The International Living Future Institute (ILFI) has kicked off a new Net Zero Energy Building Certification program for residential and commercial projects—both new and existing—focused on energy conservation and controlling carbon emissions.

The program is linked to the Living Building Challenge, widely considered to be the world’s most stringent and progressive green building program. As with the Challenge, Net Zero certification is based on actual performance rather than modeled outcomes, so buildings must be operational for at least 12 consecutive months prior to evaluation.

Projects may register from anywhere in the world and nearly any project is eligible for consideration, according to ILFI. Projects that successfully complete the Living Building Challenge will automatically be certified under the new program, which requires that buildings address four imperatives:

  • Buildings may only be built on grayfields or brownfields—previously developed sites that are not classified as sensitive ecological habitats.

  • One hundred percent of the structure’s energy needs must be supplied by on-site renewable energy on a net annual basis. Renewable energy for the program is defined as passive solar, photovoltaics, wind turbines, solar thermal, direct geothermal, water-powered microturbines, or fuel cells powered by hydrogen generated from renewable-powered electrolysis.

  • The project may not block access to, nor diminish the quality of, fresh air, sunlight, and natural waterways to any member of society or adjacent developments.

  • The building must contain design features intended solely for human delight and the celebration of culture, spirit, and place appropriate to its function. Educational materials about the performance and operation of the building must be provided to the public to share successful solutions and to motivate others to make change.

As fossil fuel prices continue to rise and world population soars, the new certification will draw attention to the importance of energy independence in homes and buildings, says Jason McLennan, ILFI’s CEO.

“Third party verification of far-reaching goals like net-zero energy is critically important to their uptake,” he says. “Certification and the independent audits we provide are proof that environmental claims are real.”

For more information on the program, visit www.living-future.org/netzero