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Passivehaus Certification

Bench

Anyone of the regulars out there obtain it? Our company supports getting LEED certified, however I've always been leery of the "applique" nature of their system (largely performative check-boxes that seem to be primarily in the pursuit of a plaque rather than getting actual measureable benefits). I'd like to see if there might be a way of convincing the powers-that-be of allowing PH certification in lieu of LEED, however i also just saw that the cost is about 4-5x the cost, which i imagine is a non-starter in the current conditions.

Also, the nature of my portfolio of work probably does not lend itself to good/effective use of PH - I imagine it would be difficult to incorporate into anything that isn't primarily residential or certain light commercial/educational.

(Shout outs to MM/Wood Guy + similar that I know are deep in the world of 'actual' green design - would love to hear your thoughts on this)

Thanks

 
Dec 9, 20 8:16 am
Wood Guy

Bench, yes I am a PH Designer/Consultant. Actually my credential may have expired at this point, as I have not been able to certify any projects, though several have been close to meeting their strict criteria. An architect who designed the first PH building in Turkey just asked me to be her consultant on her house here in the states, so I guess I'll have to figure out what I need to do. 

I left my cushy former job managing the design side of a residential design/build firm to help a friend start the first company in North America dedicated to panelized Passive House performance. (Other companies such as Bensonwood could do panelized PHs but it was not their focus.) I was operations manager and helped develop many of their systems, and led the process of getting the system certified by the international PH association--I believe they (Ecocor) still have the only certified opaque system outside Europe, meaning when you're doing the energy model you can choose their assemblies instead of having to input and verify information for custom assemblies. 

I think it's a great standard, and has changed the industry. It is the benchmark for energy performance, but also for indoor air quality and occupant comfort. 

A criticism is that it does not include other important elements of "green" design, such as embodied carbon. Another is that it can be very difficult to reach the standard with small homes in cold climates with a perfect site. (Perhaps that indicates that we should not be building in cold climates.) 

LEED is also well-known and more comprehensive, but in my world it's not highly respected. The Living Building Challenge takes LEED's holistic approach to Passive House extremes, but it's so difficult to reach that only a relative handful of projects have been certified LBCs in the 10+ years it's been around. 

You, and others, might find one of my side projects interesting--the Pretty Good House approach. If the name turns you off, try to look beyond it--it's really a Pretty Damn Good House. https://www.prettygoodhouse.or.... A publisher has asked us to write a book on the topic, due out in about a year.

If you are looking for a credential that is useful, well-known and important, I highly recommend pursuing Passive House training. I was trained in the original, international version, but the American offshoot, PHIUS, has several advantages. I have a moral issue with them creating their own standard based on someone else's work, but may pursue training with them at some point--especially since their energy modeling program is supposed to be easier for visually-oriented people to use.

Dec 9, 20 9:08 am  · 
4  · 
proto

Wood guy, let us know when the book is ready for purchase — I’d like one

3  · 
Wood Guy

Oh I'll be hawking it like a carnival barker!

1  · 
apscoradiales

"...(Perhaps that indicates that we should not be building in cold climates.)..."

I agree 100%!

I would much more prefer to live in Mexico in the middle of the Winter than Quebec, hehehe!

Dec 9, 20 9:26 am  · 
2  · 
Wood Guy

It's actually not hard to reach the PH standard with multi-families in cold climates, but it is difficult with single family homes. But I agree--this year I'm not feeling much love for winter!

1  · 
Almosthip

I'm a Leed A.P.  Worked on couple school projects that achieve Leed Platinum & Gold. Very tedious long process of pushing paper  that I feel really didn't have much of an impact on the environment.

Dec 9, 20 10:57 am  · 
1  · 
apscoradiales

But, you do get brownie points and bragging rights.

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Almosthip

It wasn't the easiest test to pass, that's for sure

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It's an old chart from an old study, but it's such a classic that I can't not share it ...

From a New Building Institute (NBI) study for USGBC, put together in 2008. Anyone know if things have gotten better, worse, or stayed the same for LEED buildings since then (we are two or three versions past these in the study at this point, no)?

Dec 9, 20 12:10 pm  · 
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Almosthip

I have a feeling this chart would not be the same for Canadian Buildings. Especially the ones I was on the consulting team for here in Northern Alberta. Its darka and cold in the winter and probably doesnt matter how white you make your portland cement, and everything has to be trucked in from far away.

