Invest in passive houses and buildings: Donate today!

Hi folks,

It’s Mike Knezovich again, guest-blogging. In a previous post, I wrote about how I came to the passive house concept and to PHIUS.

TrekHaus town homes in Portland, Ore., by Rob Hawthorne.

You all have gotten here via your own route—perhaps you’re a builder who found PHIUS looking for a newmarket and a way to build better. Or an architect eager to push the envelope in every sense of the word. Maybe your focus is affordable housing, or you’re an educator who wants to put your students on the path to high performance building.

Or maybe you’re not in the industry, and you simply want to cut carbon emissions for environmental reasons.

Thanks to you all, passive house is poised to bust out from a boutique program to the mainstream market. With your help, PHIUS has worked hard to put a comprehensive foundation in place:

  • Five years since launching the first and only passive house consultant training program geared to North America, PHIUS has trained more than 800 design professionals across the continent. More than 400 have gone on to pass a written exam and design exercise to earn status as a CPHC® (Certified Passive House Consultant). They’ve gone on to build successful single-family, multi-family, commercial and retrofit projects; there are hundreds now in the certification process.

First PHIUS Builders Training, Urbana, Ill., August, 2012.

  • The new Builders Training program—the first and only based on North American experience—launched in August 2012. It will be offered across the country in 2013. That means the 400+ PHIUS CPHCs will find more and more trained construction partners moving forward.
  • The United States Department of Energy has recognized PHIUS+ Certification—that means that starting next year PHIUS+ certified buildings will earn US DOE Challenge Home status and attending benefits. And moreover, it was a giant step forward, as the U.S. DOE has validated the value of PHIUS+ and passive house principles as the path to zero energy.

A screenshot from the new WUFI Passive software tool.

  • PHIUS has partnered with Fraunhofer IBP and Owens Corning to help develop WUFI Passive, the next-generation passive energy-modeling tool. Finally, the North American passive house design community will have a 21st century software tool, with a modern user interface, that will evolve as building science evolves.
  • PHIUS has partnered with the esteemed Building Science Corporation, a relationship that will help expand training programs and opportunities.
  • The PHIUS Technical Committee is hard at work generating technical papers, reviewing the standard to make it make sense across North America, certifying window data,  developing a partnership with NFRC to help jumpstart the market for passive house quality windows in North America.
  • PHIUS’ affordable housing program—e-co lab—just finished its third successful affordable passive house project that is now drawing attention from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic opportunity (DCEO). And housing development partners across the country have affordable projects—including multifamily—rolling.

DonateNow The cornerstones are in place—and we’re at a tipping point. We need your help to streamline processes so that we can review and certify more building faster, offer expanded training programs, develop curricula for the higher education market, expand research efforts, and grow outreach programs like the Annual North American Passive House Conference.

I know you’ll receive a lot of pleas for support this holiday season—please put PHIUS at the top of your list. Donations are fully tax deductible, and you can give online, securely, via our partnership with the non-profit Network for Change.

Your gift is a great investment in America’s energy future, in the rebounding design and building industry and on the ultimate goal of reducing carbon emissions.

Join me (I gave at the office and online) and please, donate now!


Mike Knezovich


The PHIUS Certified Data for Window Performance Program is here

Graham Wright

Graham Wright is PHIUS’ Senior Scientist. He’s led the PHIUS technical committee in the development of PHIUS Certified Data Program for Window Performance. Here’s Graham to tell you all about it:

Our PHIUS Certified Data Program for Window Performance is officially open for business!  (It was launched at the recent North American Passive House Conference in Denver.)
This program is mainly about using THERM and WINDOW software to calculate the window thermal performance numbers, which passive house consultants need to plug into their modeling software (either the soon-available WUFI Passive or PHPP).

As you are aware, for passive house energy modeling, separate U-values are needed for the window frame and the center-of-glass (as opposed to standardized whole-window values) so that the building energy model can properly account for windows of different size and shape.  In addition, it is sometimes very worthwhile to design thermally-broken window installation details, and to calculate the beneficial impact on the window installation thermal bridge coefficient.  This requires some special support.Under our Certified Data program, the performance numbers for the window frames and the glazing are calculated by trained window simulators according to the published European passive house protocols.

In the process, care is taken to develop THERM models of the windows which are also suitable for use in calculating window installation thermal bridge coefficients.  (Preferably these models are also published, in addition to the window performance numbers themselves, but they can remain private to the manufacturer and/or PHIUS.)

We’ve set no pass/fail criteria on U-values, only guidelines as to the thermal performance levels appropriate to various North American climate regions.  Air-tightness looms as a larger concern and we are encouraging testing to ASTM 283, but this is optional for now.

In addition, there is a pilot program to harvest the detailed U-value information found in existing NFRC whole-window files, (which as it turns out, also account separately for frame, center-of-glass, and edge-of-glass heat loss,) and compare this apples-to-apples with the modified CEN values, with a view to possibly using NFRC data more directly in the future.  In the meantime, NFRC certified THERM models can serve as time-saving starting points.

If you are a manufacturer who wishes to submit your product for the program,  download a full description of the program and application. If you have questions, please use the comments section and I’ll monitor and respond.

We’ve got several goals for this program. First, we want to serve our community of passive house consultants by providing PHPP-compatible window numbers. At the same time, we want to give U window manufacturers an alternative to European certification, and the opportunity to spend their certification dollars domestically.
The key differences between the programs are that:
1) We see a path forward to using NFRC protocols–in fact, the NFRC has responded positively about working together toward possible harmonization. Stay tuned.
2) The Euro certification maintains a pass/fail threshold tied to the Central European climate, while ours has guidelines instead, due to the wide range of North American climates.
Again, feel free to comment here at the blog.
Graham Wright

Meet WUFI Passive (and PHIUS and PHAUS)–at Greenbuild

Hi all,

It’s me, Mike Knezovich (Mike #2) again, filling in for Kat.

