California here we come!

I’m just back from San Francisco where I spent five days to meet with stakeholders and contributors to discuss plans for the conference coming up on September 10-14, 2014.

The talks were amazing and super encouraging! PHIUS+ projects in the Bay Area are exceptional – they all are also zero energy or positive energy buildings highlighting that passive building is the ideal starting point for going zero or positive. This growing trend – passive to positive energy — will be one of the major themes for conference sessions!

Combining passive design in buildings plus renewables is one of the strategies identified by carbon reduction groups to help mitigate and adapt to climate change. The latter because passive buildings are especially resilient in weather extremes and power outages.

San Francisco has long been aiming at carbon zero goals by 2020, looking to identify a clear set of tools on how to practically and cost effectively implement them. That’s why we chose San Francisco for this 9th Annual North American Passive House Conference. We think it can be the catalyst for a tipping point, a special moment in time when the concept is catapulted forward thanks to favorable factors in the Bay Area. With plenty of high quality high-performance projects designed and built by the pioneers in the passive community, we have an excellent opportunity to make the case to make to the city and its residents that passive design is the best path to their goals.

On my trip I have spoken with various stakeholders and thought leaders and have seen nothing but honest excitement about the possibilities of the conferencce. And better yet, if San Francisco get’s it, you know that the rest of the state and then the country will eventually follow, hence it is critical to make this a big success that radiates beyond the borders of California setting a definite sign: we are in the transition toward a new energy economy and buildings, passive and renewables will play an important role in it.

We’re excited that William Rose, a building science pioneer, will deliver our keynote and that Achilles Karagiozis, Director of Building Science for Owens Corning and WUFI developer will speak at the closing plenary. Also: Joe Lstiburek will present a daylong workshop on building science fundamentals during pre-conference sessions.

Of course, success of the conference – as always –will depend on the dedicated members of our community. We’ve collected dozens and dozens of terrific presentation proposals (and we’re a week or two behind in our review, please accept our apologies; we’ll be in touch soon), and the content of our breakouts will be terrific, as always. We also have a great range of pre-conference sessions (which als earn CPHC CEUs), including a daylong session with five CPHCs who are leading the way in multifamily builldings. Visit the conference website often for updates.

And if you’re available to volunteer to help, email conference@passivehouse.us with your availability and any special expertise. We could use help with everything from registration desk staffing to videography.

Full schedule — and more announcements on some great presenters — are on the way, stay tuned!

Katrin

 

 

Part 3: NESEA BE13–the passive building journey continues…

 

OK, the finale! In part one we looked at the growth of passive building and how it’s reflected in Passive Place at BE13.

In part two we embarked on the passive building tour of the BE13 trade show floor–mapped to the fundamental principles of passive building.

Today, we introduce some unofficial passive building principles and visit some terrific partners.

Onward!

Unofficial passive building principle No. 6:

ASSURE QUALITY AND MEASURE YOUR SUCCESS!

Only PHIUS+ projects earn the plaque!

PHIUS (www.passivehouse.us) offers certification programs for projects and products. PHIUS+ Certification for new and retrofit applications is the only voluntary certification program in North America that requires a thorough design as well as an onsite third party review process. PHIUS+ certification is the most rigorous on the market–and the best value. That’s because PHIUS has partnered with the Department of Energy and RESNET. That means industry-standard certification protocols for design and onsite verification. And it means one-stop certification shopping. Earning PHIUS+ Certification also nets a HERS rating, DOE Challenge Home Status, and EnergyStar status.

PHIUS+ has jumpstarted certifications. We expect to have fully certified approximately 100 passive building projects by the end of 2013 in North America (if apartments are counted, then the number is closer to 200) and yes, the growth is exponential!

At the 7th Annual North American Passive House Conference in Denver last September, PHIUS launched its Window Data Verification Program. In cooperation with NFRC PHIUS is identifying a North American window data verification protocol and climate appropriate guidelines and recommendations. Several leading window manufacturers have signed on and submitted various window frame and glazing combinations for calculation and verification, and listing in the coming PHIUS window data base.

