Why PHIUS+? Science, Climate, Energy Modeling

 

Why do you build to PHIUS Standards?

Asked at the 2017 North American Passive House Conference in Seattle, WA.

“As opposed to building standard code buildings?”
—Nichole Schuster, Ashley McGraw (Syracuse, NY)

“The question really is, how do we respond to climate change in the buildings that we build?”
—James Geppner, Big Yellow Cab (Cold Spring, NY)

Schuster: “I design to PHIUS+ standards because it’s an intensely rigorous energy efficiency standard.

Geppner: “And if we’re gonna respond, then, we need something that’s science-based and we need something that’s performance-based.

It doesn’t just have one component or another, but it actually performs to a certain level. And that that performance is measurable.”

“My passion is using the best technology and the best in building science to model energy use in buildings and to improve building efficiency.”
—Maren Longhurst, Rodell Design (Spokane, Washington)

Geppner: “It’s one way to achieve basically, a building that requires very little energy and does so and produces a high indoor quality.”

Schuster: “I think it provides greater levels of resiliency. I think it’s tailored to our specific climates that we get the maximum benefit out of it, and it can also help us achieve other standards and goals like the Living Building Challenge, Energy Petal, for example.”

Geppner: “Part of what makes it the best is that it uses what I think of, or what I call the dynamic energy model.

Longhurst: “PHIUS provides software Wi-Fi Passive and Wi-Fi Plus that really get deep into the details of a project.”

Geppner: “The information that goes into designing a building is information from that region. It’s weather data, it’s climate data, so that when you have a house, it’s not thoughtlessly constructed, it’s constructed to the temperature of that region, the moisture of that region.”

Longhurst: “And allow us to predict what a project will do and help us to design that project to be the most efficient, and the most comfortable, and the best quality building.

Geppner: “An option to get away from a construction method—which there’s basically no technology, it’s kind of a 400-year old process—to something that’s more like the thinking and the modeling that goes behind constructing something like an iPhone, or a high technology product, and it works.”

 

PHIUS+: The path to positive energy

Become a PHIUS+ Professional and be a leader in the industry

 

Passive house and the public domain

Because we’ve been getting questions that indicate there is a perception that PHIUS and PHI are in some sort of legal proceedings, it’s worth setting the record straight.

When PHI cancelled operating agreements with PHIUS in 2011 it was unfortunate, but there were no legal actions associated with the split. PHI and PHIUS each had the right to cancel the agreements regarding project certification, PHPP distribution, etc.

In 2012, Dr. Wolfgang Feist filed an application to register a trademark and claim exclusive rights in the term “Certified Passive House.” In his application, Dr. Feist also claimed that he had the exclusive right to use the terminology “Passive House” in the United States. Meaning that anyone using passive house in their business name, credentials, etc., would have reason to be concerned.

PHIUS has trained nearly 2,000 professionals and, since the start of 2012, has certified 120 projects with that many more projects in the pipeline. That’s a sizeable constituency that would not be well-served by any entity owning the term “Certified Passive House” or “Passive House.”

We’ve written here before about the origins of the passive house term—it was not first used in Darmstadt. And about the scientific disagreement about whether there should be a single standard (PHIUS’ work with Building Science Corporation will yield a climate-specific set of standards). And that passive house refers to a set of design principles and a performance goal, but not a rigid single metric for all climates.

Therefore, we felt compelled to challenge the application for trademark. We made our argument in this notice of opposition.

Dr. Feist didn’t dispute our claims and the Trademark Office entered judgment for PHIUS and denied the application. As a result, the terms “certified passive house” and “passive house” remain in the public domain.

The bottom line is that we’re happy to report that while philosophical and scientific differences remain, PHI and PHIUS are not in any legal proceedings.

 

 

 

 

PHIUS Certified Data for Windows program online

Graham Wright, who heads up the PHIUS Certified Data for Windows program, joins us today to provide clarifications on some key features of the program. And to clear up some misinformation.

I get and see online a lot of questions about the PHIUS Certified Data for Windows program, and how it differs from PHI’s Euro-centric program. Apologies—it’s clear that we haven’t communicated the program as well as we should have—but we are catching up to ourselves.

I’m happy to report that we’ve got data and climate recommendations for a nice range of windows online here.

The table lists products, climate zone recommendations, full data certificates and supporting THERM files.

There are a lot more coming—and we’ll be converting this static table to an online database soon.

For manufacturers and suppliers, we invite you to download a detailed description of the certification process (with an application form), and the document is also available at the program overview page.

In the meantime, I hope to clear up misconceptions and concerns about the program:

I heard that the PHIUS Certified Data for Windows program doesn’t account for whole-window R-value. Is that correct?

In fact, the program does provide recommendations based on whole-window R-value, and all have the force of criteria as far as manufacturers are concerned. Also the program provides recommendations / criteria on solar heat gain coefficient.  (They vary by climate from about R-5 to R-9.)

Why doesn’t the program address surface temperature factor (“fRsi”)?

