CPHC® goes virtual – Training to become a Certified Passive House Consultant now more convenient and affordable

The PHIUS Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHC) training—launched in 2008—is the first and still only training program geared to North America’s unique climates, construction details and market conditions. Over the years we’ve made strides toward streamlining the process—for example, we’ve implemented computerized testing at the end of each session, offered the training at multiple locations across the United States, and offered more standalone test opportunities nationwide. As a result, PHIUS is far and away leading training provider in the United States and Canada. More than 850 professionals have takend the 9-day training; 450 have gone on to pass the exam and earn the CPHC credential.

Now it’s time to take another leap forward. During our recent constituent survey, you were good enough to spend your valuable time and give us your feedback and loads of great suggestions. Many of you said that you want to take the CPHC training but you simply couldn’t  be away from work for 9 days; that traveling once for a five-day session was a limit. That the time and travel for two in-class sessions was just too much.

We heard you: To make the training more accessible, we are making a portion of the class available in live, virtual format:

  • Phase I will now be available via eight three-hour virtual sessions presented in collaboration with GreenExpo365, a national leader in virtual sustainable building training. Lecture and homework sessions—which are well-suited for this format—will be delivered twice a week for four weeks. The sessions will be taught live by PHIUS trainers and will feature live interaction. They will be also be recorded and made available to registered students for review and exam prep. Instructors will also hold “office hours” outside of class time to field questions from participants.
  • Phase II will still be delivered in-class over 5 days—students can choose the most convenient of several in-class locations  in the US and Canada. (See schedule here.)

The new format cuts travel and accommodation requirements in half. It allows students to take Phase I from their home or office. And—it allows PHIUS to reduce course fees, which are being reduced by $300! (See the full description here).

We’re very excited to launch this new format in April (see the schedule here) and we think it will open opportunities for more and more professionals to become CPHCs.

Still, you might be wondering why we have not taken the entire training online.

A proficient CPHC must fully understand the core underlying passive house principles, and have ability to optimize a project’s

For modeling and other training components, there is no substitute in-class in-person instruction.

energy balance and performance,  all within the context of a realistic budget.  Years of in-class instruction have taught us that mastering tools like WUFI Passive or PHPP demands personal interaction. Classroom give-and-take between a student and experienced instructor is critical to understanding work flows, appropriate component choices according to climate, and making cost-effective design choices based on modeling results.

In person, group interaction also greatly enhances the mechanical systems design exercises. Perhaps most important: We’ve seen firsthand the kind of personal connections that develop among classmates and between students and instructors.  It has fostered a spirit of sharing and exchange, and forged connections that are the foundation of the passive house community. It has made us strong.

The PHIUS CPHC curriculum is constantly evolving—and it’s better than ever. It reflects the ever-growing collective knowledge and practical experience of our trainers–the most active CPHC consultants, who have build the most certified projects nationwide. Students received a binder of passive house information as well as CDs of class content.

And the CPHC training now incorporates  the new  WUFI Passive modeling tool. It is truly the dawn of a new age for passive designers! In addition to integrating WUFI Passive into CPHC training, PHIUS is offering three-day, standalone WUFI Passive training. It’s a great opportunity for CPHCs to refresh and upgrade their modeling skills.

I just finished participating in the first ever WUFI Passive 3-day training at Parsons College in NYC. CPHCs from the Northeast, Southeast, the Midwest and California and even CPHCs from areas with extreme climates like Texas and Toronto made the trek—and the energy was fantastic! (We just added WUFI Passive trainings in Chicago and Portland, Ore.)

This is a modern production tool with a terrific user interface. On day one we created a 3-D visualization in Sketch-up, imported it into WUFI Passive,  and assigned window properties to the model. On day two we built assemblies in WUFI P in the 3D detail visualizer and on day three we’re trying out the dynamic options of the model for hygrothermal and comfort assessments.

We’re very excited about this new tool and the new CPHC training format. We expect that our partnership with the DOE—PHIUS+ Certification now also earns DOE Challenge Home and Energy Star designation—will put passive house on the national stage. And the demand for CPHCs will grow faster than ever.

We hope to see you all in 2013 and hope you will find the new format as exciting as we do!



Climate Data—When to Request a Custom Dataset

Ryan Abendroth–CPHC and former Certification Manager at PHIUS–with guidance on Abendroth, headshotselecting datasets for passive modeling.

CPHCs should use the guidelines below to determine which dataset will most accurately represent their current project’s location. Generally, for most projects, one of the existing downloadable datasets will be accurate and appropriate for use with WUFI Passive or the PHPP. In some cases, though, a project will require a more refined dataset customized to a very granular level in terms of location and conditions.

–To start, avoid using data for a location more than fifty linear miles from your project location.

It’s worth noting that even projects within this range may–in some cases–benefit from custom generated data. This is especially true if there are microclimate issues or impacts from geographical features including altitude changes between the project site and the weather station. (Site elevation is a modifier on the climate page in the PHPP that is often overlooked.)

