ILFI Building Certification Process

This document outlines the Building Certification Process including Registration, Project Development/Coaching Phase, Certification Rulings, and the Certification Ruling Appeal process for the International Living Future Institute’s (ILFI) building certification programs. This information pertains to projects pursuing ILFI’s Core Green Building Standard (Core), Living Building Challenge (LBC, including 3.0 and 3.1 projects), Zero Carbon (ZC), and Zero Energy (ZE). Registered projects will be given notice when ILFI updates any of the terms in this document (1). 


The first step of the process is for a team to register a project with ILFI. The registration date is important as a project is held to the requirements published in the Standard and Handbooks at the date of its registration. After a project has completed the registration process in the Portal, ILFI will issue an agreement for signature governing the complete certification process that contains the project’s fee schedule, ILFI’s services, and general expectations. Additional fees may apply for activities not explicitly covered by the registration agreement, such as administrative support to change certification pathways, additional ILFI support meetings, or consulting support.

Once the project team has signed the agreement and paid the registration invoice, ILFI will advance the application in the project’s Portal to the "Documentation Submission" stage. The project team should review the project’s Portal entries early on to ensure all information is accurate and up to date. Project teams are encouraged to review the project information quarterly and update it as needed. For LBC 4.0 and Core projects, project teams must complete the Submission Pathway form in the Portal to confirm their certification type and typology. This will allow the Portal to accurately reflect all the Imperatives being sought and the related requirements.

Each ILFI building program has a Standard that describes the vision and intent of the various Imperatives or fundamental requirements, as well as Handbooks that contain clarifications, exceptions, and definitions needed to fully understand program requirements and compliance options. Core, LBC 4.0, ZC, and ZE projects should rely on the online Handbooks, which are updated with clarifications and new exceptions each quarter and can be found via the Living Future Member Dashboard. Should a LBC 3.0 or 3.1 project team need access to the Handbooks, please reach out to Because these Handbooks are static PDFs, updates to LBC 3.0 and 3.1 requirements are only made through the online 3.x Handbook Updates.   


Registered projects are assigned an ILFI project coach who can help answer questions during different phases of the project. Project teams have the opportunity for three, 1-hour video calls with their designated coach. Project teams may also email the support inboxes for their selected programs for general clarifications. If project teams need support beyond the services outlined in the agreement, they can reach out to their coach about ILFI’s consulting services, such as reviewing technical documents to verify if a project’s approach is correct.

The project team must submit any Request for Ruling for pre-approval prior to submitting for Certification. Instances where a Request for Ruling form is required are found within the Handbooks. If project teams are uncertain about whether or not an action requires a Request for Ruling post after consulting the Handbook, they should confirm with a coach. 

Changing the Intended Certification after Registration

Registered project teams may change the intended Certification program or upgrade to a more recent version during the project development/coaching phase. The project team must sign a new agreement and consent to the current fee structure for the selected Certification. In addition, ILFI allows LBC 3.0 and 3.1 projects to “upgrade” up to two individual Petals to the requirements under LBC 4.0 before submitting for Certification. Project teams must update all Imperatives within the Petal; single Imperative upgrades are not permitted. A $250 administrative fee will be assessed for each Petal the project wishes to upgrade. LBC 3.0 and 3.1 project teams must communicate directly to to make these changes as early in the project as possible and must upgrade the Petals at the same time.


For ZE, ZC, Core and LBC 4.0 the audit process occurs in two parts and is performed by a third-party auditor (See Appendix A below for process overview). The Ready Audit takes place upon completion of construction and results in a “Ready” designation that may be used by the project to highlight progress towards the intended certification. The Final Audit occurs following a 12-month performance period with continuous occupancy. The Final Audit leads to a Final Certification Ruling. 

LBC 3.0 and 3.1 projects may certify with one audit, called a “Final Audit.” Teams may opt to add a Ready Audit prior to the Final Audit for an additional fee, and should contact if interested in this pathway. See Appendix C below for the process overview for a single audit. 

All teams submit project documentation through the Portal. The Portal will only display the documentation requirements required for either the Ready or Final Audit, depending on the project’s status. For 3.0 and 3.1 projects that had the option of a single audit, all fields will be shown at the time of submission. Once the project has uploaded all of the relevant audit documentation, clicking “Submit for Certification” will generate a request for the Certification invoice. Once the invoice is paid, ILFI will assign an auditor and the audit review can begin. 


On average, one audit cycle (Ready Audit or Final Audit) takes 55 business days, including the auditor review, Clarification Requests, and the Final Audit Determination. Clarification Requests allow the project team to resolve documentation issues or answer questions of concern before the auditor makes their determination for Ready designation or a Final Certification Ruling. The project team will have one month to respond to the auditor’s Clarification Requests, with up to two extensions by contacting After this time, the review will be closed out and the project will need to Appeal in order to complete the audit phase. 

Ready Audit

Once the project team has submitted their responses to the auditor, the auditor will issue their ruling on whether or not the project has achieved “Ready” designation.  If, based on the Auditor’s report, the project team has met all of the requirements for the Ready Audit, the project achieves “Ready” designation (e.g., LBC Petal Ready, ZE Ready). If a project does not receive Ready designation, a successful Appeal must occur in order for the project to continue to the Final Audit phase. 

