Zero Carbon Certification

Zero carbon Certification Overview


The ILFI Zero Carbon Certification is the first worldwide Zero Carbon third-party certified standard. This program recognizes the growing interest and focus on a broad-based tool for highlighting highly energy efficient buildings which are designed and operated to fully account for their carbon emissions impacts.


ILFI Zero Carbon Standard

Requirements for certification


Projects must demonstrate actual net zero carbon operations based on a twelve-month performance period, during which time the project must be occupied consistently with its stated use. The total embodied carbon emissions of the final construction materials and processes associated with the project must be disclosed and accounted for through the procurement of equivalent carbon offsets. New projects must demonstrate a reduction in the embodied carbon of primary materials compared to an equivalent baseline. Complete requirements are outlined below.

Energy Efficiency

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:

New Buildings
25% reduction of energy use intensity (EUI) from an equivalent new building that would comply with ASHRAE 90.1-2010.
EXISTING BUILDINGS30% reduction of EUI from a typical existing building of an equivalent type, size, and location.

Detailed information is covered in the Zero Carbon Handbook available through the membership dashboard.

Projects in the United Arab Emirates may refer to this table for specific efficiency targets for hotels and hotel apartments, resorts, schools, and malls.

Fuel Types

New projects shall not include combustion. 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 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.

Calculating Embodied Carbon

Project teams shall calculate the total embodied carbon emissions of the project by using an approved life-cycle assessment (LCA) tool. Calculations should list the estimated carbon impact of each of the final construction materials and processes associated with the foundation, structure, enclosure and interior the project. All projects should use a standard 50-year lifespan when calculating embodied carbon for consistency and to ensure buildings with longer lifespans are not penalized for the carbon impacts of replacing materials over time.

The Institute has identified the following carbon calculators for use by project teams:

Reduction of Embodied Carbon

New projects must demonstrate a reduction of the embodied carbon of the primary materials utilized within the project scope, compared to an equivalent baseline. Teams should identify specific actions that were taken during design and construction to reduce embodied carbon, such as incorporating carbon as a selection criterion for materials and assemblies, sourcing of local products, or adoption of low carbon assembly practices during construction.

Through the process defined above, the project team must demonstrate the following:

  1. The embodied carbon emissions impact of the primary materials of the foundation, structure, and enclosure have been reduced by a minimum of 10%, compared to baseline scenario with equivalent material types, function and energy performance.
  2. The total embodied carbon emissions of the project must not exceed 500 kg-CO₂e/m².

Purchasing of Carbon Offsets

One-time carbon offsets must be secured that are equivalent to the total embodied carbon emissions associated with the project scope. Acceptable forms of carbon offsets include Certified Emission Reduction (CER) and Verified Emission Reduction (VER) carbon credits; Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) are not acceptable.

Carbon offsets must be certified by Green-e Climate (, or an equivalent program. Other certification programs must be submitted to the Dialogue for approval.

Carbon offsets may also be generated anywhere in the world; offsets do not have to be local, although local or community-based solutions that provide additional socioeconomic benefits are encouraged.


  1. New projects are defined as a project where design development commenced after the date of the creation of the Standard: April 10th, 2018
  2. Defined as a project where design development commenced before the date of the creation of the Standard – April 10th, 2018
  3. For large portfolio or district-based customers, the reduction may be an average across the portfolio.
  4. As established by Zero Tool (, 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.

How the certification process works

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. Visit our PROJECT REGISTRATION DETAILS page to learn more about the program fees, service benefits, and registration process.

2. Documentation

Once registered, a project team can begin organizing and submitting documentation on the ILFI online certification platform. Upon completion of construction, documentation will be collected for the preliminary Ready Audit. Once twelve consecutive months of performance data is collected to demonstrate a project achieves net zero carbon, submission of documentation for the Final Audit can begin.

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.



guidance Docutments

Online Curriculum