International Living Future Institute’s (ILFI) Zero Carbon Standard 1.0


In 2018, ILFI’s Zero Carbon Certification was developed to directly address the building sector’s role in the global climate crisis. Zero Carbon Certification is a third-party verified standard to authenticate a project’s operational and embodied carbon emissions are neutralized. Performance requirements are specified for new and existing buildings and consider the following principles: Projects must first reduce, to the greatest extent possible, operational energy use and embodied carbon emissions associated with building materials and construction. A hundred percent of the operational energy use associated with a project must be offset by new on- or off-site renewable energy. A hundred percent of the project’s embodied carbon emissions associated with the construction and materials must be disclosed and offset.

Structural engineers play a crucial role in aiding the project team to achieve the net-zero embodied carbon portion of the ILFI’s Zero Carbon Certification. The certification requires an embodied carbon reduction of 10% for the project’s foundation, structure, and enclosure compared to a baseline building. The baseline building shall be of equivalent size, function, and energy performance. Early in the design phase, the design team should agree on which consultant should include the WBLCA for the baseline building in their scope. For additional information on developing the baseline building for a WBLCA, see “Whole Building Life Cycle Assessment: Reference Building Structure and Strategies” published by the ASCE SEI Sustainability Committee and the ILFI’s Zero Carbon Certification Handbook. In addition to the 10% reduction, the building’s total embodied carbon cannot exceed 500 kg CO2e/m2. Care should be taken to determine if embodied carbon calculations for wood products include or exclude biogenic carbon. Engineers will need to utilize embodied carbon reduction strategies and technologies in addition to measuring the structural embodied carbon through a LCA tool. By measuring and utilizing reduction strategies, the embodied carbon footprint can be reduced to the greatest extent possible and thereby minimize the cost of offsets from on-site carbon-sequestering materials or by a one-time purchase of carbon offsets from an ILFI approved source, to obtain net-zero.

ILFI. (2020). Zero Carbon Standard 1.0. Seattle, WA. Accessed June 30, 2021.

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