Tierra Linda Brings Affordable Passive Housing to Chicago

Some forward-thinking architects and community groups have partnered with PHIUS to bring the benefits of passive building to the affordable housing market in Chicago.

Landon Bone Baker Architects (LBBA) and the Latin United Community Housing Association (LUCHA) held a public tour of the Tierra Linda passive house project on Wed., June 20. The tour drew a crowd of nearly 150 architects, designers, writers and curious neighbors.

While the project is well under way and set to be completed in October, city regulations nearly thwarted the idea in its early stages.

“Initially the city was skeptical about the passive house design,” said LBBA architect Dominik Soltys, “but once we explained to them what it would mean for the community then they were more receptive.”

IMG_0931-2

Other homes in the housing project are Energy Star rated, a more relaxed rating than the PHIUS+ certification, but cheaper upfront. ComEd will be monitoring the energy usage on the passive building against the Energy Star buildings to evaluate and compare actual energy performance.

The adoption of passive building design is growing exponentially in the affordable housing sector, with some states having already included passive building certification as part of their process of awarding tax credits for affordable projects.

According the the United States Federal Reserve, one in two renters in the City of Chicago is rent burdened, meaning that more than 30 percent of their income is spent on housing costs such as rent, utilities and repairs. Passive building is a perfect match for affordable projects, because it significantly reduces and attunes utility bills.

The 6-flat PHIUS+ certified building is located at 1812 N Drake Ave., in the center of a scattered development site in Chicago’s West Side. If all goes according to plan, the Tierra Linda project will be the first PHIUS+ certified multifamily  building in the state of Illinois. Before residents can move in, for quality assurance purposes, third-party PHIUS+ raters and verifiers will perform tests on the building to ensure that it is airtight and able to maintain a healthy air quality.

Lindsey Elton, Director of Rating Services at Eco Achievers, is in charge of testing the Tierra Linda project. During the tour, the PHIUS+ rater said she is excited for the future of passive building, and looking forward to being a part of this affordable housing project.

“We’re growing, PHIUS is growing. We’re pushing the envelope, no pun intended,” said Elton. “Your path to net zero is a part of our conversation.”

Celebrating Summer Solstice in Chicago

Wednesday night, dozens of local designers, builders, and residents gathered to see how passive principles are applied in projects—and how they can give us a jump start on a clean energy future. PHAUS’ Chicago Chapter organized an in-depth guided tour of Tierra Linda, a PHIUS+ project currently under construction in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. This affordable 6-unit building, developed by LUCHA, is vying to be the first PHIUS+ multifamily project in Chicago. It also shows how good design is the first step in making the sun our primary source of power.

IMG_0950

So, how far does solar power go? Technically, energy from the sun, our friendly fusion reactor, travels about 93 million miles, or 7 light-minutes, to reach Earth. However, if you want to know how far solar power will go to meeting your home, business, or community’s energy needs and sustainability goals, you need to start with some critical questions and concrete examples.

As an energy efficiency evangelist, I often take umbrage when a news story says that a new power plant will produce “enough energy to power X homes.” Usually, that number’s about 750-1000 homes per megawatt, or 7.5-10kW per home. But how many GOOD homes would that same facility power?

To even approach numeric goals for climate, we need to address both supply and demand, numerator and denominator, at the same time.

This is where passive building comes in. By investing in the “passive” (i.e., nonmoving) parts of a building like walls and windows, we can significantly reduce the need for “active” systems like HVAC—and the energy to run them. The PHIUS+ standard sets cost-optimized energy targets based on local climate, building geometry, and occupancy.

If you start with minimal loads, it’s easier to meet them completely with clean energy. This is not complicated conceptually or practically. There is more opportunity to conserve energy in a building than to make it on the roof. The PHIUS+ limit on source energy makes sure that projects focus on efficiency first.

The table below compares the two scenarios PHIUS staff and the project team evaluated for the Tierra Linda project.

IECC 2015 PHIUS+
Annual Energy Use (kWh) 112,000 43,000
EUI (kBTU/sf/yr)                              39.3 16.8
PV needed for NZE                         86kW 22kW

If the project had been built to Chicago’s already stringent energy code, it would need a very large solar array. The extra 64 kW of solar would have cost $200,000 more. Even if there were room in the budget for that, there wouldn’t be space on the site! The team was able to eliminate equivalent energy use through passive techniques like insulation, air sealing, and energy recovery ventilation that will deliver comfort and savings to the residents—even on cloudy days in the depths of the Chicago winter.

