Policy & Advocacy

Policy & Advocacy

Transforming Policy

Innovation and new ideas run counter to the conventional, and as a result there is often a systemic resistance to early adopters. Yet, the serious problems of climate change, ecological system health, biodiversity loss, accumulated toxins in the environment, food, air, and water, as well as social inequities and depletion of cultural heritage demand bold action. Our world requires a newfound sense of urgency among policymakers and practitioners alike. This is where you come in.


Our task as advocates is to inspire policy officials, utilities, community leaders and decision makers to replace regulatory barriers with leadership and implement policy initiatives that make it easier, rather than harder, for truly green building.

The Institute’s primary policy focus is two-fold—we intend to remove code barriers that impede the creation of a Living Future, and we intend to create incentives and other leverage points for those who pursue our programs. To this end, we have developed a list of policy priorities; issues on which we lead and efforts that we support when our partners lead. To accomplish all of these goals would be impossible without a network of partner organizations and thousands of dedicated volunteers scattered around the world. Luckily, we have both.

Our policy agenda includes the following priorities:

  • Incentivize or require the development of buildings and communities that pursue the Living Building Challenge, Living Community Challenge, Core Green Building Certification, Zero Energy, and/or Zero Carbon certification (see the Toolkit for Policy Leadership for more information).
  • Eliminate combustion-based fuels in the built environment and incentivize the rapid decarbonization of new buildings by 2030 and existing buildings by 2050 by:
    • Improve energy codes and provide efficiency incentives
    • Incentivizing low embodied carbon materials
    • Requiring and incentivizing renewable energy (e.g. passive solar, photovoltaics, solar thermal, wind turbines, water-powered micro-turbines, direct geothermal or fuel cells powered by hydrogen generated from renewably powered electrolysis)
    • Requiring benchmarking of building energy usage and promoting the use of the Reveal label
  • Remove code barriers to on-site water treatment and reuse without the use of chemicals, using the Risk-Based Framework[1] as a guide. Additionally:
    • Reduce or remove utility fees for projects that do not use municipal systems
    • Improve building codes and provide water efficiency incentives
    • Require and incentivize on-site stormwater management, particularly in combined sewer systems
  • Implement transparency requirements and incentives to create markets that reward energy performance (Reveal), organizational social responsibility (Just); and material performance (Declare)
  • Remove requirements for Red List ingredients – worst in class toxins – in building codes (e.g. PVC in electrical cabling), and not only allow, but encourage Red List compliant materials by:
    • Applying the Precautionary Principle to material procurement
    • Incentivizing and requiring the use of responsible forestry (FSC) wood, which addresses the health of forests, habitat, watersheds, community stakeholder input, and human health
  • Provide additional scoring in competitive funding applications for affordable housing project teams that commit to ILFI’s programs, increasing their ability to achieve funding from state housing finance authorities
    • For example, state housing finance agencies’ Qualified Allocation Plans

The Institute’s advocacy efforts have already resulted in policy and code changes at the local, state, and national level, but to achieve the momentum required will take a team of us working together to engage and influence regulators, policy makers, industry representatives and community partners.


Explore the links below to become involved and learn about an exemplary policy that should be adopted where you are!

Do you decide policy in your jurisdiction or would you like to get involved? Be a policy leader and propose or adopt regulation that supports a Living Future using our Toolkit for Policy Leadership.

Would you like to support local change? Advocate with your local Collaborative.

Do you believe that change is needed? Join a community of leaders and become an Institute member.

Are you interested in supporting our mission? Become a sponsor.

Are you already working on one of the issues above? Contact us at advocacy@living-future.org.

[1] Adopted by the 30 public health officials leading the Blue Ribbon Commission for Onsite Non-Potable Water Systems

Tools & Resources

We invite you to review our collection of online tools and resources to aid our policy work around the globe. We have designed this information with our local volunteers, however we welcome everyone in our network to use it to support a Living Future, wherever you are. We will add more resources to this section as they are developed.

online curriculum

Pittsburgh Beacon Project

Assessment of Policies Related to Living Buildings and Sustainable Development

This report documents at a high level those relevant policies, codes, programs, and incentives that help shape the regenerative building landscape in the City of Pittsburgh. The hope is to provide a document for those working toward a more regenerative future to understand the effect of policy on the ability to achieve that future, and, more specifically, to understand where existing policy is helping or hindering regenerative practices. This analysis of the existing policy landscape is necessary in understanding how policy might be changed or better deployed to help achieve the climate, health, culture, and equity goals of the Living Building Challenge.

Policy LEadership Toolkit

The Toolkit for Policy Leadership includes a Model Incentive Ordinance and Model Municipal Commitment for our volunteers to use as they work with their local governments to create incentives for Living Buildings and Living Communities.

To request the native Word Document template for the Model Incentive Ordinance, please fill out this form.

Advocacy Tools


The Water Policy Guide is an advocacy resource focused on net positive water. We know from Living Building Challenge teams that water regulations make it difficult for projects to utilize resilient, integrated systems. Thanks to the generous support of The Kresge Foundation, this document includes our assessment of existing regulations in the United States, highlights current policy precedents and calls for 3 critical policy changes. We hope to continue this research across our global network to ensure that all water is used and re-used as a precious resource in all of our buildings and communities.

Case Studies

Though designing a net positive water system can be complicated, it’s the permitting of the system that is often the most challenging aspect for project teams. These 20 water policy case studies document the regulatory successes achieved by several project teams and regulators around the country. Their accomplishments are crucial steps forward in the story of restorative integrated water management. Their lessons learned can assist future projects in their own regulatory partnerships.


We are asking partners, peers and community members to self-report their knowledge of barriers and pathways to next generation water systems. These are systems where the use of water, nutrients and energy resources are optimized to provide for the needs of people and watersheds. This includes water conservation, rainwater harvesting and the onsite treatment and reuse of graywater and blackwater.

Recode, International Living Future Institute, and Oregon Environmental Council are currently funded by the Rosin Fund of the Scherman Foundation to identify and break down barriers in Washington, Oregon, and California. Onsite Water Reuse Permit Pathways maps (see below) are a tool to visually identify sticking points in the existing permit pathways for each of the systems mentioned above, at various governmental levels. By completing a permit map for a jurisdiction where you’re already working, you will provide a resource for countless other project teams and help us identify critical leverage points to ease future permitting challenges.

In the first phase of permit mapping, we hope to map 20 jurisdictions and lift permitting barriers in at least one permit pathway in three jurisdictions. This will benefit both regulators and the building industry. Additionally, these maps will help our team and all of us in understanding where the biggest barriers in the process exist, so we can all work more strategically.


  1. If you’re interested in creating a permit map, please email advocacy@living-future.org with your commitment and the jurisdiction you plan to work in.
  2. Refer to the guidance document, attached below for an overview of how to research codes and regulations and how to help us create a water permit map.
  3. Complete the attached spreadsheet, which will allow us to create a permit map from your experience. Please let us know how you’d like to be identified for recognition as a Founding Contributor of this resource on both the ILFI and Recode websites and let us know how we can support your project or jurisdiction in this work. We are still looking for three to five pilot projects where we can break down barriers.