What Is the Living Building Challenge?


Building Plans
About the Living Building Challenge

The Living Building Challenge “calls for the creation of building projects at all scales that operate as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature’s architecture.”

Those who take the Living Building Challenge must ensure that building projects meet a series of ambitious performance requirements over a minimum of 12 months.

Performance Areas

The Challenge is made up of seven performance areas that are referred to as “petals”: Place, Water, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity, and Beauty. Each petal is divided again into 20 imperatives that focus on a specific sphere of influence.


Building projects are eligible for three types of certification: Living Building Certification, Petal Certification, or Net Zero Energy Building Certification. Each project path adheres to three different steps: Registration, Documentation + Operation. and Audit + Certification.

  • Registration: When registering, the team will outline the project details, including the Typology (renovation, infrastructure + landscape, building, community) and Transect (natural habitat preserve, rural agriculture zone, village or campus zone, general urban zone, urban center zone, urban core zone). The team members join the Living Building Challenge Community, which gives them access to resources within the challenge.
  • Documentation + Operation: A team can begin submitted documentation regarding their project after the registration process has been completed. The documentation process continues throughout construction and the operational phase, which is 12 consecutive months of operation. During this time, project performance data is recorded. Once the operational phase is complete, teams can submit their data to be audited.
  • Audit + Certification: The institute first must verify that the team has submitted all necessary documentation. An independent auditor will then perform a review of the documentation and conduct a site visit. The auditor creates a final report, which is reviewed by the institute. The institute then notifies the team of the results and certifies the project, if appropriate.

Red List Building Materials

Red List materials contain harmful components that affect living creatures and the environment.

A Living Building Challenge Red List contains materials used in construction that don’t meet the challenge’s criteria. According to the International Living Future Institute, the list is made up of materials that should be phased out of production because of health concerns. It’s continuously updated as new items emerge. The list includes both chemicals and chemical groups. This Red List falls under the Materials petal of the Living Building Challenge.

The Living Building Challenge “is a tool for regenerative design. It is not a net neutral program; it most decidedly is about creating a pathway and vision for a truly sustainable, regenerative living future. Nature doesn’t do zero—it is net positive in energy, food and flows.”

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