18-0625 v3.1/Biofuel Guidance

QUESTION

Under what circumstances are bio-fuel solutions allowed in the Living Building Challenge? 

ANSWER

Living Building Challenge (LBC) Biofuel Guidance

Currently, the use of biofuel for combustion is not allowed in LBC projects.

The below guidance has been developed for use by project teams who would like to propose a biofuel system to be considered for an exception. Any proposal to use biofuel / biogas based systems will be considered by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) on a case by case basis. Approval of proposals is not guaranteed. Any approval of such use will take into account supporting data provided by the team with regard to the following principles:

ADVANTAGEOUS BIOFUEL SOURCING

Sourcing of biofuel should be from available, long term, sustainable (e.g. closed-loop) sources, such as: 

  • Local waste products. Any biofuel should be a local waste product, ideally associated with the project or project area, which will be readily available for the lifetime of the project.
  • Beneficial combustion. Consumption of detrimental global warming gas emissions is desirable.  In particular, sources of anaerobic digestion (such as landfills) produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, and consumption of the methane can result in net positive emissions.  
  • Net zero annual emissions. Rapidly renewable resources can have a net zero grow/burn/release annual emissions cycle, which may be acceptable, if they are not causing environmental degradation. 

BIOFUEL AND COMBUSTION IMPACTS

Projects should avoid biofuel sources and systems that cause environmental degradation or reinforce other negative impacts, such as:

  • Displacement of beneficial land uses. Biofuel comes in many forms.  Biofuel that is grown (rather than a waste product) displaces food production, and in some cases, wild areas, which is not acceptable.
  • Depletion of advantageous biomass. Use of biofuels should not displace other environmental benefits, such as biomass.  Much biomass plays an otherwise important role, in terms of habitat, soil and biotic health, etc.
  • Negative externalities. Sources of biofuel with potential additional negative externalities, such as animal waste, should be carefully considered to avoid reinforcement of negative environmental impacts. 
  • Short term impacts. Burning of wood and wood waste balanced with replanting has a negative short and mid-term emissions cycle, with CO2 being released and proportionate removal occurring on a multi-decadal cycle, which is not acceptable. 
  • Fossil fuel replacement. Many biofuels systems, such as combined heat and power plants, or generators, can easily switch from grown biofuels to natural gas. Teams should avoid biofuel source that are easily replaced with fossil fuels and must show how an easy switch is not probable. 
  • Air Quality Impacts. Unrefined biofuel can have many impurities which when burned can create negative air quality impacts, which may not be acceptable. 

Post ID 7124

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