Our first visit to First Green Bank, with Year in the Life mentor Stuart Cowan, exceeded our expectations in every way imaginable. At the conclusion of our visit, CEO Ken LaRoe had committed to building Florida’s first commercial, beyond LEED, Living Building and, hopefully, to building it without a premium over conventional construction. What's more, we all came away with the seeds of an idea for how the Living Building Challenge could be a catalyst for the regeneration of the local Central Florida economy
On June 16 and 17th The Year in the Life project paid a visit to First Green Bank with mentor Stuart Cowan. Stuart is founder of the regenerative design consulting firm Autopoiesis and a financial advisor to Seattle's Bullitt Center, the first commercial building in the world to achieve certified Living Building (beyond LEED) status. We had introduced Ken and Stuart via a phone conversation in late 2014. (You can hear the podcast of that dialog here.) Ken was intrigued with the idea of the Living Building Challenge, and wanted to learn more about it and Stuart’s approach to regenerative design.
Upon our arrival at First Green Bank’s LEED Platinum Mt. Dora headquarter’s branch we were immediately immersed in a regenerative environment—the solar-paneled building features electric vehicle charging stations in the parking lot, a soaring entryway flanked by carp ponds and a living wall. We were escorted into a meeting room where we sat at a conference table constructed of repurposed wood from a tree felled in the construction of the branch. We looked out over an expanse of native plantings where gekkos warmed themselves in the sunlight. Everything about this building signaled that First Green was serious about radically redefining what it means to be a bank.
The Living Building Challenge
The Year in the Life introduced First Green Bank to Stuart Cowan, a consultant to the Bullitt Center, the country’s first commercial Living Building. FGB CEO Ken LaRoe is now committed to building a Living Building in Central Florida. Will it be possible?