Hey, here’s one thing you absolutely need to do if you’re going to Greenbuild:

Screenshot link to Fraunhofer IBP announcement.

WUFI Passive has a friendly user interface as well as powerful passive and hygrothermal modeling capabilities.

See a WUFI Passive demonstration at the Owens Corning exhibit–Booth 4247N, in the North exhibit building. Owens Corning–along with Fraunhofer IBP and PHIUS–helped develop WUFI Passive, the exciting new next-generation passive modeling tool. Here’s the scoop:

WUFI Passive Demonstrations at Greenbuild
Owens Corning exhibit, Booth 4247N
Wednesday and Thursday, November 13 and 14
11:30 a.m. each day
3:00 p.m. each day
Approximately 30 minutes each demonstration

If you’re a CPHC or you’ve taken the training or you’re a design or construciton  professional who’s just getting interested in passive principles, you owe it to yourself to get a look at WUFI Passive. 

WUFI Passive combines passive building energy modeling with WUFI’s famed hygrothermal analysis power. It offers the ability to switch between static energy balancing and dynamic modeling for a project. And it toggles seamlessly from metric to inch-pound units, with no cumbersome workarounds.

Florian Antretter, leader of Fraunhofer IBP’s development team, and Achilles Karagiosis–formally of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and now with Owens Corning, will be on hand. As will members of the PHIUS team.

OK, there’s one other thing you have to do at Greenbuild:

Meet PHIUS and Passive House Alliance US (PHAUS) at Booth T21. Mike Kernagis, Mark Miller (PHAUS Executive Director), Sam Hagerman (Chair of the PHAUS Board of Managers), Prudence Ferreira (PHIUS instructor for CPHC and WUFI Passive training) and Graham Wright (PHIUS Senior Scientist) will all be in and out of the booth. Stop by for the latest from PHAUS, the largest and fastest growing passive house membership group in the country, and from PHIUS–which is moving ahead with new trainings, including Builders Training and…WUFI Passive training in NYC, January 23-25, 2013!

Sorry, Kat won’t be there–she’ll be in Boston at ABX. Lots goin’ on!


Ten years after

Hi folks, this is Mike Knezovich, also known as Mike #2. (PHIUS has a Mike problem.) I pitch in here on communications, conference, and, like everyone does in a small organization, whatever might need done. Anyway, Katrin’s in Pittsburgh for CPHC training at CMU, and is loaning me the Klingenblog space to wax a little nostalgic. Hope you enjoy.

A little more than 10 years ago, my wife and I took a frigid winter walk from our vintage (as in older than dirt) house in Urbana, Ill., to a little downtown bar called The Embassy. A good band was playing that night, and the place was packed. Friends waved us over, and in turn introduced us to their friends from out of town, and invited us to sit with them.

Raising the TJI-framed walls for Smith House.

One of their visiting friends was Katrin Klingenberg, an architect who lived and worked in Chicago. She had this idea to build a proof of concept for something called a passive house and was scouting for an empty lot–knowing land would be a lot more affordable in East Central Illinois than Chicago.

I was editor of an alt-weekly newspaper in town and started grilling Katrin. With healthy skepticism. But she wasn’t talking pie-in-the-sky bleeding edge technology like a magical yet-to-be-developed hydrogen fuel cell that would sit in the back yard.

Superinsulation. Airtight envelopes. Energy recovery ventilation. Triple pane windows. Passive solar. I’m a journalist by training—building science ain’t my forte. But I understood this stuff. And I figured if it made sense to me, it probably would make sense to a lot of other people, too. And that this might be a great story. I got Kat’s card, and later, when she and her crew got the slab for Smith House in the ground, I attended the groundbreaking party, and I got a nice feature for my paper.

During the summer months, vegetation on the trellis provides nice shading.

PHIUS staff celebrated the 10 year anniversary of the groundbreaking for Smith House just last week with an autumn cookout. And it brought to light just how much has changed in 10 years.

Urbana is now home to seven passive houses, three of them affordable housing projects built in partnership with the City of Urbana. More than 800 folks have taken the PHIUS CPHC training, with better than 400 earning CPHC status. Dozens of projects have been certified, and more than a hundred are in the pipeline.

Established institutions—like the U.S. Department of Energy, RESNET, Building Science Corporation and Fraunhofer IBP—that once were as skeptical as I was about passive house now see the value.

Years after writing the newspaper story I was recruited to the Ecolab and later the PHIUS boards. And a couple years ago, I joined PHIUS –at that time PHIUS was founders Katrin and Mike Kernagis, plus Ryan Abendroth — at PHIUS as an employee. Since then it’s been a ride.

I was lucky back in the 90s to have a front-row seat at the birth of the Web; I see definite similarities.

A peak inside from the loft.

Technologies once reserved for elite technocrats being democratized. Tremendous excitement. Constantly changing technology and changing assumptions. A feeling of infinite potential alternating with fear of losing steam. New players. Intense passion and competition. A need for open, adaptable standards and technologies that will help accelerate—not impede—growth.

During our conference in Denver, the sense of busting out was palpable. Passive house principles are on the verge of going from being a boutique program with a cultish following to something that will soon be commonplace. I feel proud and privileged to be along for the ride.

Thank you all for continuing to push. And though I can’t design or construct buildings, I’ll do my small part. I mean, I know a good story when I see one. And I think this one’s just getting started.

Mike Knezovich