Launched in late 2006 the Living building challenge substantially raises the green bar and offers a rigorous net zero building certification. Net zero green certification is rapidly becoming the future of green building. Net zero is located on the extreme end of green building scale. Net zero is defined as either a residential or commercial building structure which produces all the energy that is consumed on an annual basis within the certified building. There are currently three levels of net zero certification. Full certification, petal recognition, and net zero energy building certification.
The Living Building Challenge is different from other green certification programs in the following respect: There is a third party performance based audit performed after twelve months of actual building operating history to verify energy production and consumption to stay in compliance with the net zero certification. Competing national green building certification programs solely rely on individual project modeling and a point based system to obtain and display their green certifications.
Individual performance based areas which are described as “petals” are comprised of seven distinct areas. The defined areas are: building site, water, energy, health, materials, equity, and beauty. These seven “petals” are further subdivided into twenty separate “imperatives” each focusing on separate areas of influence. Disclosure of materials supply line and health benefits is also part of the net zero certification process.
The Living Building Challenge net zero certification can be applied towards: new construction, renovations, infrastructure, landscape and total community development.
The United States Department of Energy (DOE) has a vast network of resources dedicated to obtaining a clean energy economy and developing a zero energy ready home. Encompassing all types of construction: residential, commercial and industrial. The DOE leads in three key areas: Research and development (R&D), Market stimulation, building codes and equipment standards. The Department of Energy has a very interesting website and is involved in many strategic programs, initiatives and programs in key sustainable areas: Energy efficiency, renewables, and transportation.