Zero Carbon Certification

Zero Carbon Certification

The ILFI Zero Carbon Certification is the first worldwide Zero Carbon third-party certified standard.  It recognizes the growing interest and focus on a broad-based tool for highlighting highly efficient buildings which offset their energy use, regardless of location of renewables, as well as accommodating previously-built combustion-based infrastructure.

The ILFI Zero Carbon Standard is as follows:

One hundred percent of the project’s energy use must be offset by on- or off-site renewable energy on a net annual basis. Projects must achieve a high level of energy efficiency as established by the ILFI. New projects may not include combustion.

During a one-year performance period, buildings must achieve a targeted energy efficiency level.  Existing projects may use any type of energy, including those that are combustion based.  One hundred percent of the project’s energy use must be offset by on- or off-site renewable energy on a net annual basis.  The project must provide offsetting renewables which have the equivalent of 15 years of project power, provide additionality, and have durable ownership integrity associated with the project.  Complete requirements are outlined below.

1. Registration

Registering your project signals your intent to build and certify your project as zero carbon. Projects are encouraged to register as early in the development/occupancy process as possible. 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. Registering your project requires an ILFI Premium Membership ($150), as well as a $250 registration fee.

  • Access to the Living Building Challenge Community Dialogue, the official venue to request feedback on proposed strategies for meeting certification requirements.
  • Monthly Project Team Calls.
  • Access to the Living Future Network, a global community of industry leaders.
  • Recognition as a Zero Carbon Building registered project.
Register Your Project

2. Documentation

Once registered, a project team can begin organizing and submitting documentation on the ILFI online platform. Once you have twelve consecutive months of performance data demonstrating your project achieves net zero carbon, you are eligible to complete the submission of your project for audit and certification.

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 $1250

Commercial, Institutional and Multi-family Residential. $2000

3. Audit

Once your documentation is uploaded, Living Building Challenge Certification Staff will review it to ensure that it is complete, before passing it off to an independent third-party auditor for review.

4. Certification

If the auditor determines the project performs at zero carbon and meets ILFI requirements, it will be certified. A beautiful offset print certification document or a stainless glass plaque are also available for purchase.

One hundred percent of the project’s energy use must be offset by on- or off-site renewable energy on a net annual basis. Projects must achieve a high level of energy efficiency as established by the ILFI. New projects may not include combustion.


Projects must demonstrate actual net zero carbon performance based on a twelve month performance period, during which the project must be occupied as its stated occupancy.


During the twelve month performance period, projects must perform at an established efficiency target. If the project is located in an area where a zero carbon efficiency target has been locally established by a governing authority, it must achieve that target. If there is no local target, the project shall achieve one of the targets established in the following table:

Fuel Types

New projects shall not include combustion5. Any fuel type used by existing projects is acceptable, including natural gas. The volume of all forms of energy used by the building during the performance period shall be converted to a kilowatt hour equivalent to determine efficiency performance target and required offset.


Offsetting renewables may either be on- or off-site.

Renewables shall meet the following criteria:

  1. They shall provide additional renewables to the grid; i.e., not be existing renewables.
  2. There shall be a durable ownership interest in the renewable production which is identifiable and assigned to the project.
  3. Renewable Energy Credits must be retained, unless allowed by Exception I06-E10 4/2015 – Government REC Sales.
  4. Acceptable forms of ownership interest in offsite renewables include (so long as they meet items 1), 2) and 3)): Outright ownership; Power purchase agreement; Community Solar; Renewable Energy Investment Fund; Other forms approved by the ILFI which are consistent with the intent of the certification. RECs are not an acceptable form of ownership.
  5. Directly owned renewables. Any directly owned renewables (on- or -off site) must operate during the performance period, and be metered to demonstrate output.
  6. Non-directly owned renewables. For renewables that are not directly owned, the output quantity must be contractually guaranteed by the provider. The renewable output does not need to match the performance period, but the volume of the renewable electrical output at the renewables’ site shall be equal to 15 years of energy use of the project during its performance period. This volume may vary in actual term length so long as the volume is achieved; i.e. a project may purchase a 15 year contract with an annual volume equal to the energy demand of the project, or a contract with renewables equal to 15 times its annual energy use for a one year period, or some other equivalent combination.


[1] Defined as a project where design development commenced after the date of the creation of the Standard – 4/10/2018

[2] Defined as a project where design development commenced before the date of the creation of the Standard – 4/10/2018

[3] For large portfolio or district-based customers, reduction may be an average across the portfolio.

[4], which uses CBECS 2003 as a core database. This database is US-based; alternate databases for non-US countries should be proposed by project teams. Project teams may also propose alternative baselines that better reflect local building geographies and/or details.

[5] New projects may connect to combustion-based district energy systems, so long as there is a phase-out plan for transitioning the district system to eliminate combustion.


Providing a new performance pathway situated between Reveal and the Zero Energy Certification, the Zero Carbon Certification provides greater flexibility around project fuel types and placement of offsetting renewables. The ILFI has a range of certifications which are accelerating a renewably powered, fossil fuel free future. The attributes of each are as follows:

Zero Energy certification

Living and Petal certification