Zero Energy Certification

Zero Energy Certification

  1. Earlier this year, ILFI and New Buildings Institute (NBI) formed a partnership streamline the certification of and database for zero energy (ZE) buildings, to create broader market adoption, codification, and standardization of ZE technologies in everyday buildings. In addition, NBI and ILFI have set a common protocol for certification and case studies. The new, streamlined process will provide the buildings industry—design teams, owners, operators and others—with needed clarity on the standards for zero energy performance using data-driven outcomes for validation. ILFI will also add emerging ZE projects currently pursuing the Living Building Challenge to the NBI’s database, creating a broad cohort of leading edge projects worldwide.The partnership builds on the strengths of each organization, and the end result will be one seamless system for tracking, registering, certifying, and evaluating the burgeoning zero energy movement.  Within this collaboration, ILFI will continue as administrator of the Zero Energy Building Certification, while NBI will act as lead certification auditor as well as administrator of the Getting to Zero database.
  2.    Zero Energy Certification is Simplified and ready for the mainstream.

We’ve substantially simplified our Zero Energy Building Certification program so you can take your project to the finish line. Here’s what we’ve done:

  • Save You Time and Money: The streamlined Zero Energy Certification process and Documentation Requirements reduce the barrier to entry and will help you save time and cost. Performance information is clearer and more straightforward.
  • Sole Focus on Energy Performance: The Certification process takes you directly to the heart of the matter: net zero energy performance. Previous requirements included the Living Building Challenge Imperatives: Limits to Growth, Beauty, and Inspiration and Education, have been removed.
  • Refined and Shortened Process: The previously required auditor site visit no longer applies, but the Certification still maintains the integrity of a third-party, complete review of actual zero energy performance.

Zero Energy Certification continues to require 12 consecutive months of zero energy performance for a project, without the use of onsite combustion (note that there are several exceptions to the combustion limitation).

You’ll enjoy the credibility provided by third-party certification of real net zero energy performance from one of the most valued sources for sustainability. You’ll also join a community of the people behind the world’s most efficient, carbon neutral buildings.


2. Revised Reveal Label: Clearer, expanded content, and now a verification tool for the 2030 Challenge.

Some of the most efficient buildings in the world, reducing their energy use by as much as 90% from average, go unnoticed. Reveal highlights these buildings’ performance with an elegant label, and third-party verification.

The Reveal label is updated with a wider array of metrics, including Energy Use Intensity (EUI), the Zero Energy Performance Index, and reduction in energy use from baseline. The new Reveal label is a simple and sophisticated tool for building owners to demonstrate their high-performance buildings.

We are collaborating with Architecture 2030, so the new label shows if the project meets 2030 Challenge reduction levels. We now also use Architecture 2030’s Zero Tool database to determine energy use reduction for your Reveal label. Zero Tool is sourced from the original 2030 Challenge energy use databases and allows for one standardized, unchanging baseline to create a consistent narrative of performance improvement over time.

We are also working with the New Buildings Institute to include the Zero Energy Performance Index, now being used by the International Green Construction Code and other jurisdictions.


  1. New Energy Petal and Zero Energy Building Certification exception allowing offsite renewables in specific cases.

There are three specific circumstances where net zero energy performance is not feasible:

  • Buildings which have either a very high energy intensity or project density, where even with the highest levels of efficiency are not able to offset their energy use on site;
  • Tenant improvements, where the project owner does not control the exterior of the building and energy production is not feasible; and
  • Certain areas where the local grid cannot accommodate the renewables created by the project.

We have worked with several potential projects where these circumstances apply and believe that there needs to be a pathway for project teams to strive to achieve the highest in energy performance within these limitations. As a result, we now offer a new exception  that broadens the range of projects that can be certified. This new pathway still maintains the very highest aspiration and rigor, at a level similar to other Energy Petal and Zero Energy Building Certified projects.

Left: David & Lucille Packard Foundation Headquarters Right: Ideas Z2 Design Facility (Image 2 of 2)
Left: David & Lucille Packard Foundation Headquarters Right: Ideas Z2 Design Facility (Image 2 of 2) Left: David & Lucille Packard Foundation Headquarters Right: Ideas Z2 Design Facility

When you register your building, you’ll gain access to a variety of support resources along with the opportunity to connect with industry leaders from around the world.

Registration Fee: $900 (USD)

What’s Included with Registration?
• Access to the Living Building Challenge Community Dialogue, official venue to request feedback on proposed strategies for meeting the strategies for meeting certification requirements.
• Monthly Project Team Calls
• Access to the Living Future Network, a global community of industry leaders.
• Recognition as a Living Building Challenge or Zero Energy Building registered project.

Prior to the end of 2017, existing, occupied projects which are performing at Zero Energy and are ready to certify with complete documentation and performance data will have their registration fee waived.

Contact ZE.SUPPORT@LIVING-FUTURE.ORG to register your project. ILFI Premium Membership ($150 USD) is required to proceed with registration.

Once registered, a project team can begin organizing and submitting documentation.

Once you have twelve consecutive months of performance data demonstrating your project achieves net zero energy, you are eligible to submit your project for certification. Living Building Challenge Certification Staff will help you coordinate your audit. Our team will ensure that your documentation is complete before passing them off to an independent third-party auditor for review.

At the time of submittal for certification, prior to the commencement of the audit, certification fees are also paid. Certification fees are as follows:


Single Family Residential $1,250
Commercial, Institutional and Multi-family Residential $2,000

Proven Performance: Net Zero Energy Building Certification™ is based on actual performance data and not an energy model, so it verifies that your building is performing as you’d expect.

Amplify Your Story:  ILFI certification brings your project into the larger net zero ecosystem. Let us amplify the story of your project to the world.

Design for the future: Build something that is meant to last. Net zero energy buildings are much more resilient and a hedge against increasing fuel costs and uncertainty.

Contact ZE.SUPPORT@LIVING-FUTURE.ORG to register your project.

We’re here to help. We often create fee-for-service, customized technical assistance packages to match a project’s needs during the design phases.

Premium Options for Project Teams:
• Consulting
• Charrettes
• Technical Consulting with LBC Staff

+ View Technical Assistance Options

Additional details, clarifications, and exceptions to certification requirements can be seen in the Energy Petal Handbook, available for purchase.

+ Zero Energy Building FAQ

Contact ZE.SUPPORT@LIVING-FUTURE.ORG to answer any questions you may have. 


Net Zero Energy projects save money. Renewables are increasingly more accessible, and many cities now offer subsidies or rebates for buildings that are powered by solar. Here are a few areas that we work with:

For a more comprehensive list of renewable energy and energy efficiency rebates by state, please visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency®.

Contact ZE.SUPPORT@LIVING-FUTURE.ORG to register your project.