News Brief

New Zero Energy Certification Powered by ILFI and NBI

Focused solely on net-zero-energy performance, the new certification aims to distinguish projects that verify outcomes with actual data.

June 20, 2017

EPA building that is LBC Energy Petal certified

This Environmental Protection Agency Building on the island of Tutuila, American Samoa, became LBC Energy Petal certified. Future projects will be able to choose between Zero Energy Certified and full petal certification. 

Photo: The American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency
As more projects started claiming “net-zero-energy design” without having actual performance data to back them up, a certification and a certifying agency became needed. International Living Future Institute (ILFI) and New Buildings Institute (NBI) have now teamed up to fill this gap and accelerate the net-zero-energy trend.

Earlier in 2017, ILFI took efforts to make its Living Building Challenge (LBC) net zero energy certification more approachable.  It removed the requirement that projects would also demonstrate compliance with LBC’s Limits to Growth, Beauty, and Education imperatives and eliminated the site visit, in order to reduce costs.

With the most recent collaboration, ILFI will continue to administer that certification—now named the Zero Energy Building Certification—and NBI, which has been verifying energy data from net-zero-energy projects for years, will act as auditor. The set up ensures that there’s a third-party certifier, independent from ILFI.

The certification requires projects to submit twelve consecutive months of net-zero-energy performance data.

Projects using onsite combustion, such as wood pellet boilers, aren’t eligible—a position taken by ILFI based on the argument that burning wood releases too much carbon dioxide into our already overburdened atmosphere.

Note that this new offering doesn’t affect the similar Living Building Challenge Energy Petal certification. That certification is more demanding in some ways: it does require that teams achieve additional imperatives, sets a higher “net positive” energy standard, and requires some onsite energy storage for resiliency. It is also more flexible, however, thanks to recent rulings that allow for contributions from off-site energy under certain conditions.

While joining forces to certify net-zero-energy projects, ILFI and NBI also agreed to a common questionnaire for developing case studies, which has been incorporated, as an optional section, into the documentation requirements for the Zero Energy Building Certification. Case studies sourced this way will all be entered into NBI’s database.  

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