PHIUS recently partnered with PowerWise Systems–Booth 961 (http://www.powerwisesystems.com/passive) to promote their newest product – the inView Passive™ monitoring package. PowerWise offers all kinds of monitoring solutions for all building types—but we’re really excited about the value that the inView Passive monitoring package brings to our community. For passive builders, the proof is in the pudding–monitored performance is where it’s at. inView Passive includes monitoring dashboards optimized for typical passive house components and systems. We think it’s a great tool for anyone certifying a project through the PHIUS+ Certification and Quality Assurance Program.

Besides verifying predicted performance, monitoring systems like inView Passive can serve as early alerts for routine maintenance. For example, energy consumption might rise because a filter in the ventilator has not been cleaned on schedule. Monitoring also provides safety. Say one of the two ventilator fans fail; this could depressurize the house. Without monitoring, it might take some time to notice that indoor air quality declined, back drafting on vented appliances or fireplaces might have occurred or radon levels might have climbed.

inView Passive includes dashboards for typical passive house systems and components and indoor air aspects. Even a closed ground loop defrost system dashboard is included. Information on ordering the system and prices can be found on PHIUS’s website or on the PowerWise website. PHIUS has negotiated a 5% discount for all PHIUS+ certification enrolled projects and the Promo Code is available through PHIUS when registering.

The Energy Conservatory–Booth 828 (http://www.energyconservatory.com/) is the PHIUS+ Certified Rater’s best friend. Commissioning equipment for low load and airtight superinsulated homes has become more sophisticated and is now affordable.  What exactly has to be commissioned and tested? The most obvious—the air-tightness of the envelope needs to get tested during construction and then again upon project completion. For very tight homes the rater can now use the Mini-Fan Blower Door System, a duct blaster in a newly developed red door insert to test the entire building, A small fan is all it takes if the home is that tight! The mechanical ventilation system also has to be commissioned and flows have to be verified. Very small ventilation air flows need to be measured. The Energy Conservatory Flow Blaster Accessory measures air flows at diffusers down to very low levels such as 10 CFMs. And lastly FLIR infrared cameras are used to check insulation quality, thermal bridging and also interior surface temperatures. Indispensable tools throughout QAQC process to verify a building has been built as designed and performs.

 

Unofficial passive building principle No. 7:

SPREAD THE WORD, SHARE THE TALE AND TEACH ALL YOU HAVE LEARNED

The leading national passive building research, education and alliance organizations are the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) (www.passivehouse.us) and the Passive House Alliance US (PHAUS) (www.phaus.org).

PHIUS was founded by myself and Mike Kernagis in 2003, initially as Ecological Construction Laboratory, a non-profit, promoting and building passive houses for low income home buyers. It changed its name later to Passive House Institute US when it went national. Since 2008 PHIUS has been offering the hugely successful CPHC®Passive House Consultant training nationwide (NEW in 2013: Virtual segment online saving cost and travel time), we have added Certified PHIUS+ Rater trainings and PHIUS Certified Builder trainings over the last few years. We have trained more than 800 architects, engineers, energy consultants and builders and have certified more 500 of them as CPHCs, PHIUS Certified Builders and PHIUS+ Raters in the US and Canada. These are the folks you want on your passive building team!

In 2013 the renowned Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics, PHIUS and Owens Corning collaborated on a new next-generation passive building modeling tool – WUFI© Passive. WUFI Passive now replaces PHPP as the backbone tool of the CPHC training. Like PHPP, the tool includes a static passive house energy balancing capability. But it also offers dynamic whole building energy modeling and individual component hygrothermal analysis. And it covers another critical modeling variable: thermal mass, which is necessary for the cooling energy balance. In WUFI Passive all of these assessments use the same project data; no double entry of project data in multiple modeling tools is necessary. Risk and performance management all in one. This tool is seriously cool!