Eventually, it probably will – but on the list of important future program improvements for North America, it’s pretty far down the list, after data publication, NFRC harmonization, air-tightness-durability, and Canadian Energy Rating. That’s partly because fRsi isn’t pertinent to hot climates (and there’s a lot of hot climate zone in North America), and we decided to pay more attention to solar heat gain coefficient.

We cover the condensation / fRsi issue by providing the THERM files, which allow consultants to calculate it if they wish, and more precisely, with respect to the expected interior humidity conditions for their particular project and climate. (I made an ASHRAE 160 + ISO 13788 calculator for computing fRsi requirements climate- and project- specifically. We make it available during CPHC training, and if you email me at graham@passivehouse.us, I’ll be happy to send it to you.)

Moreover, both the fRsi criterion and the single-height bar on U-value (at about R-7) look to be legacies of the single-zone origin of PHI’s window program.

Setting that high bar at R-7 has certainly spurred innovation. But our multi-zone system does the same thing – people want to “level up” from zone 3 to 4 or from 4 to 5.  A single standard, when it comes to windows, fails to inform a shopper whether a window is appropriate for a passive house project because it’s overkill in some places and under kill in others.

It also hurts manufacturers—many of them mainstream producers of very affordable windows—who, right now, offer windows that will work well in mild climates. Designers, builders and clients should have those options.

Moreover, we find much to admire in the NFRC system and would like to get the best of both worlds. Funding for such harmonization work is being applied for.

Do we really need the PHIUS window program?

Absolutely.

PHIUS’ window program is moving toward a critical goal: producing data in the format that passive house consultants need, and that enables direct comparison to windows rated by other EN-based outfits like PHI or say, IFT Rosenheim. Both window industry representatives and passive designers have told us this is critical if we want to energize the market. To be sure, the programs’ fundamentals are aligned, but the presentation and recommendation level is different in a number of ways. For example, PHIUS’ program is more fussy about solar heat gain and zone granularity. PHI’s is more fussy about horizontal / vertical.

At PHIUS we believe that passive house principles apply universally, but a single criterion does not. From their Greenbuild presentation, it was clear to me that PHI recognizes the need for climate-specific recommendations for components, including windows.  But as I understand it their window certification is still pass/fail at one level. PHIUS has moved more quickly on this front. Going forward, if you hear “this is a passive house window” people should know to ask:  for what climate?  Be wary of claims about passive house windows that don’t show any numbers or label or certificate, it might just be loose talk.

Why such a long name? Why not just PHIUS Certified Window, for example

We settled on the name with care. The AAMA or NFRC would say, you don’t have a “window certification program” unless you address air / water / structural issues. So PHIUS is not certifying windows (and neither does PHI by such lights).

We’re certifying certain data about windows, namely thermal performance, modeled. Hence, “PHIUS Certified Data for Window Performance Program.”

We did not include the term “passive house” because while designed with passive house in mind, the data—even for windows that don’t receive recommendations for passive application—will be extremely useful for designers.

PHIUS+ and DOE Challenge Home Partnership


On Monday, August 20, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a new partnership between the DOE Challenge Home program and the Passive House Institute US to cooperate on the promotion of various levels of high-performance buildings on the path to zero net-energy.

This news is a huge development for the passive house community and for PHIUS. The endorsement of PHIUS+ passive house certification through the DOE instantly makes passive house the most energy efficient option for builders, designers and developers who want to achieve a zero energy building. This recognition will go a long way toward making passive house mainstream.

This took a lot of time and effort, and we owe thanks to Sam Rashkin, Chief Architect at the DOE, whose knowledge, vision and determination were critical to the effort. (Sam was the keynote at last year’s North American Passive House Conference.)

So, how does this partnership change current PHIUS+ passive house certification and what do consultants need to know?

In a nutshell: not much. A passive house already fulfills most of the Challenge Home requirements – certification essentially remains the same process with a few minor additions! Those additions are very good improvements, making the home even better. Indoor air quality requirements ask for low VOC materials and the water efficiency requirements establish a reasonable savings baseline, all good things.

The Challenge Home requires rigorous third-party, on-site verification, which already is part of PHIUS+. PHIUS+ certified RESNET Raters already use an advanced passive house checklist created specifically for passive houses. (This testing protocol is actually more rigorous than the one the Challenge Home is using.)

What Challenge Home brings to the table that PHIUS+  did not before is a more formalized exterior water management and flashing checklist. Having seen quite a few bad water management details during certification so far, we are happy to add a more formalized process to assure the long term durability of the house. QAQC is crucial to assure quality in execution, actual performance and peace of mind for the client we found.

The most noteworthy change will be the inexpensive requirement to install provisions for a future renewable system. Solar readiness must be built in so that getting to zero with a small affordable renewable system down the road is possible without any hassle, the right thing to do to show that we are walking the talk!

Beginning with all newly signed contracts starting September 1, 2012, PHIUS will provide a one stop-shopping option: Getting certified under PHIUS+ simultaneously gets the Challenge Home label and the Energy Star label, all which enhance market recognition and incentive opportunities. Best of all, it’s all for the same price as before.

