Zero Energy Certification

Zero Energy Certification Overview


Zero Energy Certification™ is a standard developed by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI or the Institute) that recognizes the highest levels of energy performance that built projects can achieve. Globally, buildings consume more than 36% of final energy, the majority of which is still produced using fossil fuels. This results in the building sector accounting for more than 37% of energy- and process-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions¹, which in turn have caused an alarming shift in global temperatures that imperil the human and natural worlds.

¹ Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction, 2022 Global Status Report (2022)


We envision a world of resilient, place-adapted buildings that create abundant, carbon-free energy for all.


The intent of the Zero Energy Certification program is to verify projects that demonstrate net zero energy performance based on actual, not modeled, performance in order to build an advanced cohort of projects with the integrity of third-party certification.


100% of the building’s energy needs on a net annual basis must be supplied by on-site renewable energy.

No combustion is allowed.


The scale of change we seek is immense. Unless we can articulate the vision and chart a clear path as a society, we will never experience the type of future that is possible and necessary for our long-term survival. What is required without delay is a complete reshaping of humanity’s relationship with nature and a realignment of our ecological footprint within the planet’s carrying capacity.

Over the last 30 years, green building has become the most critical and progressive trend in the building industry. There have been huge steps forward in the design, construction, and operation of buildings. Yet given the rate of change required to avoid the worst effects of climate change and other global environmental challenges, our progress can no longer move at a merely incremental pace but must accelerate radically.

We invite you to join us so that together we can continue to forge ahead on our path toward a Living Future.

The International Living Future Institute issues a challenge:

To all design professionals, contractors, building owners, and investors to radically transform the way we create the built environment and eliminate any negative impact on human and ecosystem health globally.

To all politicians and government officials to remove barriers to systemic change, and to realign incentives to truly protect the health, safety, and welfare of people and all beings.

To all of humanity to reconcile the built environment with the natural environment into a civilization that creates greater biodiversity, resilience, and opportunities for life with each adaptation and development.



Zero Energy Certification offers a valuable tool for organizations and owners to demonstrate a credible commitment to a clean energy future through their built projects.

Zero Energy Certification offers the following benefits:

Zero Energy Certification is a compelling and aspirational target that resonates with practitioners and the public alike. Zero Energy Certification projects are recognized as the building industry’s highest performing and most climate resilient. Zero Energy Certification provides organizations a platform to positively engage stakeholders seeking meaningful and verified climate action.

Zero Energy Certification projects are validated through a simple and elegant process to measure the achieved energy balance, rather than predicted outcomes. This certification process requires less paperwork and is more credible to publicly affirm your achievement. Zero Energy Certification is the only global building certification program to verify a net zero energy balance without the use of combustion; other certifications allow the use of fossil fuels or low-quality off-site renewable energy procurements.

Zero Energy Certification projects significantly reduce operational energy costs and typically result in higher-quality spaces that enhance occupant health and productivity. Zero Energy Certification projects are also net zero assets that will be exempt from future operational carbon fees or regulations. Together, these benefits result in higher annual cash flow and long-term asset value, making Zero Energy Certification buildings smarter and more resilient investments.



The Zero Energy Certification requirements reflect a simple concept of a project living within the carrying capacity of a site, utilizing only the energy resources available locally. The certification scope follows this idea by measuring only the energy consumed and produced within the Project Boundary. Project teams are not required to account for the additional complexities or losses associated with the regional energy infrastructure beyond the site.

Achievement of the Zero Energy Certification (ZE) requirements requires project teams to follow three key strategies:

Reduce operational energy use through design optimization, reduction of thermal demands, and the selection of highly efficient building systems and equipment;

Decarbonize all energy systems in the building through the elimination of combustion for all uses, such as heating, cooling, food preparation, and process demands; and

Offset all energy use associated with the project through the production of renewable energy, only after investments have been made in energy demand reduction.


The requirements of ZE can be applied to almost every conceivable building project, of any scale and in any location, be it a new building or an existing structure needing renovation. Zero Energy projects can be built in any climate zone anywhere in the world—as evidenced by the unique array of projects already certified or currently underway in many countries around the globe.


Net Zero Energy projects save money. Renewables are increasingly more accessible, and many cities and states offer renewable energy and energy efficiency rebates. Please visit this link for a comprehensive list of resources in the U.S.: Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency®.


For an overview of the Building Certification Process, please see this resource.

Please see this page for more information on registering your project. For more information or to schedule your one complimentary pre-registration meeting once you’ve reviewed the requirements, please contact

To see the ZE Handbook click here.