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This 1,120 SF classroom studio for The Monarch School is the first project in Texas to attempt the Living Building Challenge.

This 1,120 SF classroom studio for The Monarch School is the first project in Texas to attempt the Living Building Challenge. Read More
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This project's funding goal was not reached on May 25, 2013.

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About this project


All donations to this project will go directly to The Monarch School, a 501c(3), and will therefore be tax deductible. We appreciate donations of any and all sizes! In fact it would be really cool to reach our goal with as many Houstonians (and people who just want Houston to go green) as possible. There are 6.22 million people living in the greater Houston region. That means that we only need 0.06% (not even 1% or even a half of 1%) - 4,000 people - to give $25. We need your help to spread the word! Please share this with all of your friends and encourage them to support at any level. THANK YOU!!

Learn more about the project:

What is the Living Building Challenge? Why is it innovative?

The Living Building Challenge is a building certification program that embraces the metaphor that a building should be like a flower: rooted in place, use energy and water it captures from its surroundings, and give back to the environment rather than just taking away from it. A living building is as close to a natural process as a building can be. It strikes the ultimate balance between human-based and nature-based environments. Because no other program attempts to quantify this level of relationship between people, nature and the built environment, the Living Building Challenge is the most innovative building program in the world.

Why support this project?

The Monarch School is building a new 1,120 SF Studio that is designed to achieve the Living Building Challenge. Part of the goal for the studio learning space is to give the kids and the community a chance to participate in the net-zero goals of the facility. The interactive nature of the building enables occupants to see how their choices impact the ability to reach their goals. This level of feedback is designed to be a game-changer for our sense of personal responsibility.

The strict material selection raises the bar toward consciousness of the chemicals that we surround ourselves with in the built environment. Understanding the story behind each material’s environmental footprint leads to better choices. Replication of these measures supports local businesses, contributing to a healthier economy and community.

The Monarch School, backed by the entire project team, hopes to maximize community involvement and investment in the achievement of the Living Building Challenge. Impressive donations of time, energy and money have already come in from the design and construction community, serving as testimony to the desire and need for this project. Through these efforts, the studio itself is being funded and construction is underway. 

In order to meet the Challenge and to have the impact that the project aims for, we need to reach the entire Houston community- and beyond! Nothing like this has been attempted in our region.Through this project, Houston has the opportunity to be the first in Texas to achieve the Living Building Challenge.This project will be the role-model for our area and will show that Houston is providing extreme national leadership. We invite you to help us complete our attempt to be the first Living Building in our region.

Will you accept the challenge?

The Monarch School master plan includes an eco-village consisting of 5 classroom studios. The first of these is the Living Building Challenge Studio. The eco-village will host fairs and environmental education for the entire Houston community.

The Living Building Challenge Studio aims to:

achieve net zero energy performance through student operation of the building envelope and systems over a year of occupancy. Since the building is designed to serve in both passive and active modes, students will have to decide on a daily basis which mode of operation to choose. For example, on a nice spring day students may opt to open the bi-folding doors and awning windows for cross ventilation. On a hot day they may elect to position the barn doors to cover the bi-folding glass doors in order to reduce heat gain. On a cold day they may elect to position the barn doors to enclose the dogtrot, cutting off cold cross ventilation while maintaining solar heat gain through the south bi-folding glass doors. Combining any number of such decisions to be made daily, the LBC Studio will in and of itself serve as an environmental laboratory.

Another critical decision students will make is to determine when the daylight harvesting is sufficient versus when the LED lights need to be turned on. After minimizing the energy demand of the studio both through design and operation, renewable energy sources will be able to deliver the entirety of the power needs. Photovoltaic panels will be mounted on the roof, which is properly oriented to maximize solar harvesting. A wind turbine will further supplement power needs and serve as an additional opportunity for studying sources of renewable energy.

The studio further aims to achieve net zero water usage by harvesting rainwater, capturing HVAC condensate, landscaping with native plants and utilizing smart irrigation. Adding to this challenge, the project raises the bar for local food production by incorporating it into the building program and into a net zero water context. The LBC Studio will serve as a venue for the Houston community to engage in organic gardening and to learn how to replicate urban farming efforts.

The studio is designed to both capture rainwater from the roof and condensate from the heat pump. The first stop for collected water will be a large above ground cistern. From there water will be pumped primarily by hand, with a mechanical back up system, up to underground storage at the top of the adjacent hill. Students will then use a series of valves to determine how to flow water down through the vegetable terraces. In addition to vegetable terraces, the project features a rooftop herb garden, a living wall for food producing vines, and an orchard.

The studio will teach passive building concepts and practices through the replication of passive systems with their active counterparts. For example, natural cross ventilation is mimicked by an advanced air displacement ventilation system. When natural ventilation is no longer appropriate based on climatic conditions, the air displacement ventilation system provides a healthy, mechanical alternative. The approach here is a movement to a both/and solution. The LBC Studio will boldly prove that Houstonians do not have to huddle in conditioned air year round, as we can design buildings to comfortably accommodate both passive and active modes of operation.

Likewise, the studio is built into a hill with a retaining wall for passive thermal mass heating and cooling. Yet when the passive thermal capacity of the hill has reached its limit, students may switch to the active geothermal heating & cooling system. The geothermal system also utilizes thermal mass as the heating and cooling mechanism, but relies on mechanical means to tap into storage capacities 300' below the surface of the earth. The replication of concepts renders them experiential, and therefore understandable.