In 2009 PHIUS launched a membership/chapter program, the Passive House Alliance US (PHAUS). The mission: to support the community of professionals who had been trained, to educate the public, and drive the market by involving manufacturers and advocating for making passive building standards the norm in North America. Since Mark Miller took on the Executive Director role of this ambitious program in 2011, PHAUS has a thriving and growing membership program, now up to 350 members. PHAUS’ manufacturer sponsors program (amongst them founding sponsor CertainTeed and Rocky Mountain Institute) is growing, as is the chapter organization—now up to 13 nationwide Chapters with two pending.

PHIUS and PHAUS have significantly shaped the landscape of passive buildings in America over the past 10 years and will continue on our mission: the transformation of the marketplace to make passive buildings commonplace. We are a non-profit and if you like what we have done so far and would like to help, you can donate to PHIUS, become a PHAUS member, or certify and train with us.

Building Science Corporation (http://www.buildingscience.com/)  has been a leader in high performance building consulting and education for decades. BSC Principal Joe Lstiburek was a pioneer way back in the 1970s; that’s why at his keynote address at last year’s 7th Annual North American Passive House Conference, he closed his presentation with: “You guys are family.” I was totally moved—and I wasn’t alone. It was inspiring. Joe started building superinsulated buildings in the late 70s when he was just 23 years old!!! The details matched what we consider to be good passive building practice today. He has been on the forefront all along – vapor retarders, thermally broken fasteners, insulated foundation systems, energy heel trusses and even earth tubes (which he is not a great fan of )(link to his article). He knows what the trenches look like.

Building on that energy from the conference, BSC and PHIUS resolved to work together in promoting passive buildings. A first step: We decided to cooperate on the Passive Building University which lives on the PHAUS website (link): BSC bookends PHIUS executive certification classes with a Building Science Fundamentals program, the ultimate preparation for the CPHC Passive House Consultant class. BSC also offers Advanced Hygrothermal Analysis, truly building a science master class. I encourage you to visit BSCs table as they have the best selection of  cutting edge literature that applies to passive buildings. Be prepared to spend some money and schlep books home!

The most recent Yestermorrow CPHC class.

Yestermorrow Design/Build School (http://www.yestermorrow.org/) This past December I arrived in Warren, Vt.,for the second CPHC class offered through the Yestermorrow Design/Build school. Yet another full class, intense and dynamic.

How is Yestermorrow different? It teaches all modules in person on 8 consecutive days with the exam on the 9th. People are on site 24/7, they form study and discussion groups beyond the class time and prep for exam together. You talk bonding…the food is exceptional and the people who show up for this are some of the smartest and unique. Yestermorrow truly attracts exceptional individuals. The classes took the passive discussion to new heights and aside from that, Vermont is just stunningly beautiful – an unforgettable learning experience with a retreat flavor.

Passive House New England (http://www.passivehousenewengland.org/) is one of the first independent passive house groups in the country. Many of its members are some of the most experienced CPHCs in the country with one or more certified passive houses under their belts. This group is a great resource for anyone who is interested in building a passive house or building in the North East region. The group has a very active meet up group schedule and hosts a passive house symposium annually in the fall highlighting most recent projects of special interest. Great group: Get involved!

Passivhaus Maine (http://www.passivhausmaine.org/) is carrying flag in Maine in regards to passive house (don’t you love the lobster in the logo?). This is also an area that has very many experienced passive house consultants and builders solidly on their way. This group also is making strides by providing great information and by putting on symposia. Join the meet up group and help getting the word out!

Well, that’s about it–and that’s plenty!

Thanks to NESEA and all the friends out East that have given me the opportunity to do this review and I hope to see a few of you on the BE13 NESEA trade show floor!!!!!!

 

Part 2–NESEA BE 13: A guided tour of passive house trade show exhibitors

This is the second of a three-part series on passive building presence at NESEA BE13. Part one sets the stage for the series and part three completes the tour.  

