Frequently Asked Questions

Living Building Challenge 3.0 FAQ

1. Why is a new version of the Living Building Challenge being released?
The new version of the Living Building Challenge represents an important step forward in our program’s evolution. As Living Building Challenge projects make change in their Communities more of the Living Building Challenge requirements are made possible for others. The new version reflects feedback given by our project teams and continues to raise the bar.

2. What are the major changes in the 3.0 version?

  • RESILIENCY. There is a much greater emphasis on the importance of resilient infrastructure—helping to ensure that in a time of uncertainty and disruption, Living Buildings are always beacons of safety and security.
  • REGENERATION. The Challenge is a tool for regenerative design…The LBC is not a net neutral program, it most decidedly is about creating a pathway and vision for a truly sustainable, regenerative living future. Nature doesn’t do zero – it is net positive in energy, food, and flows.
  • EQUITY. With the integration of JUST™ and a groundbreaking Equity Exchange program, the Equity Petal is now as innovative as the rest of The Challenge.
  • COMMUNITY. The neighborhood typology that was within 2.1 has moved to the new Living Community Challenge.
  • MATERIALS TRANSPARENCY. The Red List has been expanded and DECLARE, our materials ‘nutrition label’ is now directly connected to the Living Building Challenge.
  • LIVING FUTURE. Together with the new Living Community Challenge 3.0 is now part of a larger and more holistic vision.
LBC 2.1 name   LBC 3.0 name
Car Free Living   Human Powered Living
Net Zero Water and Ecological WaterFlow (combined)   Net Positive Water
Net Zero Energy   Net Positive Energy
Healthy Air   Healthy Interior Environment
Biophilia   Biophilic Environment
Appropriate Sourcing   Living Economy Sourcing
Conservation + Reuse   Net Positive Waste
Democracy + Social Justice and Rightsto Nature (combined)   Universal Access to Nature and Place

3. How do Just and Declare integrate with the new version of LBC?
There are now requirements in the LBC 3.0 for teams to use some materials from the Declare database and for some team members to complete a JUST label.

4. What is the concept behind Net Positive?
LBC 3.0 contains Net Positive Water, Net Positive Energy and Net Positive Waste. For all of these Imperatives Regeneration is a core concept that requires the project to either produce more than it uses, treat more than it is responsible for, or use waste that is already in the waste stream.

5. When can projects start registering for LBC 3.0?
All projects that register on or after May 22nd, 2014 will be under the 3.0 version. The option to register under LBC 2.1 is no longer be available.

6. Can LBC 2.1 projects upgrade to LBC 3.0?
Yes, any project that is already registered can chose to upgrade to 3.0.

7. How long do projects already registered under LBC 2.1 have to certify?
Certification for LBC 2.1 will sunset on December 31, 2019.

8. How can I find out more about LBC 3.0?
Several in-person workshops are coming up this fall in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County, Dallas and South Florida.

9. How many registered projects do you have?
As of September 2015, there are nearly 300 registered Living Building Challenge projects measuring over 10 million square feet in 13 countries around the world. There are 25  certified projects, eight have achieved Full Certification, six have received Petal Certification, and 12 have achieved Net Zero Energy Building Certification.

10. Why did you make a separate program for Living Communities?
The neighborhood typology within the LBC was not addressing some of the unique scales and conditions of Community projects. Separating out Communities will allow projects to achieve Living Community Challenge compliance at the masterplan phase and then earn certification over phases ofthe project.

11. What scale of projects will the Living Community Challenge apply to?
Any project with multiple buildings could be eligible to register under the Living Community Challenge.

12. What is different about the Living Community Challenge?
The LCC uses the same structure as the LBC and has 7 petals and 20 Imperatives. Imperatives have been adapted to the Community Scale and some have been substituted for new Imperatives that are more relevant to the Community Scale.

13. How do the new Living Future Exchange programs work?
LBC and LCC project teams now have an option to pay the Institute directly rather than buy their carbon or habitat offset from another organization. The Institute will act as a pass through for those funds and directly fund conservation projects and renewable energy projects on Living Buildings.

14. When will the Living Product Challenge be released?
The Living Product Challenge should be released later in 2014.

15. When will Ambassadors be able to present the new programs?
Once they have completed the LBC 3.0 webinar series or in-person workshop, the new presentation will be available to them mid-June. 


Living Building Challenge Program FAQ

How do I register a project? 
Subscribers of the Living Building Challenge Community can register their project on this page. Not a subscriber of the Living Building Challenge Community? Register today so you can: 

  • Register projects for the Living Building Challenge
  • Consult the Dialogue, our online forum for registered project teams to receive technical clarifications from our research department.
  • Download the Petal Handbooks and other resources to assist with the project documentation process.  

What will it cost me to certify a project through the Living Building Challenge?
For full certification and Petal Certification, exact prices vary based on the Typology, the size and the type of the project, but there are two points of payment: registration and certification

How many Living Building Challenge Projects have been certified?
There are currently five projects that have achieved Living Certification by meeting all Imperatives of the Living Building Challenge:

  • Smith College's Bechtel Environmental Classroom in Whately, MA (certified 1.23.2014)
  • Tyson Living Learning Center in Eureka, MO (certified 10.12.2010)
  • Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, NY (certified 10.12.2010)
  • Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Laboratory, Waimea, HI (certified 4.27.2011)
  • Bertschi Living Building Science Wing, Seattle, WA (certified 4.10.2013)

As of May 15, 2014, an additional 12 projects have achieved Petal Certification (meeting the Imperatives of 3 or more Petals with one of the three being Energy, Water or Materials), Net Zero Energy Building Certification, or both. We have case studies for our certified projects available on our Certified Projects page.

