Net Zero Energy Building Program

The Foundation’s Net Zero Energy Building Program will award grants to new construction or retrofit projects that achieve site net zero energy performance or better, over the course of a year. Buildings must, at a minimum, offset all of their energy consumption with on-site generation from renewable resources. Grants will be paid incrementally, with full payment contingent on actual building performance.

The program goal is to encourage exemplary buildings that bring together beautiful design and careful construction to maximize energy efficiency, showcase renewable energy and, by educating the public and professionals, help pave the way for a larger shift in the building sector. The Foundation aims to fund projects that demonstrate that net zero energy buildings are realistic and achievable. These flagship projects will add to the knowledge base on net zero building design, construction and operation.


  • 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations
  • Local government agencies serving Illinois residents
  • Colleges and Universities

Applicants are required to provide a letter from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) confirming their Employer Identification Number (EIN). 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations must also provide an IRS Tax Determination Letter, which often contains the EIN information, and an IL Charitable Organization Annual Report, Form AG 990-IL.


  • Attain and maintain site net zero energy building performance, or better
  • Obtain at least one of these certifications: PHIUS+, PHIUS+ Source Net Zero, Full Living Building Challenge, Petal (Energy) Living Building Certification, Zero Energy Living Building Certification
  • Make education about net zero energy buildings an integral part of the project
  • Monitor and make available on a public website “real time” load specific building performance
  • Hold a “Grand Opening Celebration”


  • Building must be located in Illinois
  • Designed as net zero energy building or net zero energy retrofit project from the beginning
  • Must not have started construction
  • Provide reasonable public access to completed building
  • Showcase net zero energy building elements, including through permanent displays and highly visible signage
  • Wholly owned by an eligible applicant; cannot include ownership by private investors or commercial interests
  • Extra consideration given to projects with photovoltaic/battery energy storage systems for resilience
  • Preference given to projects that incorporate natural areas and have a strong educational mission
  • Must retire any environmental attributes (i.e. renewable energy credits, emission offsets, etc.) associated with the project

Funding Guidelines

Eligible applicants may apply for up $2,000,000 or 80% of the incremental costs to achieve net zero energy.

Grants are paid as follows:

  • Up to 60% once the building is occupied and building performance monitoring has started
  • Up to 40% after certification and 12 consecutive months of site net zero energy performance

Support is only available to projects selected to receive a grant. The Foundation will support those project costs and building components related to maximizing energy efficiency and self-generation, and will prioritize hard costs. NZEB grants will also help defray a portion of the costs associated with certification, measurement and verification, and educational displays and signage.

  • Pre-construction support may include energy modeling, daylighting studies, CFD analysis, electrical design to facilitate monitoring and reporting, PHIUS+ or Living Building Challenge certification fees, integrated project delivery assistance, etc.
  • Construction support includes building materials, mechanicals and on-site renewable energy systems
  • Post-construction support includes commissioning, energy monitoring and reporting equipment, certification costs
  • Each grant includes 2.5% (or $50,000, whichever is less) support for permanent educational signage and displays.

The Foundation anticipates extensive interaction with applicants to determine the incentive profile and amounts of individual awards.

Applicants may be awarded a grant at a lower amount than requested.


  • Pre-Proposal: January 26, 2021 – CLOSED
  • Pre-Proposal: July 20, 2021 – CLOSED

Application Process

Please contact the Foundation by phone at 312.372.5191 to discuss your project prior to submitting an RFI.

Watch this webinar for an overview of the ICECF Net Zero Energy Building Program, as well as PHIUS+ and LBC certification options.

The application process consists of three stages:

  1.  Request for Ideas (RFI)
  2.  Pre-Proposal
  3.  Full Proposal

Stage 1: RFI (Request for Ideas)

If your project meets the eligibility criteria and you would like to share your project ideas with us, please fill out and submit this RFI form via e-mail to Staff will contact you to discuss your project. Please call the Foundation if you do not receive a response within two weeks. RFIs are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year.  However, RFIs must be submitted no later than 9 weeks prior to the Pre-Proposal submission deadline in order to be considered for that application cycle.

RFIs will be accepted only if submitted by the owner of the proposed project.

Stage 2: Pre-Proposal

The Foundation will invite promising ideas to apply for funding based on alignment with program guidelines, criteria, and Foundation interests. Applications are submitted electronically and will need documents developed during schematic design. Projects must be registered with PHIUS+ and/or Living Building Challenge. Pre-Proposal applications will be accepted only if submitted by the owner of the proposed project.

1.  Complete the Pre-Proposal online application, the required attachments (see table), and submit

List of Pre-Proposal Attachments

  • Financial Statements for the most recent fiscal year including a Statement of Financial Position and Statement of
  • Activities. Include any notes to the financial statements.
  • Current Year Summary Budget
  • Internal Revenue Service Documentation Confirming your Employer Identification Number (EIN), usually a 147c letter
  • IRS Tax Determination Letter (for 501(c)(3)s only)
  • Form AG 990 IL, the IL Charitable Organization Annual Report (for 501(c)(3)s only)

2. Please submit the following Pre-Proposal application material via Dropbox or OneDrive and send the link to

  • Owner Project Requirements Document (must include net zero energy performance requirement)
  • Detailed Project Budget with Net Zero Energy items broken out
  • IDNR Eco Cat Information Request Form if installing Wind Turbines and/or Ground-Mounted Solar Systems
  • Site Plan
  • Floor Plans
  • Sections
  • Elevations
  • PHIUS+ Feasibility Study (if seeking PHIUS+ certification)*

* Please contact PHIUS at least 2 months in advance of the Pre-Proposal deadline.

3. Send one hard copy of the submitted designs to the Foundation.

A confirmation e-mail is sent after an application is received. The Foundation may follow up with additional questions for applicants.

Stage 3: Full Proposal

A link to the Full Proposal application and instructions is e-mailed with the invitation. Deadlines for full proposal submission vary and will be included in the invitation. Required attachments for the Full Proposal will include documents developed during design development:

  • Final Drawings
  • Specifications
  • Final Project Budget with Net Zero Energy items broken out
  • Energy Modelling Results
  • Pre-certification Confirmation Letter (if seeking PHIUS+ certification)
  • Design Development Review Report (if seeking LBC certification)
  • Energy Performance Certification Letter
  • Final Education Plan, including signage, displays, outreach, etc.
  • Final Monitoring and Performance Verification Plan

The Foundation may follow up with additional questions for applicants.

Award Process

The Foundation’s Net Zero Energy Building Program review process is estimated to take four months or longer. The grant award process is competitive. Some projects may be awarded at lower levels than requested; others may be declined altogether.

Prospective owners of net zero buildings should consider a performance-based design-build approach.