Washington School District Plans Living Building Certified School

Valley View Middle School is after Living Building Certification (Photo:

The Living Building Challenge is coming to schools? The industry’s, arguably, highest standard is now being used as a goal in design of several schools. Snohomish’s Valley View Middle School is the newest to join the Challenge.

The Living Building Challenge already has two academic participants. The Hawaii Preparatory Academy, which also obtained LEED Platinum certification, was the first to participate in the program. Seattle’s Bertschi School was the second to announce its goal to obtain Living Building status.

Neither of the aforementioned schools have obtained the high standard of Living Building Certification. In fact, the Living Building Institute has only certified three buildings.

The Snohomish School District has taken a very interesting approach to “selling” the public on this idea. In a poor economy, school districts are able to obtain capital project finances, but maintain low operational budgets. The designer for the Valley View project says – its the perfect recipe for a Living Building.

Architect Tim Jewett made some interesting comments on why a Living Building works for Valley View:


In the public sector, where every decision is accountable to voters, it can be perceived a challenge to justify the “expense” of trying to achieve a very high level of sustainability. But with the right approach, full-systems thinking and a receptive client, the case can be made…..

The Snohomish School District is, like almost every school district in the state, in challenging budgetary times. While their capital projects, approved in a 2008 bond, are well-funded, their operations budgets have been challenged by severe cutbacks due to the recent economic events.

Having an open-minded client and giving them the opportunity to be your best advocate is the only way you can be successful. Our client quickly saw the value in using this capital project as an opportunity to reach to a higher level of sustainability and, consequently, as a teaching tool for students, an opportunity to galvanize staff and the community.

So the chance to develop a project with significantly reduced operational costs and slightly higher capital costs was very appealing….


Its wonderful to see a school district making an “off-the-cuff” design decision. Snohomish will be tackling a quite impressive feat.