Over the last two decades, thousands of building owners and professionals have been incorporating and increasing number of vegetative technologies on building envelops and within the interiors of new and existing structures. Public policies like incentive programs, along with voluntary standards like the USGBC’s LEED program, have supported the growth of these living architecture technologies.

Living architecture is a subset of green infrastructure that may be defined by the integration of inorganic, non-living structures with organic, living structures for superior ecological, social and economic performance.  Living architecture includes technologies like green (vegetative) roofing systems, green facades, and living walls.  There are multiple performance benefits provided by living architecture technologies which cut across social, economic and ecosystem domains.

However, the benefits of living architecture are extremely complex. Elements that add to this complexity include:

  • Diversity of benefits, technologies, design, products, and maintenance regimes
  • Variety of spatial scales on which benefits are accrued, from building-level to citywide
  • Differences in climate
  • Different public and private benefits provided by living architecture all contribute to this complexity

This complexity contributes to a number of barriers to the realization of living architecture performance benefits:

  • Inconsistent policy
  • Insufficient product testing
  • A lack of performance benchmarks
  • A lack of representation of living architecture in existing building rating systems

This lack of a comprehensive framework of clear performance benefit metrics for Living Architecture threatens their long term application to green buildings and sustainable sites thereby jeopardizing the many benefits they provide building owners and the public.

The focus of the Living Architecture Performance Tool (LAPT) is to develop consensus-based performance criteria and metrics for all major types of living architecture, beginning initially with green roofs, and then in later phases incorporating other technologies which integrate living and non-living building systems, like living walls, green facades, etc.

The program’s mission is to ensure that living architecture projects will achieve certain performance benefits, so that they can be funded and incentivized with confidence.


This will be done through two broad approaches:    

  • Reflect the standards of other performance rating systems like LEED and Sustainable Sites to become the reference when they offer credit for living architecture performance
  • Obtain the support of regulators and policy makers, who can use all or part of the guidelines and metrics to make decisions around policy, incentives, and procurement for living architecture based on the distinct goals of their organization

By setting a reference standard for living architecture in other rating systems, and by obtaining the support of regulators and policy-makers, the LAPT will:

  • Articulate the benefits of living architecture
  • Help guide research, policy and funding decisions
  • Encourage continuous improvement through testing and feedback
  • Align with other building rating systems like LEED and Sustainable Sites
  • Recognize and reward high quality products and services
  • Raise the bar for the entire industry

The Green Infrastructure Foundation is currently developing a series of background white papers on certain areas of living architecture performance. The white papers introduce a benefit, explore the research connected with living architecture, compare the approach of existing building rating systems and propose new metrics, which will be selected and refined following completion and review of all the white papers. The following white papers are available for feedback and review:

Energy Conservation and Generation Draft White Paper (Funded by ComEd/Wight and Company)
Stormwater Quantity Management Draft White Paper
Biodiversity Draft White Paper 

For more information about this program, or to provide your feedback on white papers, please contact: Rohan Lilauwala, Program Manager, Green Infrastructure Foundation at rlilauwala@greenroofs.org