A Seattle grocery store has just met the requirements to become the first Living Building certified grocery store. The PCC Community Markets storefront in the Ballard neighborhood was able to fulfill the tough requirements set forth by the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge Petal Certification in three categories: materials, place, and beauty.
The Living Building Challenge was established in 2006 by the nonprofit group to promote sustainability and eco-friendliness in building environments. To become certified, an establishment must meet certain standards with regard to factors like carbon footprint, material sourcing, and net waste.
As one might imagine, achieving Living Building status was no easy feat. PCC had to go out of its way to construct its store using nontoxic building materials and energy-efficient systems. But also, it had to make its store visually appealing to satisfy the "beauty" category noted above. What's really remarkable, though, is that more than 33% of the building's materials were sourced within 300 miles of its location, and 97% were domestically sourced.
Meanwhile, PCC intends to have additional locations become Living Building certified as well. Its goal is to set an example for other grocery stores and send the message that it's possible to run a thriving business in an environment that's earth-friendly, sustainable, and naturally attractive. But will more businesses actually follow suit?
Will Living Buildings become the wave of the future?
Clearly, there are benefits to obtaining the Living Building certification -- businesses can draw in environmentally conscious guests, gain notoriety (the good kind), and reap eventual savings in terms of energy conservation and consumption.
But obtaining that certification takes time, and, more significantly, money. In fact, at present, 390 projects around the world are pursuing Living Building certification, but only 15 are fully certified today.
Of course, some businesses that invest in the materials and infrastructure needed to obtain this certification will reap savings in the long run. But not every operation will have the financial resources to invest in constructing these buildings. And for some, the outlay may not be worth it. Though being Living Building certified could earn some businesses a world of recognition, at the end of the day, it may not improve their bottom line. And unless local governments come up with a way to partner with businesses to promote green building, many businesses may be too overwhelmed by the cost and logistics involved to make it worthwhile, even if they do believe in the underlying mission.
As such, real estate investors shouldn't necessarily expect a huge wave of Living Buildings in the near term due to the costs and effort involved. But given the general shift toward ESG investing, we could, at the very least, see more businesses aim to uphold certain green standards during the construction process.
As far as the grocery industry goes, in the near term, PCC may be an outlier. Supermarkets are known to focus on product placement and layout, not aesthetic appeal. But if PCC's new Living Building store -- and subsequent ones that follow it -- proves extremely successful, it could inspire more grocery stores, as well as other retailers, to pursue a shift toward green building in time.