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.”
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.”
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.
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.
Annual Energy Use (kWh)
EUI (kBTU/sf/yr) 39.3
PV needed for NZE 86kW
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Thanks to all of you who took the time to join us for last week’s webinar on the differences between the PHIUS and PHI passive house and building standards. Due to popular demand (we sold out within 3 hours of the original offering) we had to get a bigger “boat” and were eventually able to get everyone seated!
Clearly, there is a lot of interest in the topic.
Two passive building design/construction standards are available in the North American market: The PHIUS+2015 Passive building Standard certified through the Passive House Institute US and the Passivhaus Standard certified through the German Passivhaus Institute.
We presented the webinar in response to growing confusion about the differences between standards and questions about how the programs compare to commonly used energy standards such as ASHRAE 90.1. Other common questions: Are they simply “two flavors of the same thing” or are there more fundamental differences between programs? Which program is more commonly used in North America’s widely varying climates and why?
As we all make progress in mainstreaming passive building to significantly reduce carbon globally, one lesson has become clear: details matter! Different standards and modeling protocols offer significantly different guidance to designers seeking cost- optimized, high-performance buildings in their region.
The European standard and its design parameters for energy comprise one target for heating and cooling to attain an optimized design solution in all climates and cost structures worldwide. The PHIUS+ tailors and optimizes energy targets for both climate and cost, and does so for every individual location. The updated 2018 version becomes even more granular by taking occupancy and building typology into account.
Two very different approaches.
If you missed the live webinar, you can still learn more about the differences and modeling protocols: A recording of the webinar is now online!
Some of the questions that were asked during the webinar and could not be answered are posted below and if you have any other questions please send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks again to all of you who attended!
A selection of Questions posed during the webinar event, that could not be addressed live due to time constraints:
When will PHIUS+2018 come into effect? How long can we continue to use 2015 for projects in development?
What can we carry forward as a message from PHIUS & you to building code legislators?
We have put a lot of thought into making PHIUS+ a good standard for how much the building sector contributes to climate goals and/or the renewable energy transition, while also protecting occupant health and comfort. We have given it features to make it suitable for policymakers to incentivize. We can do feasibility studies for specific model buildings in specific climates to give officials a better feel for what PHIUS+ requires and delivers.
It is my experience that PHIUS at this time does not accept published efficiencies of ERV’s, and therefore the derated efficiency of ERV’s are not compatible with PHIUS certification requirements.
We accept 3rd-party ratings from AHRI, HVI, and PHI as well as our own product program – only unverified manufacturer data is derated. For building project certification there is not a hard requirement on recovery efficiency for the ventilation, but yes, in some climates it will be hard to meet the other performance criteria without a good H/ERV.
Can you expand on the adaptation aspects of passive house for the changes which are observed and expected in climate?
Right now, our certification is based on TMY3 climate data, and will update when newer data becomes available. Although predictive future TMY climate data sets exist, these are not used for certification. Even so, the performance upgrades required to meet our criteria should provide resilience benefit against weather extremes and utility outages. Resilience and adaptation to changing climate can be evaluated in a different way, more focused than modeling a typical year for predicted energy performance. We are working on a form of resilience assessment for that purpose.
Followup comment by another attendee: I took the climate question to mean: if standard is zone-variable, can we on top of that adapt to how existing zones are shifting to becoming one zone warmer.
We are working on calculations that would generate climate data taking possible changes into account.
Wasn’t PHI’s cost-optimization based on integrating ventilation into the heating ducts and not cost of PV?
The idea was to improve/invest in the envelope to a point so that a typical heating system, and the cost associated with it, could be eliminated. The now minimized heating system could be integrated in the ventilation supply air stream using the same fan and ductwork for delivery. In Germany, eliminating the heating system supposedly made up for the additional cost to improve the envelope. In the U.S., because ducts and furnaces are relatively cheap, that strategy does not net much if any savings after one adds the HRV. PHI did not include cost of PV at the time because it was cost prohibitive. In the U.S. today PV is no longer cost prohibitive and at some point becomes competitive with insulation. Yes, the point was that in the U.S., because ducts and furnaces are relatively cheap, said integration doesn’t net much if any savings after you add the HRV.
Has E-Quest been calibrated against measured building performance for a large sample size of buildings?
I would assume so, it is widely used for code compliance modeling.
Is there a bigger sample size of monitored data on single family homes like the one in Oregon?
Is there any measured data to correlate with the modeling comparisons on Slide 27?
The NYSERDA study was on model buildings not actual, so we can’t get a direct comparison in that case.
In the future will there be more resolution than the ASHRAE climate zones for space conditioning criteria?
In all likelihood yes.
Going back to the financial graph, would you say that solar thermal is pretty incompatible with PHIUS or could it still be useful in certain climate areas?
At this point it appears not to be very cost-effective, but it could still have a resilience benefit in some climates. System complexity works against resilience, and climates that require freeze-protection tend to have more complicated systems.