–We recommend using a different/custom dataset if the difference in elevation between the project site and station location is greater than 300-400 feet.

The climate modifier in the PHPP adjusts the data by taking every 1000 feet of elevation change and adjusting it by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. We have seen very large discrepancies due to this adjustment because often times, the real world conditions for high elevation changes consist of microclimate situations that are difficult for the linear scaling of the modifier to accurately reflect. If there is not a station location within 300-400 feet of the project site, check for local data. The elevation modifier can also be used to adjust a data set to be in line with local data sources. This is helpful in cases where there may not be a Typical Meteorological Year (TMY3) station for more than 50 miles, or there may be microclimate effects that occur at a given project location that are not able to be accounted for in the base data set. By using the modifier, a dataset can be adjusted up or down to account for the difference in temperatures between the generated data set and local, measured values.

Why accurate data is critical

Having exact sets generated for data points nearest to the project is important because in passive buildings, we are reducing the energy loads so dramatically. Small changes (say 1 degree) in the average temperature throughout the year can have dramatic effects. For a 2000 sq. ft. treated floor area (TFA) building in San Francisco that was meeting passive house criteria, the difference was ~15% for the Annual Heat Demand. This is especially important when considering all of the factors mentioned above. For one project location, I gathered data directly from the station point and then generated a second set based on interpolation through Meteonorm to the exact same coordinates of the station. The result was a variance of +/- 4 degrees Fahrenheit as compared to the base non-interpolated values which equated to ~25%+ difference in Annual Heat Demand in that particular project.

Nothing changed about the location, just the method of generation that was utilized (straight derivation or interpolation). This is the basis behind my insistence on using TMY3 station points whenever possible.

News in the world of Climate File Generation:

The iPHA recently published a tool to generate climate data files for locations where none yet exist. It is an excellent attempt but the fine print recommends use for design only—not certification. This is because the granularity of the tool is only 75 miles by 75 miles, a resolution not small enough for most locations in the United States. It may be relatively accurate in the central plains, but once major geographical features come into play, the microclimate effects will make the iPHA tool only a rough estimate (which reflects the stipulation to use it as a design tool only) due to the spatial resolution being roughly 1 degree about the equator with some data being even less precise (referenced in page 321 of the 16th International Passive House Conference 2012 – Conference Proceedings).


Frequently asked questions:

Is the Climate Data robust enough?

Yes. The passive house verification in WUFI Passive and in PHPP allow architects/designers to design buildings based on two methods, either annual or monthly. The monthly method is the one you want to use for a variety of reasons (more on this later). Because of this, the climate data has been set up to not require very small increments or time steps in the calculation. The actual data sets are a representation of the hourly data from TMY3 sets. It has just been broken down into month-by-month averages instead of a large drawn out set with values every 15 minute or every hour.

What about more exact time steps or hourly values?

If greater specificity is needed in terms of time steps a different program should be used that has dynamic calculation capabilities instead of a standard static model. In many cases, this is not necessary as the passive house verification in WUFI Passive (and PHPP) has been set up to simulate dynamic modeling for passive house buildings. This is made possible because the short term fluctuations should matter less as the lag effect due to super insulation, air-tightness, and thermal mass, provides a buffer against isolated peak conditions.

This past May, the average monthly temperature was 73.2 degrees F, but the PHPP has the temperature as 64.2 degrees F?

Prolonged peak conditions have a large effect in terms of real world performance. However, there is a real difference between weather and climate. The climate is a an average of many years, while the weather is what occurs at any given time.  Climate data is unable to predict any given trend in the future weather. Next year, the monthly average for may could be 55F and even out this year’s unseasonable warm spell.

What about climate change? Should we make data for the future?

This is inherently difficult to predict. While many places represent a trend that is most likely warming, there are others where opposite phenomena could occur. Also changing could be the amount of rain, and the corresponding changes in radiation associated with an increase or decrease in cloud cover. Therefore, we should use the data that is available for our area and worry about updating it when new data comes out, but not worry about trying to predict the future.

What about humidity?

Humidity can be determined through the dew point temperature and average temperature within the climate data set.  As mentioned earlier, this is a monthly value and not as specific as may be needed for some modeling methods, but should be fine in most climates (more on this from future PHIUS Technical Committee articles).

Where can I see the most up to date list of available data sets?

All 1000+ climate data sets which have already been generated by PHIUS are available to download for PHAUS Professional level members at no charge. All existing climate data sets are shown on this map.

If I need a set generated, how does that work?

First, check the map linked to above to make sure that a suitable climate data set does not already exist for your location. A “custom” data set means that we will generate a new climate data set for you if one does not already exist. If this is the case, inquire with certification@passivehouse.us to determine the suitability of a site or to have a custom data set generated.

What does a custom generated dataset cost?

Custom data sets cost $75 for everyone, including PHAUS Members and non-members.

Email certification@passivehouse.us for more information about custom data sets.