Living Building Challenge Requirements - Clarifications & FAQs

In This Article:

General Program Requirements - transect, typology, project area, and more

  • Is Core and Shell a pathway in the Living Building Challenge?
    Core and Shell projects are not eligible for certification under the Living Building Challenge. For a core and shell building to be eligible for certification under the Building Typology, it must be 85% occupied, and all materials must be tracked for all occupied spaces. Alternatively, all tenants within the core and shell project may register and certify separately; such projects would exclude core and shell materials, but would include any materials added in the scope of the tenant improvement.
  • RE: Building vs. Renovation Typology
    The main difference between a project being classified as Building Typology rather than Renovation Typology is that a "Building" is a project that both occupies more than 75% of the building AND modifies either the envelope or the HVAC system.

    - Projects that occupy less than 75% of an existing structure are Renovation Typology regardless of whether building envelope or HVAC are altered.
    - Projects that occupy more than 75% of an existing structure, but do not alter the building envelope or HVAC system, are Renovation Typology.

    Examples of modifications that are not considered "altering the building envelope or HVAC" include:
    - Adding exterior shading
    - Adding small systems within the TI space, such as VRF distribution units or additional ventilation when connected to existing HVAC unit
  • RE: 12-month performance period requirement for Petal Certification if Water, Energy, and Health Petals are not sought
    If the project is not attempting Water, Energy, or Health Petals, then a 12-month performance period is not required.
  • Is there a volume certification process?
    We are actively working to develop policies for volume registration and certification. At this time, discounts may be available on a case by case basis. If you think your projects may qualify for a volume approach, please contact

I01 - Limits to Growth

  • RE: Wetland Delineation and Rating System Resources
    The King County wetlands fact sheet can be found at this  link.
  • The wetland delineation criteria used for King County is here. It is basically the US Army Corps of Engineers 1987 wetland delineation manual plus the regional supplement. Each project should use the regional supplement that covers its project site. 
  • If wetlands are identified, the buffer distance would be determined by this Wetland Rating Form, or as required by local regulation, if the local regulations can be shown to be equal to or stricter than the King Co. standard.
  • RE: WWF Wildfinder tool alternatives
    Acceptable alternatives to the WWF Wildfinder tool include:
    Resolve Ecoregions Map
    TNC Terrestrial Ecoregions Map

I03 - Habitat Exchange

  • RE: using the Institute‚Äôs Living Habitat Exchange Program to purchase an equal amount of land or 0.4 hectares, whichever is greater
    The cost is $2,000 US/acre; the minimum donation is $2,000. The Institute aggregates donations from participating project teams over the calendar year in order to make the most-substantial purchase of a high-value, intact ecosystem at year's end. These partnerships result in lower costs per acre to project teams while simultaneously protecting large swaths of contiguous acreage, protecting critical habitat in perpetuity. In the past, the Institute has coordinated with the Wildlife Conservation Society, but future partnerships are determined annually. Until the end of a given year, we are unable confirm that year's partnership and conservation area, though we are happy to follow-up afterwards. 

I05 - Net Positive Water

  • RE: not metering when using closed-loop rainwater systems
    When a project team is relying solely on rainwater "to meet all water demands within the carrying capacity of the site," they still must "demonstrate, at the time of certification, that [the project] has met the 100% site-sourced water requirement" during the 12-month performance period. However, the project need not meet the requirement that "monthly readings... be recorded documenting actual water use," and instead may show compliance through "water metering / tracking systems" - i.e. demonstrate that the project did not run out of water anytime in the last 12-months. (All citations from the v3.1 Water Petal Handbook p9)

I06 - Net Positive Energy

Imperative 06 of the Living Building Challenge  - Net Positive Energy - has the same requirements as the Zero Energy program, with the exception that projects pursuing I06 as part of LBC must also hit 105% net positive energy (v. 100%) and have onsite battery storage.  Please see below for clarifications and FAQs relative to those two unique aspects of Imperative I06; for all other clarifications, please see  Zero Energy Clarifications & FAQs

  • RE: geothermal energy applying towards 105% net positive energy
    Oversized ground-source heat pump geothermal systems that are able to provided heating and/or cooling for adjacent buildings in addition to their project, may apply the excess renewable energy towards their required 105% energy production.  The project will need to use the Reveal Label to demonstrate compliance; please contact the Institute for a promo code to complete your Reveal label for free, should you choose this option.
  • RE: acceptable renewable energy fuel-cells
    The Living Building Challenge v3.1 Energy Petal Handbook states that "fuel cells powered by hydrogen generated from renewably powered electrolysis" are acceptable renewable energy sources.  (All citations from the Energy Petal Handbook p11 & p26.)

I10 - Red List

  • RE:using salvaged materials
    The Material Petal Handbooks states that "ingredients contained within... products [used to construct a Living Building Challenge project] may not be part of the Red List. Project teams are required to conduct research into the ingredients within each product used in the project. Products must either be entirely free of Red List chemicals, or alternatively fulfill the requirements of one or more of the Clarifications or Exceptions contained within this handbook." (p7) One of the Clarifications within the Handbooks regards Salvaged Materials. The text of the Salvaged Materials Clarification originally stated that project materials "cannot have Red List materials as a primary ingredient," but this should be amended to "cannot have any known Red List materials as an ingredient."

I11 - Embodied Carbon

  • RE: using Tally for the approved carbon calculator
    When using Tally as the carbon calculator for I11 Embodied Carbon Footprint, it is acceptable to use the "generic" material option (i.e. customized materials are not required.) 
  • RE: using the Living Future Carbon Exchange
    Earlier versions of the Living Building Challenge allowed for embodied carbon to be purchased / offset through the Living Future Carbon Exchange.  However, the current version of the standard - Living Building Challenge v 3.1 - no longer allows the Living Carbon Exchange, because the International Living Future Institute has retired the Living Future Carbon Exchange.

I13 - Living Economy Sourcing

  • RE: how to determine if project is meeting 20% / 30% / 25% of materials construction budget within 500 / 1,000 / 5,000km

    The requirements state:
    20% or more of the materials construction budget must come from within 500 kilometers of construction site
    An additional 30% of the materials construction budget must come from within 1,000 kilometers of construction site or closer
    An additional 25% of the materials construction budget must come from within 5,000 kilometers of construction site
    25% of materials may be sourced from any location

In a scenario where a materials construction budget was $100, this should be interpreted to mean that 50% - or $50 - must come from within 1,000km, and of that 50%, at least 20% - or $20 - must come from within 500km.  Of the remaining 50%, 25% - or $25 - must come from within 5,000km, and the last 25% - or $25 - can come from anywhere.  (20+30)+(25+25)=100

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