Last year’s NESEA passive trade show tour was a huge success for exhibitors and attendees. This year’s will be even bigger and better: Remember, you can join me for a tour of Passive Place–a concentration of passive component manufacturers organized by PHAUS on Wednesday, March 6. I’ll also be doing a stage presentation just before the tour. Here are the details:

Demonstration: Cool Passive House Gadgets
Wednesday, March 6, 4:30, Stage 2, off the 1100 aisle

Passive House Trade Show Tour with Katrin Klingenberg
Wednesday, March 6, 5:30 – 6:30 (leaves from the NESEA Lounge #507)

If you can’t be there, like last year I’m going to run through the highlights here on the blog. Because we have more exhibitors, this year I’ve organized it around foundation passive building principles. We’re off!

 

Passive building principle No. 1: SUPERINSULATE AND USE THERMAL-BRIDGE FREE DETAILS

 Knauf Insulation — Booth 862 (http://www.knaufinsulation.us/) is a leader in fiberglass insulation. Knauf makes every imaginable form of fiberglass insulation, but with an ecological twist: Knauf’s ECOBatt Glasswool insulation features a new binder that is more environmentally responsible; it reduces harmful chemicals and the amount of embodied energy typically found in binders. Knauf also uses post-consumer recycled glass bottles. Knauf’s application forms include blown-in blanket systems—perfect for passive building because they provide slightly higher R-values per inch, and the blown in material fills all nooks and crannies. Knauf also makes higher density batts for acoustic insulation purposes or high temperature pipe insulation. A great range of products for passive building!

The tour moves on with a quick walk down memory lane: I was introduced to the Schoeck Isokorb during my very first year of architectural education (it was the year the wall came down, when I had just moved to Berlin, Germany).  Schoeck is to this day the world leader in thermally broken structural fasteners, check them out: Schoeck USA — Booth 662 (http://www.schock-us.com/).

Other insulation manufacturers on the NESEA floor are National Fiber — Booth 717 (http://www.nationalfiber.com/) with its cellulose insulation product and Icynene — Booth 911 (http://www.icynene.com/) with a spray foam product.

 

Passive building principle No. 2+3:

BUILD AIRTIGHT and PREVENT MOISTURE MIGRATION INTO WALL

Air barrier systems are getting smarter and more efficient to apply. PROSOCO, Inc.  —  Booth 949  (http://www.prosoco.com/) and Tremco Commercial Waterproofing & Sealants — Booth 860 (http://www.tremcosealants.com/) both offer exciting fluid-applied air and water barrier systems; they range from impermeable to vapor open with matching through-the-wall flashings. Tremco also offers specialty window-install systems to tie windows airtightly into the wall opening, such as the pre-compressed air sealing tape specifically developed for passive building.

Back to barrier systems: the planning and implementation of air-tight layers is particularly intimidating for large buildings. I know at least one passive building architect who’s having some sleepless nights worrying whether the airtight barrier will be installed perfectly. The fluid-applied systems from Prosoco and Tremco can help designers and builders of large projects sleep better. They optimize work flow and ease to prevent defects during application. Both brick and frame with exterior gypsum board construction types have lots of joints and interconnected air gaps. Wrapping the entire building from the outside in an airtight fluid applied skin is a great strategy to get all those gap leaks. The chemistry of these skins means they can now be dialed in just right in terms of permeability, based on the climate. Very exciting as we are moving more into multifamily new and retrofit construction.

Huber Engineered Woods LLC — Booth 953 (http://www.huberwood.com/) offers the ZIP-system that many passive buildings have used as their air-tightness approach. In this system the structural sheathing serves as the air-tight layer—perfect for single-family framed homes. All seams are sealed with a special tape that adheres to the sheathing permanently. This is a great approach to “tunnel through the cost barrier”: A material that is already necessary—the structural OSB—can be cross purposed as the air-tight layer and vapor control layer! But careful: this approach is highly climate specific. The CPHC must properly locate this air-tight/vapor control /zip system layer within the wall assembly. OSB has only a 0.7-1.0 perm rating.

