Burh Becc At Beacon Springs: One Of Two Certified Living Building Challenge Residences In The World

Burh Becc at Beacon Springs is one of only two Fully Certified Living Building Challenge® homes in the entire world. It serves as a beacon of light that as the world and individuals seek to transform their homes into sustainable residences that are safe sanctuaries where their families live, play, work, and learn. It also achieved LEED certification.

The Living Building Challenge is the world’s most rigorous green building certification program. It establishes the highest possible standards for residential building sustainability.

Burh Becc’s 2,200 sf (main floor living space) home borrows from the characteristics of 200-year-old Tuscan farmhouses, with a 2,400 sf barn and workshop. The buildings, owned by Tom and Marti Burbeck, sit at the center of 15 acres of farmland.

A 20-person integrated team, led by Architectural Resource including architect Michael Klement AIA, principal, Architectural Resource; builder Bob Burnside, CEO, Fireside Home Construction, and LBC certification manager Amanda Webb Nichols of Catalyst Partners, spent five years executing the project.

The LBC certification comprises seven performance categories — site, water, energy, health, materials, equity, and beauty. These are subdivided into a total of 20 imperatives, each of which focuses on a specific sphere of influence, such as urban agriculture, net positive water, net positive energy, and responsible industry.

Net-Positive Energy

  • A passive solar house design, with a very tight thermal envelope and a tall cooling tower, minimizes house loads required for heating and cooling.
  • A 16.8-kilowatt photovoltaic system provides electricity to the house and the grid using 60 solar panels covering the south plane of the barn roof.
  • A closed-loop geothermal system provides radiant floor heating during winter, forced air heating during shoulder seasons and potable water pre-heating.
  • During the required 12-month LBC audit period, the house generated 20,270 kWh of electricity, and used 15,987 kWh, producing 26 percent more energy than it used. In 4,283 kWh were pushed back to the electric utility grid, moving the home past net-zero into net-positive.

Water Conservation

  • Achieves net-positive water through a rainwater and snow harvesting system, capturing runoff from the roofs to supply 7,500 gallons of in-ground cisterns, currently for non-potable water. A new well provides potable water to comply with Michigan building codes, with a future-ready potable rainwater filtration system.
  • Wastewater is returned to the aquifer. Blackwater from low-flush toilets and the kitchen sink and gray water drains to a traditional septic system and drain field. A future-ready gray water system for reclaiming water from baths, sinks and washing machines will enable drainage to a shallow leach field and rain gardens.

Healthy Materials

  • Burh Becc at Beacon Springs adheres to the ILFI Red List imperative. The list is a compilation of harmful-to-humans chemicals and materials that cannot be used in a certified building. To meet these criteria, more than 900 products were vetted. About 500 of those were used in construction. This requirement is intended to ensure that buildings are not only conserving energy or limiting waste but also protecting occupant health.
  • LBC certification is based on actual measured performance, rather than modeled performance. To earn “Living” certification, Burh Becc had to demonstrate compliance with stringent performance standards dictated by the 20 LBC Imperatives for 12 consecutive months of operation. After three and a half years in design, 18 months in construction and a year of performance auditing, Burh Becc at Beacon Springs received full Living Building Challenge certification in December 2017, along with LEED for Homes Platinum certification by the United States Green Building Council.
  • Architectural Resource is a full-service, award-winning, architectural design firm specializing exclusively in fine residential design of new homes, cottages, additions, remodels, and renovations with an emphasis on smart, sustainable design. The firm’s expertise includes ILFI Living Building Challenge; PHIUS Passive House; USGBC LEED for Homes, and NAHB National Green Building Standard.

A multimedia event, The Visible Green Home® Virtual Burh Becc Tour, featuring design diagrams and the building process is available online. Or view a guided tour here.

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