My educational background being Economics based, I was more than skeptical when my coworker presented the idea of applying the Living Future Institute’s ambitious challenges to the new Itek Energy facility. The process seemed not only daunting but one that probably wouldn’t be worth the significant amount of time and capital.
Having spent a week at the Living Future Unconference however, I’m both surprised and slightly terrified to say that I’m officially a Living Future convert. Surprised because I didn’t think it possible and terrified because I think I’m about to take on the biggest (and probably most rewarding) challenge of my life to date.
Here are the five unexpected takeaways that resulted in my change of heart that I hope you can take back to your team to start building a living future of your own:
1. Living Future Projects Are Possible
When I heard of the Living Building Challenge, I figured their flagship Bullitt Center was the only certified building and they were being self funded by deep-pocketed foundations. I was shocked to learn that the Living Future Institute has not only gained international traction but already has 465 Declare Products and 331 Living Building Projects! Check out the graph below to see where they all are. That kind of growth in such a short period of time definitely caught my attention and was something I wanted for my company.
2. Living Future Projects Make Business Sense
With each passing day, solar products inch closer to becoming a commoditized market. Though government incentives have done an excellent job of boosting the industry, such low barriers to entry have caused fierce competition. The exploration of niche markets has remained our primary strategy while simultaneously working to build an impactful brand that will establish us as a market leader. I am most excited about the potential the Living Future certifications have to establish us as a company that is making a positive impact on the world. Not only because we produce solar modules that provide clean energy but throughout the entire lifecycle of our products. The Living Product Challenge shows businesses what doing good looks like, in a robust and comprehensive manner.
3. Your Team is Everything
I’m going to be completely honest here and admit that I’ve been a committed loner for a number of years now. What this week taught me however was that projects of this scale can not happen without the collaboration of a team of people who support each other in the pursuit of a common goal. I keep coming back to the quote from the weekend, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” I am proud to say that at itek Energy, I won’t be eating alone.
As we continue to explore pursuit of the ILFI’s ambitious goals, I’m realizing that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all. That’s why I’m so thankful that I have equally as passionate people by my side. I can’t stress enough that this is a critical part of any big undertaking but when it comes to transforming the entire construction and architecture industry, no one should have it go alone.
“You can’t work on ecosystems if you are working within an ego-system”
– Carol Franklin
4. It Takes a Village
One of the beautiful requirements of the Living Future Challenges is taking into account the impact that the project will have on the surrounding communities. The community we have developed here in Bellingham functions like a root structure, connecting mutually interested businesses with each other and into our sense of place. This is why we will have to rely on our community for support during this process to be able to build a space that is not only delightful for Itek employees but our whole community. We will be seeking help from organizations such as the Opportunity Council, RESources, Sustainable Connections, the city of Bellingham and any others willing to share their vision for what our waterfront can be! We realize this factory won’t just be something that we enjoy but the entire community.
5. This Might Actually Be How We Save The World
Now that I’m sold on the idea, it’s time to take action and actually figure out how we are going to accomplish it. I believe that we have a unique opportunity to build something that will produce not only products that reduce our carbon footprint but that is a beautiful, regenerative space for the entire community to enjoy. There has never been a better time to change the world, one living factory at a time.