I was at the Margaret Mead Film Festival a few weeks ago and saw a film called “Ever the Land,” directed by Sarah Grohnert. The film describes the process of building a Living Building, the highest standard for sustainability, for the Te Wharehou o Tūhoe and the Ngāi Tūhoe Maori people of New Zealand. It was designed by the architect Ivan Mercep, who won the project by pitching it with a blank sheet of paper.
The Living Building Challenge requires that buildings be net zero energy, water and waste. All materials must be sustainably sourced and non-toxic. The final goal is the creation of true ecological sustainabilty. The founder of the Living Building Challenge, Jason F. McLennan, means for green buildings to be not only ecologically sustainable, but also to promote social justice and support cultural heritage. Truly a challenge for those who work in built environment fields, it is a way of looking at and preparing for the future in a positive manner that incorporates preserving and promoting cultures and respecting our earth and it’s bounty.
The film describes and shows the building process from community meetings, to hiring and training of local workers to the celebration of the building opening with a Tūhoe ceremony. Also interwoven throughout the film are the ongoing negotiations with the Government of New Zealand that resulted culminated in an historic apology and settlement for the Tūhoe last year.