Mark Miller, executive Director of the Passive House Alliance US is organizing a webinar  to discuss the partnership and to give everybody the opportunity to ask clarifying questions. And my conference presentation in Denver will be on this topic, more opportunity to ask for more detailed information.

Hope to see (hear and read) you at the webinar and in September at the leading passive house event of the year, the 7th Annual Passive House Conference in Denver!

Kat

 

Certified Passive House Consultant Training in the North American Context: Then, Now, and Moving forward

The mark of a CPHC...

In May 2008, PHIUS launched the first English-language passive house training program, and with it, the Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHCsm) accreditation.

By the start of 2012, nearly 700 professionals had completed or were enrolled in the PHIUS training program. More than 300 trainees from across the nation had passed the exam to become accredited as a CPHC. And they’ve been busy – they’ve submitted more than 150 projects — residential, commercial and retrofits– for verification in the PHIUS+ Quality Assurance program.

From the beginning, PHIUS classes had a North American accent that was based on real-world

Louisville Courier-Journal article from 1982 detailing a house built in Urbana that utilized superinsulation, airtight envelope, energy recover ventilation, and solar gains. Yes, 1982.

experience.  In 2008, that experience was largely my own and that of a handful pioneering souls, including many who had pioneered passive house principles like superinsulation in the United States and in Canada decades ago.

That’s changed, thanks to lots of committed individuals. Leading these trainings has been a revelation — and an inspiration — for me and my fellow instructors. Our classes are filled with enthusiastic, extremely bright and energetic architects, engineers, builders, energy raters and consultants. Everyone gets – and gets excited by — the fundamental passive house principles. Everyone brings their real-world experience from their regions.  And everyone contributes to advancing passive house.

The result: A continually evolving training curriculum that draws on years of experience and data from a growing community with local expertise.

For example: We’ve learned that hygrothermal modeling – maybe unnecessary in some climates – is critical to successful passive house design in many North American regions. It’s the only way to anticipate and address moisture issues in envelope components associated with humidity that are widely present in the United States and Canada. As a result, students now get a hands-on introduction to hygrothermal modeling using WUFI modeling software. (A free version of WUFI is offered by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Fraunhofer Institute.)

Similarly, THERM (free download from Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory) is useful to calculate thermal bridging, and students now receive an introduction to using that software tool. Because WUFI and THERM have become de rigeur in many scenarios, we’ve also developed workshops devoted entirely to those tools.

Click on the image to download the PHIUS Technical Committee's paper on evaluating windows for passive house.

The field is developing quickly, and the curriculum will develop accordingly. The existing community of CPHCs continues to build and certify projects and their experience flows back into CPHC classes. The PHIUS Technical Committee, comprising leading passive house practitioners, regularly publishes papers – the latest on evaluating window performance for passive house projects. This year, PHIUS will publish the PHIUS library, a training companion folder that will be updated on and ongoing basis as sections are revised or added (Passive House Alliance members benefit from receiving the newest updates as part of their membership benefit packet for free!).

As our curriculum has evolved, so has the examination process: A computer-based exam component focuses exclusively on North American climates, detailing, construction technology, building conventions, climate-appropriate mechanical equipment and code requirements. Americans can work in Inch Pound units and Canadians can choose metric. Examinees then take home a basic design exercise. This year, for the first time students can opt to take the exam on the afternoon of the last day of class. If students don’t feel ready, they can opt to take the exam at the end of any class program at any location at a later time. The Passive House Alliance US (PHAUS) is also hosting two exams per year in various chapter locations scheduled independently from trainings.

European training providers also offer Certified Passivhaus Designer (CEPH) training in the North American market – CEPH standing for Certified European Passive House. For those who take the European training or have achieved the European accreditation, PHIUS will soon offer an abbreviated training and exam sequence to receive PHIUS CPHC accreditation and listing on the PHIUS Web site.

Join us!

PHIUS has an incredible roster of instructors from around the country. But the buzz in the CPHC training classrooms comes as much from our students as us. (If you want to hear from someone who took the class, check out Jesse Thompson’s account of taking the class on the Green Architects’ Lounge podcast.)

We’ve come this far as a community, and we need to grow the community of qualified passive house professionals if we’re going to achieve the goal of making passive house mainstream. There are more opportunities than ever, as PHAUS chapters begin offering training in their regions, and as partners like Earth Advantage Institute and Carnegie Mellon University begin hosting classes.

Upcoming CPHC trainings include: San Francisco later this month; Salt Lake City in May; June brings New York, Atlanta (in partnership with the local PHA-US chapter) and Portland (through our new partner, Earth Advantage Institute). Seattle training dates, also offered by Earth Advantage, will be announced soon. Boston dates are also in the works.

Check the schedule for updates at the PHIUS site or at the PHAUS National Events calendar.

If none of the sites/dates work, subscribe to the PHIUS newsletter to get updates on additional training sites and updates.

And you can read a full course description here.

See you soon I hope!