News Analysis

Volume Program Released with Living Building Challenge 4.0

Several organizations have already committed to piloting the new program, which aims to streamline documentation and auditing.

King County, Washington North utility site

King County’s North Utility Maintenance Shop retrofit has already achieved Zero Energy certification, one of at least ten that will seek certification through ILFI programs.

Photo: King County, Washington
When you think of the Living Building Challenge (LBC), what image pops into your head? A nature center, perhaps, or the headquarters of an environmental nonprofit? Probably not a bus station—but that could change in the near future.

The new volume program offered by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI)—a way of certifying several buildings under the same framework— is still in the pilot phase, but several organizations have already committed to pursuing it. These include the BLOCK Project; Community REBuilds; Google; King County, Washington; Kingspan; PCC Community Markets; and Salesforce. The program applies to all ILFI certifications, including Zero Energy, Core, and LBC, and it’s attracting some unusual project types.

Solar-powered manufacturing

“Next year, we’ll be 100% net-zero-energy at all of our facilities,” said Brent Trenga, building technology director at Kingspan, an insulated panel manufacturer that has committed to Zero Energy certification for several of its manufacturing facilities. Kingspan is also looking into Zero Carbon. The volume program “is very much in line with our strategy,” said Trenga, who added that having a globally recognized third-party certification is vital to establish credibility.

ILFI will work directly with organizations, providing technical guidance and helping them develop pathways to compliance in different categories; these pathways can then be pursued across an entire portfolio. Trenga said this would create economies of scale. “The amount of time and energy it would take to get an individual project certified, and then have to start that process all over again” doesn’t make sense for Kingspan, he said. The company is starting with three projects—its headquarters outside Dublin, its U.S. headquarters in Florida, and a California manufacturing site. “We are looking forward to doing more projects with the same framework and the same guidance,” said Trenga.

A new meaning for “public works”

King County, Washington, is building or renovating a lot of public works projects in the next few years. And at least ten of them will be certified to Zero Energy or LBC. “This is part of our goal of being carbon neutral for capital projects by 2030,” explained Nori Catabay, project program manager for King County. Because of the large number of projects it’s planning, the County has committed to volume certification through ILFI.

These are not your typical LBC buildings. They range from an office and fabrication shop for a wastewater treatment plant, to a transit station, to affordable housing—even an 80,000-square-foot waste transfer and recycling station. Some are going for Zero Energy, others for Energy Petal certification, and still others for full LBC certification. One project is already there: the North Utility Maintenance Shop retrofit achieved Zero Energy certification earlier this year by producing 25% more power than it uses.

In the spirit of LBC, even the projects going for Zero Energy certification are looking at issues beyond energy, said Catabay. “We’re not just looking at emissions targets and environmental impact, but also looking at how we’re integrating equity and social justice,” she told BuildingGreen. “All these projects are trying to implement a holistic triple-bottom-line approach.

Catabay reinforced Trenga’s comments about economies of scale. Volume certification “is more cost effective because there are some financial efficiencies there,” she said. The process will also just be simpler—both for the County and for ILFI. “Our approach to some of the imperatives is going to be identical for each project,” she noted. With mutual agreements about which approaches will achieve the intent of which imperatives, things will go more smoothly all around.

A more evolved market

The benefits of volume certification come on top of other changes that should make certification under LBC 4.0 more accessible, such as streamlined documentation requirements and more options for complying with certain imperatives. In addition, the marketplace has evolved, providing many more sophisticated technologies and Red List-free products than in the early days of LBC. Taken together, these changes are leading more owners to seriously consider full or petal LBC certification.

Both Catabay and Trenga agreed that it’s time to step up and take a leadership role.

“It’s important that we take a proactive approach in getting other companies to take the lead and go down the same path,” said Trenga. “If we can share successes and failures so others don’t have to repeat the learning curve, we can scale this movement.”

For more information:

International Living Future Institute


Published June 3, 2019

Melton, P. (2019, June 3). Volume Program Released with Living Building Challenge 4.0. Retrieved from

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