Tyson Living Learning Center

St. Louis based Hellmuth + Bicknese Architects and team designed the educational facility located at Tyson Research Center, Washington University’s 2,000 acre biological and environmental field research campus. This building is a pivotal accomplishment toward meeting Washington University in St. Louis’ sustainability goals  and also sets the example to students, visitors, and the broader community of the extremely high “net zero” building performance achievable today.

The 2,900 sq. ft. facility has pioneered the implementation of high performance building standards which have previously only been imagined and contemplated in conceptual designs. By meeting the performance requirements of all Petal categories of the program the LLC has earned full certification under the Living Building Challenge℠ and can is considered as “one of the greenest buildings in the world”.


The Living Building Challenge, launched in November 2006, is widely recognized as the world’s most rigorous green building performance standard. Earning certification requires the facility to generate all of its own energy through clean, renewable resources; capture and treat its own water through ecologically sound techniques; incorporate only nontoxic, appropriately sourced materials; and operate efficiently and for maximum beauty. Projects can only receive Living Building certification after successful completion of its minimum twelve month performance period and an extensive third party audit both to verify all requirements have been achieved.

The Tyson Living Learning Center is a zero-net energy use, zero-net water use, zero-net waste facility. Solar panels on the roof and tracking solar panels at the front of the building generate all the electrical needs of the building, rainwater is collected in a 3,000 gallon storage tank underground and then purified to meet drinking water quality standards, and innovative plumbing solutions eliminate water used for flushing toilets. Building materials were painstakingly chosen for highest sustainability and lowest travel distance to the project and further reduced the environmental impact by incorporating materials sourced from the site.  For instance, the wood for the siding was harvested on site from Eastern Red Cedar, an invasive species in Missouri savannahs, and all the wood flooring was harvested on site; both as part of a forest reclamation project. 

Kevin Smith, Associate Director, of Tyson LLC shares "On this project I think we all learned that a true commitment to sustainability is an unspoken prerequisite of achieving the Living Building Challenge.  So much work had to be put into this project after construction, including commissioning, performance monitoring, and documentation.  Every single member of the design team needed to be fully committed to sustainability to see this project through.  In addition to having a such an amazing building, it's been incredibly rewarding to work with such a dedicated team and to receive acknowledgement of this commitment by meeting the most stringent green building standard in the world."


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