Living Building Challenge

patio rental

Living Building

May 2021, Cope Environmental Center became first Living Building in Indiana, 29th in the world.

Next closest Living Building is 283 miles away.
After constructing our facility to the following standards, we monitored our performance for a year and prove that our designs work. Only then was certification granted.
Certification entailed meeting required standards in each of the Seven Petals listed below.





Net-zero water. Water balance equation. Water usage on site must not be more than rainwater/groundwater recharge in that area. We have permeable parking surfaces – gravel instead of paved. Rainwater collection containers that are built and ready but not currently in use. WHY NOT? The State of Indiana requires all water used in a home/facility to be potable, even toilet water. Rainwater would need treated. See the bathroom description for details. We have temporary exemption.



Net-zero energy. We must produce all of the energy we consume. Every building has an EUI score, or Energy Use Intensity score. EPA relies on source EUI as the basis for the ENERGY STAR score. Our score was 4 in 2017-2018 with solar and 17 without. We haven’t gotten our numbers yet since we added more solar panels. (A typical office building will use approximately 100 to 150 kBtu/SF/Yr). We do this through solar panels (from Rectify Solar; made in USA), geothermal, extra insulation, and controlling the heating/cooling in the building. We have automated lights and heating/cooling system that shuts off when we aren’t here to help save energy. Passive solar, explained in the Nature Hall section below, also helps us reach this goal.


Non-toxic materials were used to construct this building. We had to vet (research and provide list of chemicals and where material came from – most sourced locally/within US) almost every product in the building to keep out the “Red List Chemicals”, a list of 19 (was 14) toxic chemicals that are found frequently in building products. We have documentation of 100% of the ingredients of all of our products, as well as information regarding how far the product travelled to get here. All of this building is free of PVC and added formaldehyde, and a good majority of it was made in America. Any lumber/timber used must be Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certified – basically organic wood.


Any amount of land we took to build on, we have to add new land to our property and restore it to natural vegetation and place it under a conservation easement – For the 5 acres that was modified for construction of newer property, a separate 5 acres must be placed under a conservation easement – currently in the process of an easement with the Red Tail Land Conservancy. The Children of Indiana Nature Park is already under easement with the Red Tail Land Conservancy.


We have been giving out surveys to measure this one, but it’s pretty subjective. We wanted the beauty of this building to be the natural objects found inside and all around it. Sustainable and Earth Friendly can be beautiful.


ADA compliance and equal access to nature for all.


This refers to the health of the occupants of the building. Part of this petal has to do with operable windows/access to fresh air for all its inhabitants.

Stidham Welcome Hall

– Carpet and concrete is formaldehyde free.

– Revolving door is more energy efficient. 

– Windows on both sides of the entrance so that you can practically see through the building. We want the focus of our nature center to be the natural landscaping, not the building.

– Desk is made by Bill Miller, a repurposed butcher’s block was used in it-Parking lot is based on the size of our normal amount of occupants, not Disneyland-sized.

– Parking lot is made of permeable surface to not deter the path of natural water flow. 

– Outside of the building is made from Hardie plank Fiber Cement board, which is explained in the auditorium section. 

Lingle Nature Hall

– Passive Solar: the giant window on the south side and the “second roof”. The overhang outside of this window was calculated perfectly to keep the sun out of the building in the summer and allow it in in the winter. This is because the sun is higher in the sky in the summer and lower in the sky in the winter.

– Building is tilted to 12.5 degrees northwest for perfect angle for passive solar

– The window trim and floor trim is red oak.

– The pieces of wood at the intersection of the steel beams and the windows covers up the “thermal breaks”. The thermal break or thermal barrier breaks the transfer of heat and cold from the metal beams that support the second roof and the metal beams inside.

– Sealed concrete floor that was made without Formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is used in concrete so that it pours more smoothly, but is unnecessary for the quality of the concrete. The concrete is from Ernst Concrete. Removing these chemicals prevents “off gassing” (Think new car smell) and results in better air quality within the building.

– Metal signs that show the name of each room were made by local blacksmith, Joe Goebbel

– Mobile units downstairs are made of basswood and cherry. Done by volunteers.

– Planters were made by Richmond High School Construction Technology class and made from walnut.

– Rain chains are made in the USA and are metal; only there for decorative purposes

– The rain chains direct water towards what will be holding tanks. The building is piped to have that water used in the toilets. However, according to Indiana code, water in a toilet must be purified to drinking standards, which rain water is not. So the building is prepped for this system as soon as we get permission from the state. This process is already permitted in other states.

The Classroom

– Classroom furniture made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood; this is from Canada

– FSC ensures that wood was responsibly sourced. Other certifications include Sustainable Forest Industry (SFI), but this is basically the timber industry grading themselves and it is not accepted by LBC.

– We set a precedent with LBC, getting an exception with the FSC certification for salvaged wood

– Whimsical wall of windows are so that children can see different habitats out of each window and also so that a child of any size has access to a window. The colors of the wall reflect the ground, flora and fauna, and then the sky. The boards are made from recycled bottle caps that the community collected. They were chipped down and melted into boards by B&F plastics (Green Tree Plastics also does this).

M. C. Gathering Place

– Window trim is made out of (our) ash and maple (not FSC certified – but we have an exemption)

– Door trim made out of red oak

– Heat controlled space- only room that doesn’t have radiant floor heating; it is just as geothermal. Radiant floor heating is slow to heat up. When we use this room, we want it to heat up fast. When we are not using this room, it is shut off and the heating/cooling temp is set at 55 degrees

– Siding is Hardieplank- fiber cement board; this was donated

– Lights are LED

– Knauf acoustical board makes up the ceiling (ECOSE® technology – a binding agent that does not contain formaldehyde; also donated; makes sure there are no echoes

– Walls are 18in thick and stuffed with Ecobatt insulation. This insulation is made from fiberglass and without formaldehyde. The extra-thick walls help us control the temperature of our spaces.

– Barn doors come from Susie & Bob Ferrel’s farm with glass from Catrons. They are repurposed.

– There are smaller windows on the north side because it gets more intense weather and not as consistent sunlight.

– Mobile wall is made by Modernfold. Made in America without formaldehyde or PVC.

Upstairs Office Space

– Stainless steel countertops because everything in this building should be able to be disposed of responsibly when the building is no longer useful.

– Energy star products. Stove is induction – safer for kids and more energy efficient.

– Cabinets are “spalted” maple. The black designs are a fungus that began to grow then was sealed. Cabinets were made by volunteer carpenter Bob Ferrel out of donated wood.


– Stainless steel countertops because everything in this building should be able to be disposed of responsibly when the building is no longer useful.

– Energy star products. Stove is induction – safer for kids and more energy efficient.

– Cabinets are “spalted” maple. The black designs are a fungus that began to grow then was sealed. Cabinets were made by volunteer carpenter Bob Ferrel out of donated wood.


– Partitions were made by RHS Construction Technology class

– Mirrors are reclaimed from Alison Z.’s (previous executive director) house

– Bathroom accessories are made from steel with high recycled content, again so that they can be responsibly disposed of at the end of their useful life

– Paper towels are more sanitary than hand-dryer and use less energy. Non-contaminated paper towels can be recycled or composted.

– Soil on this side of the property is not good for a septic tank, so we were going to do a constructed wetland with sand mounds to sanitize our water. However, sand mounds have a fail rate of about 10 years, which is not sustainable, especially considering how expensive they are. Therefore we took a temporary exception on the water petal and we hooked up to the Centerville sewer system. We have a water committee who will advocate to the state to allow us to try a system that is just a constructed wetland with no sand mound system. Sample Text