ILFI Building Certification Process

Updated April 5, 2024

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, including Living Building Challenge (LBC), Zero Energy CertificationTM (ZE), and Zero Carbon CertificationTM (ZC). 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 at the date of its registration.2 After a project has completed the registration process in the Portal, ILFI will issue the registration invoice. Once paid, ILFI will advance the application to the "Documentation Submission" stage. The project team should review the project’s portal early on to ensure all information is accurate and up to date and update it through the construction process as needed. For LBC 4.0 and 4.1 projects (including Petal 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.

On April 4, 2024, ILFI released our newest certification program updates, including LBC 4.1, ZE 1.1, and ZC 1.1. These programs, as well as the LBC 4.0, Core Green Building 1.0, and ZE and ZC 1.0, all have manuals that are available via ILFI’s website and the Living Future Member Dashboard.3 If a LBC 3.0 or 3.1 project team needs 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 provided access to ILFI technical support to help answer questions during different project phases. Project teams can have three 1-hour video calls with the support team. 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 contact the support inboxes for additional information about ILFI’s additional support services. 

The project team must submit any Request for Ruling for pre-approval before submitting for Certification. Instances where a Request for Ruling form is required are found within the Handbooks/Program Manuals. If project teams are uncertain whether an action requires a Request for Ruling post after consulting the Handbook, they should confirm with the support team For projects registered after March 1, 2024, your Request for Rulings will be tracked and uploaded automatically to the Portal. 

Changing the Intended Certification after Registration

Our program fees are non-refundable and non-transferable, except if registered project teams want to change their intended certification program for a registered project or upgrade that project to a more recent version of the standard. This change must be made before the certification invoice is issued. The team may switch building programs (so LBC, Core, ZC, or ZE), and previously paid program fees may be credited (less a $250 administrative fee payable via credit card if applicable). Teams must complete a new application in the Portal for the appropriate program and move any relevant documentation to the new program Portal. Teams will not receive additional technical support services on top of their initial registration allowance, but they may purchase additional technical support check-in meetings or consulting services as needed. 

Per previous notices, any legacy LBC 3.0 and 3.1 projects may “upgrade” up to two individual Petals to the requirements under LBC 4.0 of before submitting for Certification. Project teams must update all Imperatives within the Petal; single Imperative upgrades are prohibited. 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 upgrade the Petals simultaneously.

With the new program launch on April 4th, 2024, there will be a transition period for new projects to register for either the current version of a selected program or for registered projects to upgrade to their new version while preserving their fees. The project must make this change by June 30, 2024.


The audit process occurs in two parts and is performed by a third-party auditor (See Appendix A 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 toward 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 be certified with one audit, called a “Final Audit.” Teams may opt to add a Ready Audit before the Final Audit for an additional fee, and they should contact if they are interested in this pathway. See Appendix C 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 with 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 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 for the project to continue to the Final Audit phase. 

Final Audit

The Final Audit will only proceed after the Ready designation has been awarded and the project has completed the 12-month performance period. Some teams need more time to get up to full occupancy or commission equipment to demonstrate compliance. If this is the case, teams should contact to inform ILFI 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 the Final Audit, the project receives Certification.5 No recertification is 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. ILFI will coordinate virtual tours 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 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 before September 2020 that selected 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, a 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 before 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 the intent of appealing 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, the 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 before the appeal audit can 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 for the 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. 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.
  4. Effective April 1, 2023, all projects must sign a pre-certification agreement.
  5. 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.
  6. Deviations may occur due to ILFI vacation schedules, high volume certification periods. ILFI will advise projects in advance of any anticipated scheduling challenges.
  7. A team may request two extensions, up to 90 days.
  8. Deviations may occur due to ILFI vacation schedules, high volume certification periods. ILFI will advise projects in advance of any anticipated scheduling challenges.
  9. A team may request two extensions, up to 90 days.

Still need help? Contact Us Contact Us