Final Audit

The Final Audit will only proceed after Ready designation has been awarded and the project has completed the 12-month performance period. Some teams do need more time in order to get up to full occupancy or to commission equipment to demonstrate compliance. If this is the case, teams should contact to let ILFI know of the anticipated delay. 

The process and timing of the Final Audit are the same as that of the Ready Audit. Once the auditor determines the project team has met all of the requirements for Final Audit the project receives Certification. There is no recertification required for ILFI building programs. 

For Core and LBC projects, there will be a virtual site tour before the Certification decision is made. During the tour, the project team may need to answer additional clarification questions posed by the auditor. Virtual tours will be coordinated by ILFI at a time convenient to the project team and the auditor. Project teams must have access to a device with a quality camera and reliable Wi-Fi, and the auditor will need access to anything within the project boundary. Teams should ensure that knowledgeable parties are present for the tour to answer the auditor’s questions. Failure to provide access to all areas within the project boundary and/or failure to maintain a consistent, quality video connection may result in additional fees to cover the added staff and auditor time to reschedule the audit. At this time, ILFI no longer conducts in-person site audits. 

Projects registered prior to September 2020 who select a “single audit” at the time of registration (confirmed with project teams prior to submitting for Certification) have only a Final Audit. This process includes one Clarification Request from the auditor, response from the team to address deficiencies or provide clarification, and one Final Certification Ruling. 

Note: All precedent-setting questions must be addressed in writing via the Request for Ruling form or ILFI issued memo prior to submitting for Certification. Any unapproved alternative compliance pathways submitted for audit, will be denied and an appeal will be required to achieve Certification. Project teams that require a Request for Ruling from ILFI post-audit must pay for an expedited ruling from ILFI. If ILFI determines that the project has a valid approach and approves the project’s request, the team may proceed with an Appeal.

Certification Ruling Appeal Process

If the project team does not agree with the Certification Ruling (at the Ready Audit or Final Audit phases), the team must initiate the Certification Ruling Appeal within 15 business days of receiving the Final Certification Ruling. The project team can initiate the Appeal process by contacting with its intent to appeal the Ruling. After receiving a written request to appeal, ILFI will contact the project team to confirm the need for the appeal, the scope of review, anticipated timeline, and the availability of the auditor. ILFI will issue an Appeal agreement to be signed by ILFI and the project team. Upon receipt of a signed agreement, ILFI will issue an invoice to the project team for the Appeal fee; full payment must be received for the Appeal audit to commence.

Project teams have two months from the invoice issue date to provide updated documentation to ILFI via the Portal. If the reasons for certification denial relate to performance and the project team needs additional time to document compliance, ILFI will work with the team to establish a suitable timeline for the project to re-submit. See Appendix B below for process summary. 

What documentation must be included in the Appeal? 

The project team is responsible for uploading new or missing information and/or narrative justification of project compliance for review by the auditor.  

For LBC 3.0/3.1 Petal and 4.0 Petal projects, Imperatives that were not included in the original Certification review and have not been submitted for formal review as part of the original Certification application are not eligible for review through the Certification Ruling Appeal process. These Imperatives must be submitted for initial review as additional Imperatives/Petals. Contact to discuss the pricing and process for review of additional Imperatives/Petals. 

The project’s original submission documentation will be maintained in the Portal for the Auditor’s reference. A project may Appeal no more than twice for any Imperative after a Ready Audit or Final Audit Certification Ruling.

Cost of Appeal

Zero Energy: $2,000

Zero Carbon: $2,000 for Operational Energy Documentation Review/$2,000 for Embodied Carbon Documentation Review

Core/LBC: $2,000 per Imperative 

Cost of Request for Ruling Decisions During Audit

Core and LBC: $1,000 per Imperative

Zero Energy/Zero Carbon: $1,000 per documentation requirement.


          1. Projects participating in Volume and Pilot programs, under signed agreements, may have different pathways than those outlined in this document.
          2. A project is held to the requirements published in the Standard and Handbooks at the time of registration. Project teams may also apply clarifications and exceptions for the same program version issued or modified after the date of registration, at their discretion. It is the responsibility of the project team to call out the application of these program updates to the auditor. Project teams are not permitted to apply criteria or pathways from other programs or versions without confirmation, in writing, from ILFI. 
          3. The Portal, which is accessed on the Living Future Member Dashboard, is the platform used by project teams for registration, documentation submission, and audit coordination. 
          4. Effective September 1, 2022, Core, LBC 4.0, ZC, and ZE updates no longer appeared on the online Dialogue. Changes that are applicable to all projects will be published in quarterly Handbook updates (January 15, April 15, July 15, and October 15). Changes applicable to legacy 3.x projects and earlier will appear in the online 3.x Handbook Updates.
          5. Effective April 1, 2023, all projects must sign a pre-certification agreement.
          6. A project’s certification level can change from Living to Petal and from Petal to Core based on the final Imperatives awarded by the auditor.


  1. Deviations may occur due to ILFI vacation schedules, high volume certification periods. ILFI will advise projects in advance of any anticipated scheduling challenges.
  2. A team may request two extensions, up to 90 days.


  1. Deviations may occur due to ILFI vacation schedules, high volume certification periods. ILFI will advise projects in advance of any anticipated scheduling challenges.
  2. A team may request two extensions, up to 90 days.

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