 SIGA — Booth 620 (http://www.sigacover.com/us/) offers European smart membranes for wind- and air tightness applications, impermeable or diffusion-open, and tapes and gaskets of all varieties. There are tapes for every occasion and with any desired perm rating. Creased tapes allow for easy and perfect installation in the 90 degree corners at windows. Really well thought out systems that have been proven to last over time!

475 High Performance Building Supply — Booth 759 (http://www.foursevenfive.com/) is a Brooklyn, NY based firm offering a variety of European passive house product imports. From airtightness membranes and tape solutions by INTELLO plus and Pro Clima, a wood fiber sheathing/insulation product from Gutex, triple pane skylights from Fakro to thermally broken fasteners from Schoeck. There is also a through-wall decentralized apartment venting solution with a ceramic heat recovery core from Lunos.

 

Passive building principle No. 4:

HIGH PERFORMANCE WINDOWS AND DOORS

Selecting windows with the right climate-specific thermal and solar gain performance is critical. We’re happy to see more manufacturers and more varieties than ever. And European windows are still mostly stealing the show.

Passive Place will feature H Windows/Energate — Booth 959  (http://www.hwindow.com/products/), Klearwall Industries — Booth 963  (http://www.klearwall.com/) and New England Fenestration / Unilux Windows,  LLC — Booth 955 (http://www.newenglandfenestration.com/NEF_products.html). Energate was represented in the US early on and made headlines when they won the DC Solardecathlon with the Darmstadt team in 2007 and then did it again in 2009. They are window technology leaders.

A newer entrant in the North American market is the Ireland-based Klearwall (http://www.klearwall.com/), made from UPVC and available in various performance specs. The Thermal break in the frame is provided by adding still air chambers; for higher performance models the profile is filled with insulating foam. UPVC is a more affordable option than the wood frame windows. Both manufacturers carry the European passive house certification for the central European cool moderate climate.

New England Fenestration / Unilux features Unilux windows and doors from Germany. The window products have an excellent reputation for quality, and offer a wide choice of frames and performance specs for different climates in North America. The door options are available in high performance insulated varieties and feature superior airtightness and triple seals. Another excellent performer represented by this company are energy efficient windows from Schueco.

Pinnacle Window Solutions — Booth  763 (http://www.pinnaclewindowsolutions.net/) offers Alpen High Performance Products’ fiberglass window, the only North American made window on NESEA’s show floor that meets passive house requirements.  Alpen (http://www.alpenhpp.com/) is the same group that developed the well known heat mirror technology, which has worked successfully in many passive buildings across the nation. This fiberglass window features excellent U-values well suited for all climates, from very cold to hot. Another plus: typical mounting flange installation means contractors will know how to tie it into the water resistive barrier.

Using suspended plastic film (instead of an additional glass pane) to increase the R-value yields a window that features quadruple pane window performance while maintaining a manageable weight. This is powerful for the cold and very cold climates in North America where even triple pane windows are not measuring up. That said, the high R of the heat mirror glazing package comes at a price: the Solar Heat Gain coefficient goes down significantly the better the R and the visible transmittance is lowered as well. The good news is that the owners of this technology are working to create even better windows that meet the passive house community’s needs in North America.

Intus Windows — Booth 624 (http://www.intuswindows.com/) are a very cost effective European window solution manufactured in Lithuania. It offers the European quality high performance frames, glazing, airtightness, multi-lock hardware as well as cool-moderate climate verification through the European window certification. Intus Windows also distributes the Schueco Passive House curtain wall system (cool moderate climate verified).”

Zola European Windows — Booth 628 (http://www.zolawindows.com/), another European import, is distributed from Denver, Colo. I have to say that I am somewhat partial to the Zola aesthetic, a more slender wood frame with a thermal break made from wood fiber, hence a more environmentally friendly solution over foam. But Zola also carries the UPVC window frame varieties, which are more affordable, as well. Zola’s windows carry the European cool moderate window value certification for its products.