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Bench

WG - your summary seems to align very close to my initial thoughts. I tend to think that LEED isn't really all that useful, and instead has more to do with being a signpost for marketing materials. The attraction to the PH certification in my mind is that it actually requires measurable performance reviews to obtain. I have a lot of respect for that - despite the many hurdles it requires to obtain that performance. I've been trying to tune in to the BS+B seminars as much as possible and think the idea of the Pretty Good House is a great goal to aim for.

Those are tough things to pitch to management due to the fact that they don't always provide a recognizable credential that we can use to pursue more work from a business plan perspective. Being able put a widely recognized certification such as LEED does bring that forward (whether or not that's actually useful).

Beyond the actual tacit usefulness of PH, did you find it difficult to maintain the certification and/or convince clients to pursue it on projects?

Dec 10, 20 11:52 am  · 
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Wood Guy

Bench, I'm glad you've been tuning in to the BS + Beer Show! (I'll take the opportunity to promote it, live in four hours: https://mailchi.mp/631a8ee3bc9f/the-bs-beer-show-april-30-4651512).

I only achieved the PH credential about six years ago and I think it's good for five. I believe you are supposed to get a project certified within five years or you lose the credential. I have had a few clients interested in getting their project PH certified, and one architect friend as well (coincidentally, he designed the first LEED for Homes certified project) but even though they ended up as extremely efficient homes, none of them could meet all of the PH criteria. That doesn't mean it's not a worthwhile standard, but it makes me interested in the PHIUS standard which may be easier to achieve in some (or most) cases.

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Bench

Given that this specific requirement - that of having to achieve a PH designated project within 5 years - is likely way too far out of reach due to my building typology specilization, would you consider it to be ultimately unnecessary/unjustifiable to obtain the designation?

For context, my pursuit of being PH certified was to elevate my technical detailing/design skills to be implemented more broadly, even if that did not result in a passivhouse project getting built.

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Wood Guy

I highly recommend the training, regardless of whether you take or pass the exam. It's not cheap but I think it's a great value for what you learn. Or can learn, if you go in with some knowledge, pay attention and study. I found the exam to be reasonably easy but I studied for it and test well. I'm sure there are various ways to extend the credential without having to get a project certified, I just haven't looked into it.

1  · 
Bench

As an attainable goal this sounds great - if one takes the training I tend to feel the certification is less important than the actual knowledge. That being said, the training actually encompasses approximately 80% of the fees, with the actual exam only coming up to $300... makes this a bit hard to justify. Do you have any training/study recommendations outside the 'official' ones? Even any specific books that give a robust overview of the topic?

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Wood Guy

Sorry, I don't--my training was through iPHA and came with proprietary textbooks. I'm sure if you go the PHIUS route they will have appropriate materials. I will say that when I did it, it was two full weeks of in-person training. I believe PHIUS is now completely online, which is mostly a good thing.

Whistler makes a good point below. Once you go through the training, you won't be able to design energy hogs--it changes how you look at all projects. At least that's my experience and I've heard the same from many others. 

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whistler

I didn't bother to get certified as a Passive House designer but designed and built several Passive house projects that have been certified and many others that are of a similar standard but not certified.  We just hire someone to run the program / numbers.  Once you aware of the design strategies then it's quite straight forward to design accordingly.

Dec 10, 20 3:51 pm  · 
1  · 
Bench

Thanks Whistler - this is actually what I think I'll ultimately end up doing. If a later career switch means pursuing the certification would work out financially then i'll be primed for it at that point; in the meantime i'd just be happy to get a deeper knowledge base of how to design demonstrably more sustainable projects.

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athensarch

I've got the builder certification through PHIUS, the design one through PHI, and have worked on 10-12 LEED projects (mostly schools and core+shell spaces for future lab TI) the past few years. LEED has always struck me as a checkbox marketing material which I why I never got my AP. I do like some of the US-specific collaborations with PHIUS, but it really bothered me that their training material as recent as last year used a lot of the same images and text as what PHI originally developed.

My local city is pushing through energy changes that carrot-and-stick developers into achieving measurable performance savings. They held a chamber of commerce event to solicit feedback on this and what's memorable was the anxiety and distrust a developer had in LEED from past projects that resulted in unfavorable energy metrics. The intermediate testing on passivehouse helps identify and rectify these things.

As far as viability: it's bigger in NYC (multi-fam) and colder climates than others. We were slated to do a mid-rise resi tower...then Covid happened and the client had to scrap it for budget reasons. Around where I live, net zero is getting more popular.

Jan 17, 21 5:42 pm  · 
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