2020 has been a year like few others. The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the world, causing hardship for so many people; the Movement for Black Lives brought social equity to the fore, in response to current and historic injustices; and wildfires, cyclones and hurricanes made climate change visceral and real. 

It is clear, now more than ever we need a compelling, hopeful vision of the future to reconcile humanity’s relationship with the natural world, and with itself. Through all of the challenges above, people around the world continued to choose hope. As one result of this, the International Living Future Institute is finishing the year stronger than we started, with a lot of progress to report. 

In the update that follows, I outline where we’ve been, what we accomplished this year, and where we’re headed in 2021. Since we did not produce an Annual Report in 2019, I have included highlights from that year as well. Collectively, I hope you agree that there is plenty of cause for optimism on the path ahead. 

2019: A Year of Expanded Programming

At the center of our 2019 highlights was the overhaul of our flagship program – the Living Building Challenge 4.0. Widely considered the world’s most ambitious, advanced, and holistic performance standard for buildings, LBC 4.0 offers a beacon of hope to project teams around the world, showing what good looks like. 

At the same time, the Institute released the Core Green Building Certification, which was designed to meet a unique need in the marketplace. Focused on simplicity, the framework outlines 10 best practice achievements a building must obtain to be considered green or sustainable. The goal of the program is to rapidly close the gap between the highest levels of other established green building programs and the aspirations of the Living Building Challenge. 

To support organizations certifying multiple projects, the Institute launched the Volume Pilot Initiative, which is designed to promote efficiency by evaluating buildings and materials at a portfolio scale. 

Combined, these three programs provided a foundation for the Institute’s growth and future success. Not by coincidence, the Living Future ‘19 annual conference was the organization’s biggest and most successful event to date.

2019 also brought a major revision to the Affordable Housing Framework, with new case studies, resources, compliance pathways, and strategies. This initiative foreshadowed significant new projects that are affordable and target Living Building certification in the months ahead. 

2020: A Year of Progress and Transition

Building on the momentum of the previous year, 2020 brought many firsts to the Institute: 

  • Climate Pledge Arena became the first professional sports arena to commit to our Zero Carbon certification, eschewing all fossil fuels (another first for a sports arena);
  • The first BLOCK Project tiny home started its performance period, in pursuit of Living Building certification as part of the Volume Pilot Initiative;
  • The Silver Oak Winery in Sonoma County became the first production facility to earn Living Building certification;
  • Othello Square, Seattle’s first community-driven equitable development project, incorporated Red-List-Free and Forest Stewardship Council certified materials, informing the Institute’s Materials List for Affordable Housing and supporting social justice goals related to occupant health;
  • McDonald’s completed its flagship restaurant at Disney World in Florida, the first of its kind to pursue Zero Energy certification;
  • Google’s 6 Pancras Square in London became the first building to earn Zero Carbon certification; and 
  • The cooperatively owned PCC Community Markets became the first grocery store chain to earn Petal certification, for materials, place, and beauty petals in one of their Seattle-area stores. 

This was just the tip of the iceberg.

More than two dozen projects joined the Affordable Housing Program, which offers a network of peer support and technical assistance to ensure that healthy green buildings are not limited solely to those with the privilege to determine their own living space. HopeWorks Station, which offers 76 affordable residential units, started its certification process, one of the nation’s largest affordable housing organizations registered four new projects, and the Gila River Indian Community Sustainable Housing project is pursuing Energy Petal certification for a project that is intended to be a prototype for all future housing in the community near Phoenix. 

Around the world, projects are now registered on six of seven continents (we’re coming for you, Antarctica!). Burwood Brickworks in Australia, Camp Glenorchy Eco Retreat in New Zealand, and the School of Design and Environment 4 in Singapore are just a few of the recently completed projects pursuing certification. Collectively, they show the momentum we’re all feeling at the Institute. In addition, we are negotiating partnerships in Africa, India and Mexico, renewing our partnership in the United Arab Emirates, and have collaborations in South America, China and four major regions of Europe.

Organizationally, the International Living Future Institute is ending 2020 in a solid financial position, which is an accomplishment and tribute to our fantastic staff team, who have been working under the leadership of our interim CEO, K C Gauldine. Leadership transitions need to be handled carefully even in the best times, and K C has done a masterful job guiding us through a challenging period. From her rigorous organizational assessment, to the new business structures and processes she’s implemented, she has centered the organization around the needs of the community and placed us in a strong position for growth.

Like so many others, I was shaken by the senseless killing of George Floyd. While social justice has been a part of the Institute’s mission since inception, we redoubled our efforts in the wake of this summer’s protests. The Institute engaged a nationally recognized consultancy to continue guiding our organization through an evaluation and training focused on diversity, equity and inclusion. Building on this work, we signed onto the NOMA NW 2020 Call-to-Action, to help “lay the foundation for the reconstruction of a truly unified and anti-racist architectural, engineering, construction, and design community.” In addition, we are focused on evaluating our products and programs through the diversity, equity and inclusion lense. The Institute’s Board of Directors continues to actively recruit leaders of color as one of its tangible imperatives. There is much work to do on this and other fronts, but we are making important progress. 

2021: A Year of New Leadership

On the cusp of the new year, I am pleased to announce the Board of Directors has convened a search committee to select our new CEO. We have engaged Koya Partners to support our efforts, and expect to be soliciting input from the community early next year as part of this global search. As Chair, I want to offer my sincere thanks to Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, Paolo Bevilacqua, Tom Bland, Beth Heider, Jason McLennan, and Margaret Montgomery for leaning into this critical body of work. We are hopeful that the Institute will have a new leader named in the second quarter of next year. 

More broadly, I want to convey the gratitude, energy, and optimism of the Board of Directors. Through this year, we have been continually impressed by the resilience, innovation and impact of this organization.  In recognition of the Board’s pride and excitement for ILFI’s accomplishments, all Board members have given their largest annual gifts ever.  All of this is a tribute to the staff and the many partners, supporters and advocates working to build a Living Future. 

We are incredibly grateful for the success to date, and excited about the year ahead. As the Institute gears up for our annual conference, Living Future ‘21, which will be virtual again, we are struck by the fact that 2020 has made us a better organization in many tangible ways. 

With deep appreciation for our staff team – which is by far the most important part of our organization – we are poised for significant growth and impact in the year ahead. There has never been a moment in history when there has been as much support globally for climate action. This fact reinforces our passion, energy and commitment for continued progress in 2021. 

In close, I want to thank all of you. To our funders, sponsors, partners and project teams, thank you. Your investment and your commitment to a Living Future positions us for a banner year in 2021. Our progress depends entirely on your faith in our abilities and your generosity of spirit and resource. From the bottom of my heart, on behalf of the entire organization, thank you. 

To all of you and your families, I wish you a healthy and prosperous 2021. 

Happy holidays,

Anthony Guerrero

Chair, Board of Directors

Written By

Anthony Guerrero

Anthony is the current Board Chair at the International Living Future Institute. He also leads development of sustainability strategies for the core operations of Natural Resources Defense Council, focusing on the triple bottom line: social equity, sustaining the environment and financial viability. Anthony puts in to practice the principles of the Living Building Challenge to revamp the internal operations of NRDC and to demonstrate transformation in Operations Management. Under his leadership NRDC completed the world’s first tenant improvement Living Building Challenge Petal Certification in its Chicago office, Petal Certification for its Beijing office and is pursuing certification for its latest office build-outs in Chicago (expansion space) and San Francisco.