How may projects are register with the Living Building Challenge?
As of May 15, 2014, more than 190 projects are currently in some phase of design, construction or operation. 

Why isn't combustion allowed?
Living Buildings are intended to be examples of the highest level of environmental performance currently possible. Though some combustion technologies have advanced to improve outputs and may serve as good transitional strategies, they do not represent the best energy solutions available.  Consider the ecosystem and human health impacts if everyone relied on combustion to meet their needs. Ours is the only species that deliberately burns things to make 'stuff', a process that produces gases that contribute to climate change and compromises air quality and onsite safety - even in its most efficient forms. In addition, once a combustion system is installed, it requires an ongoing source for fuel, but there is no certainty in a consistent supply or operation. By eliminating combustion, project teams are further motivated to account for the carrying capacity of the site and implement efficiency measures that reduce the amount of infrastructure necessary. Read more details in the Summer 2010 Issue of Trim Tab Magazine, page 52 "Burning Questions: Why Prometheus Was Wrong".

Projects that use combustion are still eligible for certification under the Living Building Challenge with Petal Certification.

How was the Red List developed?
The Materials Red List is intended to identify and eliminate the worst in class chemicals and materials from a human and ecological health standpoint (across the lifecycle) from the built environment. There are certainly many other items that also pose concerns, but these were evaluated from a perspective of the potential for the building industry itself to significantly curb if not eliminate items from manufacturing. The Institute worked with Healthy Building Network to identify the current Red List - you can find a wealth of information about different items on the List on their website

How much does it cost to build a Living Building compared to a "regular building"?
Of course, the answer depends on the building. The answer also depends on how cost and benefits of a building are identified. That said, the Institute conducted a Living Building Financial Study in 2009 to investigate the economic obstacles to creating Living Buildings, and determine how these vary based on building type and location. Read the Living Building Financial Study.

How does the Living Building Challenge interact with LEED®?
The Living Building Challenge was endorsed by both the US Green Building Council and the Canada Green Building Council in 2006, and the standard is in no way meant to compete with the LEED® Green Building Rating System, the USGBC or the CaGBC. The International Living Future Institute views the Living Building Challenge as an additional outlet to promote the goals set by the USGBC and CaGBC – it establishes a vision for a project’s environmental and social responsibilities from a new vantage point. It is our sincere hope that the ideas captured in the Living Building Challenge will influence program and project outcomes towards greater ecological benefit and that this standard provides additional unifying power for our organizations.

What is the Living Building Challenge's relationship with the Cascadia Green Building Council?
The Living Building Challenge is a program initially launched by the Cascadia Green Building Council (a chapter of both the US Green Building Council and Canada Green Building Council).  The International Living Building Institute was created of and by Cascadia in May 2009 to oversee the Living Building Challenge and its auxiliary programs. In April 2011, the International Living Building Institute was renamed the International Living Future Institute, and became the umbrella organization for both the Living Building Challenge and the Cascadia Green Building Council.

How do I get more involved with the Living Building Challenge?
If you're inspired by the Living Building Challenge and would like to help spread the word in your local community, we encourage you to visit the Take Action section of our website. This page serves as starting point for those eager to support our mission. Explore the Ambassador Network, which outlines the various ways those new to the Living Building Challenge can get more involved. If you're interested in exposing new audiences in your area to the restorative principles of the Living Building Challenge, please consider volunteering as a trained Ambassador Presenter or a Collaborative Facilitator of a local Living Building Challenge Collaborative. To fully experience the energy, inspiration and action behind the Living Building Challenge, The Institute and its global network of Ambassadors, nothing beats our annual unConference, Living Future.

We also suggest subscribing to Trim Tab, our free, quarterly online magazine, to keep up to date on the latest news and upcoming events involving the Living Building Challenge. Lastly, we encourage you to follow us on Twitter and Facebook to discover what the International Living Future Institute and its global Ambassador Network are doing to effect real change in the built environment.

What is the Ambassador Network and how can I participate?
The Ambassador Network is a volunteer engagement opportunity created and managed by the Institute. Its goal is to support the rapid and widespread adoption of restorative principles throughout the building industry using a unified and coherent voice guided by the Living Building Challenge. We recognize that the effort necessary to create a future that is Socially Just, Culturally Rich and Ecologically Restorative is both fundamental and enormous. The quality of the material aspects of our communities – the buildings, sidewalks, streets and parks – reflects our progress toward these goals. As each of us inhabits the built environment, each of us contributes to its physiology.  As it relates to the Living Building Challenge directly, volunteers in the Ambassador Network help broaden the Institute’s base of knowledge, connections and support; as an Ambassador Presenter, you are an essential contributor to the realization of the organization’s goals. The Institute's global Ambassador Network offers:

  • An array of opportunities for individuals to learn and take simple actions, ranging from online online discussion groups to tools for writing advocacy letters and platforms for displaying your creativity. A publicly accessible online network will encourage people around the world to connect, interact and share ideas, resources and strategies.
  • Training and support for individuals who wish to form Living Building Challenge Collaboratives, local groups focused on informal opportunities for education and action. Learn more about this role and apply to become a Collaborative Facilitator.
  • Training and support for presenters, individuals with advanced expertise, who wish to introduce their colleagues and peers to the Living Building Challenge. These volunteers will deliver informal, introductory presentations to local organizations, companies and community groups. Learn more about this role and apply to become an Ambassador Presenter.

Is the Living Building Challenge a competition?
No, Living Building Challenge is not a contest, but is named instead for its level of rigor. Projects can be certified as "Living" if they prove to meet all of the program requirements after 12 months of continued operations and full occupancy. It is also possible to achieve Petal Certification, or partial program certification, for achieving all of the requirements of at least three Petals when at least one of the following is included: Water, Energy and/or Materials.