PHIUS Offers a SMART Path to Carbon Neutral Building

Recently, leaders of 19 of the world’s largest cities announced they would enact regulations to require new buildings be carbon neutral by 2030, and all buildings by 2050.

We at PHIUS wholeheartedly endorse this powerful commitment to sustainable development. We continue to work with all stakeholders in the design, construction, manufacturing, real estate, finance, and government sectors to eliminate the building sector from the global carbon balance. We need to move from a broad vision for a carbon neutral future to specific focus on tangible, actionable steps for these industries that so profoundly affect the built environment.

To borrow from management consulting-speak, passive design is a SMART way to go carbon neutral. For the uninitiated, let’s see how PHIUS is the S-M-A-R-T way to tackle carbon in buildings.

PHIUS+ sets limits on net source energy—the total amount of energy consumed through production, conversion, transmission, distribution, and ultimately into useful energy services at the building site. When setting PHIUS targets, we apply a national average source-site adjuster for delivered electric energy to reflect the inefficiency of the electric system and to follow the fair share of carbon principle. Inversely, by specifically increasing efficiency of space conditioning end-uses, we deliver a triple benefit upstream! Through onsite generation, virtual net metering/community solar, and REC purchases, project teams can remove their project’s specific carbon footprint from the bigger equation.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure, so we developed a whole Monitoring Protocol to gauge not just energy consumption, but overall project performance. We also look back at projects in operation to see how they perform compared to the modeled results . Bottom line: across the nearly 200 units and homes we studied, PHIUS projects are within 10% of their predicted (modeled) energy performance.

We take the global goal of carbon neutrality and make it attainable for project teams working in their particular climate context by providing tools, training, and technical support. PHIUS+ is the only cost-optimized passive building standard, meaning that exceptional performance is economically viable. Most importantly, we convene a community of practitioners so that professionals can share experiences, insights, and develop best practices to take high-performance building further, faster–making the sustainable…attainable.

Project teams are constantly finding innovative, cost-effective, and elegant solutions to achieve the ambitious (and necessary) energy performance targets. See our Passive Project Design Awards for compelling examples.

As our friends at Architecture 2030 like to put it, “Buildings are the problem; buildings are the solution.” Buildings represent roughly 40% of US energy demand [31% globally], with growth overwhelming increases in efficiency. Passive building at scale could go a long way towards the necessary reduction targets. Moreover, the source energy targets are based on a “global fair share” of carbon emissions.

We recognize the magnitude of the climate challenge, and we are committed to taking bold but measured steps so ambitions align with abilities. Like building codes and other rating systems, we have a process to revisit and revise standards every three years. The PHIUS+ 2015 Standard will be phased out in the coming months and replaced with the PHIUS+ 2018 Standard, which sets updated targets, addresses different building types, and allows creativity and flexibility to achieve the performance targets.
Get SMART with your plans to positively impact the future, and join the community of practice that’s forging the passive path to meaningful climate action.