted through decades of “factory farming,” they allow the garden farm to fit together with the rejuvenating oak savannah, and they encourage wise management of water for the benefit of the immediate site and neighboring ecosystems.

Gathering place

Our home has become a wonder-filled gathering place for people (and pets, too). The embrace of Beacon Springs – the living building, with its flourishing courtyard and barnyard animals, combined with the surrounding acres of permaculture gardens and oak savannah – is a balm to the lone poet and a catalyst for lively exchange in larger groups. Beacon Springs is a center of education for the community: architecture students learning about sustainable design; residential building crafts(wo)men and trades professionals learning sustainable construction methods; children learning about barnyard animals and bee-keeping; and permaculture enthusiasts participating in onsite workshops. Beacon Springs also provides a gathering spot for community farming. And we regularly welcome family, friends, co-workers and others to our table for good food and dynamic exchange of life.

A special note for our team of designers, engineers, builders and growers, and the extended team members through the International Living Future Institute: We hope that each of you, in joining the community responsible for the creation of Beacon Springs, has also received an extra measure of life springing from your contribution to the project. You are always welcome to come for a visit, enjoying with us the fruits of your labors.

—Tom and Marti Burbeck, Ann Arbor, Michigan, March 2023

Photos and Info taken from http://www.beaconsprings.org/

Understanding the Living Building Challenge Midwest Fall Courses

Understanding the Living Building Challenge provides a 6-hour in-depth introduction to the Living Building Challenge. Attendees are the green building leaders in their community: design professionals, contractors, developers, owners, government officials and employees of public agencies. In short, anyone and everyone who can impact the development of the built environment.Living Building Challenge

Workshop Overview:

9:00-10:00 The Philosophy of the Living Building Challenge / Petal rationale + strategies: Site
10:00-10:15 Break
10:15-11:45 Petal rationale + strategies: Water, Energy, Health / Small Group Discussion
11:45-12:30 Lunch + Case Studies
12:30-2:00 Petal rationale + strategies: Materials, Equity, Beauty / Small Group Discussion
2:00-3:30 Breaking down Barriers / Community + Tools / Full Group Discussion /

Learning Objectives:
– Identify the key components of the Living Building Challenge
– Discuss the rationale for restorative design principles
– Understand successful strategies for compliance with each performance area
– Recognize financial, regulatory and behavioral barriers and incentives related to high performance design
– Describe the Living Building Challenge Community resources and certification process

Added Benefits:
– Applicable toward Living Future Accreditation
– Approved for 6 GBCI Continuing Education hours
– Approved for 6 AIA Learning Units
– Morning coffee and lunch included


Ticket Type Registration
ILFI/Cascadia Members, Community subscribers, Ambassadors, Partners, Partner Org. Early Reg. $195
General Registration Early Registration $295

Non Early Bird

ILFI/Cascadia Members, Community subscribers, Ambassadors, Partners, Partner Org.  Late $215
General Registration Late $345

*Registration Fee includes workshop materials, morning coffee and lunch.

Sponsorship Opportunities are available. Please contact development [at] living-future [dot] org for details.


Wed, Sep 25, 2013
9:00 AM – 3:30 PM
Understanding the Living Building Challenge 6 Hour Seminar 
Emanuel Community Center
Cincinnati Ohio
Mon, Oct 14, 2013
9:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Understanding the Living Building Challenge 6 Hour Seminar – Grand Rapids
Herman Miller GreenHouse
Holland Michigan
Thu, Nov 7, 2013
10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Understanding the Living Building Challenge 6 Hour Seminar 
Energy Center of Wisconsin
Madison WI

Our Expert Faculty: Richard Graves

Richard has extensive experience establishing and supporting green building programs in national and international settings. A registered architect with degrees from Rice University and Virginia Tech, Graves was the U.S. Green Building Council’s Senior Vice President of Community. He has over a decade of field experience working on leading-edge green building projects and is a staunch advocate for transparency and responsibility in the building industry.


An introduction to the Living Building Challenge – Lunch Time Webinar – Free

is proud to host the Living Building Challenge (LBC)  introduction.  We have a free 1-hour webinar on Sept 11 and a fullday workshop Sept. 27.

Living buildings go beyond LEED and other building programs and challenges us to rethink our paradigm on the possibilities of advanced sustainable construction practices. The LBC  is a philosophy, advocacy tool and certification program that addresses at all scales. It is comprised of seven performance areas: Site, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity and Beauty. The session intends to foster opportunities for ongoing dialogue about restorative principles in design, construction and building operation through the creation of local Living Building Challenge Collaboratives.

Learning objectives: development 

1. Understand the basic philosophy of the Living Building Challenge
2. Describe the key components of the program
3. Discuss the rationale for restorative design principles
4. Identify and locate the resources provided by the international Living Future Institute for deeper engagement
Tuesday. Sept 11.  1 pm – 2 pm ET
Cost:  Free!
Please register here to receive your unique login credentials: Register Now
ALSO – See the LBC full-day workshop being held in Chicago, IL on Thursday Sept 27!