School of Architecture College of Design

Richard Graves, Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Sustainable Building Research

Richard Graves

Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Sustainable Building Research


Description: Richard Graves 


Richard is the Director of the Center for Sustainable Building Research and an associate professor in the College of Design at the University of Minnesota.  From 2012 to 2014, he was the Executive Director of the International Living Future Institute, leading the operations and strategic efforts around all of the Institute’s signature programs: the Living Building Challenge, the Living Community Challenge, Declare product labeling, The Natural Step USA, Ecotone Publishing and the Cascadia Green Building Council.  Before joining the Institute, he was the Senior Vice President for Community and Education with the U.S. Green Building Council from 2010 to 2012 he directed programs for its national and international members. As a volunteer with the USGBC, he served on the National Board from 2006 to 2010.  Richard is a registered architect previously working on ecologically sustainable building and planning projects around the world.  His research focuses in multiple areas:

  • Energy and climate change: provide, tools, expertise and research to support energy independence, security and climate neutrality for the state, nation and planet.
  • The Water Cycle: understand the water cycle and its relationship to the built environment in the provision, capture, use, reuse and recharging of water in local and regional watersheds and global water cycle.
  • Equitable designs to provide sustainability for all: Investigate building solutions to provide sustainability to all communities.
  • Sustainable Materials for a healthy built environment: A regenerative built environment will need a renewable source of materials that create healthy long-lasting environments.
  • Creating Regenerative and Resilient Communities: Our communities must become regenerative and resilient not only to be sustainable, but also to respond and adapt to stress and change in a dynamic global environment.


His regenerative community work includes three pilot projects (completed while at the International Living Future Institute):

In Bend, Oregon, a proposed plan for the Central Area Redevelopment identified the ideal scale for energy generation and water treatment and capture for distributed systems within the neighborhood. This approach will allow economic development while minimizing the need for expensive centralized infrastructure and maximizing ecological and social benefits.

Description: Description: BEND_BLUE GREEN STREET.jpg

Figure 1 - Blue Green Street in Bend

In Burnaby, British Columbia, a master plan was created with the Simon Fraser University Trust on the next phase of their development for UniverCity. Using principles developed from the Living Building Challenge to reevaluate zoning and infrastructure regulations, the Trust is creating a development using a district approach to energy and water to achieve the highest levels of environmental performance within their current budget. The work evolved into the Living Community Challenge that was released in May, 2014.

Description: Description: BIRDS EYE VIEW_LIVING UNIVERCITY_V2.jpg

Figure 2 - Aerial View of the Living UniverCity


In San Francisco, California, he is leading an integrated team from the Planning and Environment Departments, as well as the Neighborhood Empowerment team from the mayor’s office on a joint Eco-Neighborhoods project. Unlike most traditional urban redevelopment projects that revolve around a pre-designated master plan, the city invited neighborhood associations to apply as potential Eco-Neighborhood participants.  After reviewing criteria from 23 neighborhoods, we are focusing on the Inner Sunset where there is a strong sustainable community group and a number of potential projects. Charrettes for city staff and community members will explore how the Living Community Challenge can inform the planning process and impact the unique conditions of the neighborhood.


In 1994, Richard received his Bachelor of Architecture from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He went on to receive a Master of Architecture degree from Rice University in 1996.


School of Architecture
145 Rapson Hall
89 Church Street
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Fax: 612-624-5743


Contact Information

Undergraduate Student Services
12 McNeal Hall, 1985 Buford Ave., St. Paul, MN 55108
107 Rapson Hall, 89 Church Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455
P: 612-624-1717 | E:

General Information
P: 612-626-9068 | E:

© 2020 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy Statement