Check back to the Klingenblog for more about how PHIUS+ is helping a clean energy future get made—even in the shade.

TL_sol1
TL_sol2

Train the Trainers

Take a look at our Training Calendar, and you’ll see that the type, number, and location of courses is expanding to meet the growing interest in the tools, techniques, and quality control process that PHIUS offers. This spring, a group of nine CPHCs traveled to PHIUS’ office in Chicago for an intensive weekend of “Train the Trainer” (T3) activities. Aspiring trainers already have some mastery of passive principles; practicing pedagogy presented unforeseen challenges—and insights.

The session was led by veteran trainers Lisa White and Allison Kwok, as well as “Patient Zero” of CHPC trainers, PHIUS Executive Director Katrin Klingenberg. Participants took turns as instructors and students, covering in condensed format all the elements of a CPHC training—passive building principles, WUFI modeling, and practical design exercises.IMG_3353

“Just like in a real project, I found myself grappling with scheduling and sequencing. I learned that to be effective trainer, I need to consider how people learn as much as what they learn, “ said James Ortega, PHIUS Certification Staff member and newly minted trainer.

In the following weeks, new Trainer candidates had a “practicum,” where they led one-third of the five-day CPHC training, under the supervision of instructors.

As of this week, all nine participants have completed the full training: Chris West (VT), Dan Luddy (WA), David Salamon (PA), Izumi Kitajima (VA), James Ortega (IL), John Loercher (NY), Maren Longhurst (WA), Sayo Okada (MA, JP), and Thomas Moore (NY).

With this broadened base of professionals, PHIUS will be able to offer more and better professional training, in person and online.

Expanding our national network of building science experts steeped in the principles and tools of passive building is both practical and strategic. We are working to build a community of practice in every part of the country where passive building makes sense—which is every part of the country! We’re standing up new leaders to drive the movement forward, engaging new partners while ensuring the highest standards of quality, consistency, and clarity as we work toward our goal of making passive building mainstream.

Welcome New Staff and Interns

 

As the inventory of PHIUS certified projects and professionals grows, we are adding permanent and seasonal staff members to advance the mission of making passive building mainstream.

Meet the newest team members:

Anissa Chaudhry joined PHAUS one month ago as Membership Coordinator. For over 10 years she has worked in the non-profit sector creating environmental education curricula and managing volunteer programs. As a side hobby she organizes the Libertyville (northeastern Illinois) chapter of Green Drinks International and holds monthly events featuring an array of environmental topics, many of which feature building science. In addition, she is a Certified Interpretive Guide (CIG) through the National Association for Interpretation. Anissa aims to be a reliable member and chapter resource and is looking forward to learning more about the exciting PHAUS “happenings” throughout the US.

Dan Moring joined in April as Community Outreach Coordinator. He has a diverse background in political organizing, environmental policy, sustainable design, and community development. He has particular interest in how community goals are implemented in the built environment through planning, design practice, and project finance. In addition to high-performance building, Dan enjoys cooking, biking, and taking in the historical, architectural, and cultural wonders of his hometown Chicago.

 

We are also pleased to present our 2018 summer interns:

Eileen O’Gorman just began a summer-long position as a Communications Intern at PHIUS. Eileen, a junior at Loyola University Chicago, studies Multimedia Journalism and Environmental Action. She hopes to one day become a sustainability reporter. In her free time Eileen is an editor of Loyola’s satirical magazine and has a weekly radio show.

Fran Alvarez Rincon is a 2015 graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology with a Bachelor’s of Architecture. Fran’s primary project will be updating and publishing a book of architectural details for passive wall assemblies. Prior to joining PHIUS, Fran was an associate at Woodhouse Tinucci Architecture. Fran will begin an MBA at Rice University in Houston this fall, with a focus on real estate development.

Peter Witt is an incoming senior at Miami University of Ohio studying Architecture and Sustainability. This spring, he completed his CPHC training while working hard with a team of 7 Miami undergrads who propelled themselves to second place in the Attached Housing category of the U.S.D.O.E.’s Race to Zero competition. Outside the office, he enjoys spending his free time getting lost in Chicago, playing disc golf when and, wherever possible, and hunting down micro-breweries. After his summer internship concludes, Peter will continue pursuing his architectural license. He hopes to focus his career on designing and building high-performance structures with his CPHC girlfriend, and helping bring sustainable design into the mainstream.

Anissa Chaudhry4P1030482-vert3EileenOGorman-vert2
fran2Pete-vert3