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!