Finally, the LBC Studio will educate the Houston community about healthy building environments by altogether eliminating toxic "red list" chemicals from the selected building materials and by encouraging transparency in the building industry. Achieving this level of transparent, non-toxic environment is in fact one of the most challenging aspects of the project. Chemicals known to be harmful to both humans and ecologies are still prevalent in building materials. Finding viable alternatives represents a large percentage of the design team's work. These efforts will benefit the entire Houston community as the results of this research will be evident in the end product. This will not only make replication of the Living Building Challenge much easier in Houston and the surrounding region, but it will also enable architects, builders, homeowners and business owners to make informed, healthy decisions in their next building project.

Thanks to the dedication, hard work and generous donations from these organizations and individuals, the LBC Studio is now under construction!

Design-Build Team donating professional services:

Architend, Architect; Jackson & Ryan Architects, Architect of Record; GreeNexus, LBC Consultants; Lisa Rosenow, Integrated Design Consultant; Asakura Robinson Landscape Architects; Dr. Bob Randall, Permaculture Design; Brewer & Escalante Civil Engineers; Matrix Structural Engineers; Redding, Linden, Burr, MEP Engineers; Bob Johnson & Associates, Rainwater Harvesting; Integrated Design Lab, U. of Washington, Daylighting Analysis; Tend Building LLC, Builder; Mission Constructors, Sitework General Contractor; Trinity Commissioning LLC, Commissioning; Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc., Envelope Commissioning

Product Donations:

Canyon Mequite; Chamberlin Roofing & Waterproofing; Digital Air Controls; Empire Truss; Finelite; Grace Construction Products; GreenFiber Insulation; HTS Texas; Lesco Lighting; LoopTech; Nature's Pest Solutions; The Orange Show; Pittsburgh Corning; RAM Windows; Trox USA, Inc; Variable Energy Systems; W.M. Dillard and Associates; Water Furnace

Monetary Donations:

Amanda Tullos-GreeNexus; Chris Conner-Green C Services; David Batts- Construction EcoServices; David Ronn; GreenZip Tape Partition System; Leonard Golub; Margaret Robinson-Asakura Robinson; Redding, Linden, Burr; Sheila Blake; Spindletop Charities, Inc.


Recycle Bank & CocaCola

Risks and challenges

With the LBC Studio already under construction, the main challenge left is to raise the additional funding needed to pursue the net zero performance and urban farming goals of the project. We hope to follow with the implementation of these systems as soon as the building construction is complete. We will need volunteers to help with the installation of the gardens. Anyone interested in helping should contact us. Completion of construction phase may shift for any number of reasons, including the logistics of meeting Living Building Challenge requirements. Lastly, we cannot guarantee that the project will achieve Living Building Challenge certification as that will be dependent upon third party review as well as the occupancy patterns of the building. However, The Monarch School is very persistent when it comes to meeting challenges! No matter what, this will be a great learning experience for everyone!!

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Support this project

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25 USD

    Tour of the Living Building Challenge Studio at The Monarch School (after completion).

    Estimated delivery
    8 backers
  2. Select this reward

    Pledge $50 or more About $50 USD

    Dedicate seeds, soil and compost to plant 10 SF of vegetables, fruits, and herbs to help meet the Living Building Challenge urban agriculture requirement.

    Estimated delivery
    5 backers
  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $75 or more About $75 USD

    Two tickets to the opening reception of the Living Building Challenge Studio at The Monarch School.

    Estimated delivery
    3 backers
  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100 USD

    Dedicate a fruit tree. An orchard will be planted adjacent to the studio to help meet the Living Building Challenge urban agriculture requirement.

    Estimated delivery
    Limited 10 backers
  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000 USD

    Dedicate a solar panel. A 10 KW photovoltaic system consisting of forty 250 watt panels will be mounted to the studio roof. The PV system will provide the majority of the renewable energy required to meet the Living Building Challenge net zero energy requirement.

    Estimated delivery
    Limited 1 backer
  6. Reward no longer available

    Pledge $2,500 or more About $2,500 USD

    Naming rights to the vine trellis. The east elevation of the shipping container will include 250 square foot of trellis space, forming a living wall of grapes and other edible producing vines. This will help to meet the Living Building Challenge urban agriculture requirement.

    Estimated delivery
    Reward no longer available 1 backer
  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000 USD

    Naming rights for one of the two above ground or the one below ground rainwater harvesting cisterns. These are required to meet the urban agriculture requirement while also meeting the net zero water requirements of the Living Building Challenge.

    Estimated delivery
    Limited 0 backers
  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $10,000 About $10,000 USD

    Naming rights for the living roof herb garden. Primarily rosemary will be grown on the 320 SF roof of the shipping container. This will help to meet the Living Building Challenge urban agriculture requirement.

    Estimated delivery
    Limited 0 backers
  9. Select this reward

    Pledge $10,000 About $10,000 USD

    Naming rights for the vegetable terraces. Approximately 2,000 square feet of growing space will be provided on the south slope of the hill that the studio is built into. In addition to helping to meet the Living Building Challenge urban agriculture requirement, this garden will serve as host to community outreach programs and classes.

    Estimated delivery
    Limited 0 backers
  10. Select this reward

    Pledge $10,000 About $10,000 USD

    Naming rights for the orchard. Approximately 8,000 square feet of fruit trees will be planted adjacent to the studio to help meet the Living Building Challenge urban agriculture requirement.

    Estimated delivery
    Limited 0 backers

Funding period

- (33 days)