The International Living Future Institute’s drive to increase participation in its sustainable-building programs is gaining momentum. But ILFI has a long way to go for certification pursuit to become mainstream practice. To date, there are 134 certified—and 686 registered—projects across 34 nations, but most are under 50,000 sq ft.

“We’re at an inflection point for our industry, our movement, for all of humanity,” said Jason F. McLennan, ILFI’s immediate past chair and creator of the rigorous 14-year-old Living Building Challenge, at the group’s Living Future 2020 Online conference. The May 7-8 event, held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, drew about 1,100 registrants.

Winner of ENR’s 2016 Award of Excellence (ENR 4/11/16 p. 42), the CEO of McLennan Design added that although “climate grief is real, there is a powerful feeling of hope,” compared to even a decade ago.

To help broaden its impact, ILFI has been adding less challenging programs than its original Living certification. One is Zero Carbon, introduced in 2018, which provides greater flexibility than other ILFI programs around fuel types and placement and ownership of renewable energy systems.

ILFI also is targeting technology giants as collaborators. Google’s Six Pancras Square, a 370,000-sq-ft building in London, recently became the first Zero Carbon-certified project and has the first ILFI certification in Europe. Google also is the first to complete a Living Building Challenge volume program audit, which gives teams with large portfolios an efficient way to scale up commitments to ILFI’s mission, says the group.

Microsoft recently committed to pursuing Zero Carbon for its campus modernization jobs in California’s Silicon Valley and Puget Sound, near Seattle.

Salesforce has committed to Zero Carbon for all major new office interiors. Eventually, Salesforce intends to fully decarbonize its mostly leased real estate portfolio of 3.5 million sq ft. And Salesforce, developer Hines and the building team for the 1.3-million-sq-ft Salesforce Tower Chicago—a new construction—are working to reduce embodied carbon in materials and products.

Late last month, the Silver Oak Winery in Healdsburg, Calif., became the first production facility and the 25th project ever to earn Living certification. The winery is the largest building to achieve net-positive energy under any ILFI program. It has 2,595 solar panels generating more than 104% of its energy needs.

One of the winery’s goals was to build a model that can be replicated in other industries, at all scales, said David R. Duncan, Silver Oak’s CEO and chairman.

On April 1, construction began on the 58,000-sq-ft PAE Living Building in Portland, Ore. The speculative office building is the largest private-developer project registered for Living certification.

The PAE building’s team is designing a system that turns urine into fertilizer through urine collection and reuse. Typically, “we treat this nutrient resource as a waste and remove it from our ecosystem instead of cycling it back in,” said Karina Hershberg, an associate with PAE, the building’s mechanical-electrical-plumbing engineer, which first cut its teeth on Living certification with Seattle’s Bullitt Center.

ILFI’s Living certification is considered the world’s most advanced sustainability performance standard. It consists of seven performance categories, called petals: place, water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity and beauty. Certification as a Living building is based on actual, rather than modeled or anticipated, performance. Projects must be operational for at least 12 months prior to an audit to verify compliance.

ILFI administers less-demanding certifications. Starting from the simplest, these are Zero Carbon, Zero Energy, Core and the Petal program, which allows teams to pursue fewer than seven petals, as long as they commit to energy, water or materials.

Core certification includes the 10 best-practice achievements for consideration as a green building, says ILFI. Its purpose is to reduce the gap between the most- rigorous ILFI programs and other groups’ green building programs, such as LEED.

Recently, ILFI announced a pilot program with the Cleveland Clinic to develop Core certification in a health care setting—a first for the building type.

To find more converts to its cause, ILFI formed the Living Future Network, with affiliates offering events, project support and advocacy in Europe, China, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America and the Middle East.