Yet other European passive house certified window distributors with excellent performance and further options on the NESEA show floor are Bieber Windows — Booth 727 (http://www.bieberusa.com/), European Architectural Supply — Booth 729  (http://www.eas-usa.com/Products.cfm) and Yaro – DSI — Booth 559  (http://www.yaro-dsi.com/), all definitely worth a visit and a chat or two with the knowledgeable sales reps.

 

Passive building principle No. 5:

BALANCED VENTILATION WITH HEAT RECOVERY AND MINIMIZED SPACE CONDITIONING, EFFICIENT HOT WATER

Two veteran passive house manufacturers of the central piece of equipment–the ventilation system—offer distinctly different products that represent very different choices. We’re eager for more North American manufacturers to enter the market, but so far Ultimate Air — Booth 856 (http://www.ultimateair.com/) and Zehnder America, Inc. — Booth 864 (http://www.zehnderamerica.com/) are the only two meeting the passive building challenge.

Ultimate Air brings its proven American built and affordable classic Energy Recovery Ventilator – the RecoupAerator. It is the only residential product that uses an enthalpy wheel and meets the passive house efficiency requirements. The MERV 12 filter is integrated (it is the heat exchange medium in the wheel) and the humidity transfer rate can be adjusted from 40% to 20% by choice of different heat exchange filter pies…a pretty cool option to have in humid and mixed climates.

Over the past few years Zehnder has added more models.  It offers a choice of HRV or ERV counter flow heat exchange cores, which are very different from the enthalpy wheel.  Zehnder ventilators are all European rated products and recently also obtained North American Home Ventilation Institute efficiency ratings for its two most popular models, Comfoair 350 and Novus 300.

European testing methods differ from the HVI testing protocol and the two measures can’t be directly compared.  Where we have HVI test results for both manufacturers we can quote apples to apples comparisons: Zehnder’s Comfoair 350 is rated by HVI at 93% Apparent Sensible Effectiveness (ASE) and the UltimateAir RecoupAerator is rated at 95%. Both ratings are truly exceptional. Both manufacturers offer options for defrost and pre-cooling / -heating / dehumidification through passive closed ground loop heat exchangers. Zehnder offers a time saving home run polyethylene 3” ducting system as well.

The Mitsubishi Electric — Booth 707 (http://www.mitsubishipro.com/en/professional/products/heat-pump-systems) mini-split heat pump is the perfect companion space conditioning point source solution to the ventilator. Mitsubishi has led with the highest efficiency ratings and its stable includes nine products that meet Energy Star’s most efficient equipment designation for 2013. Their mini-split systems have become popular choices for heating/cooling and dehumidification systems of choice for passive homes across North America’s climate zones. The units are available in small sizes for single zone and multi zone systems. They have excellent SEER ratings. They are available in three capacities, 9k, 12k and 15k BTU/h, the Hyper-Heat model that works down to temperatures as low as -15 F is available in 9k, 12k and 18k. An excellent, efficient, cost effective way to heat and cool a passive house by point source!

Also worth to visit Daiken AC – Altherma — Booth 418 (http://www.daikinac.com/commercial/home.asp), another leader in heat pump technology.

Stiebel Eltron Inc. — Booth 749 is one of the anchors of this year’s passive house product exhibit. I met Frank Stiebel  at NESEA in 2006. I am sure he will not remember but I remember the conversation clearly and the impression it left me with. At the time we were looking at his solar thermal system (www.stiebel-eltron-usa.com/sol27.html) and the superior superinsulated hot water storage tank (www.stiebel-eltron-usa.com/sbb.html). There was nothing like it at the time. We had also used the instantaneous hot water heaters of the Tempra series (www.stiebel-eltron-usa.com/tempra.html) with great success in our first affordable passive house projects in Urbana, Ill.

Last year I reported on the heat pump hot water heater Accelera (www.stiebel-eltron-usa.com/accelera.html), a true heat pump (not a hybrid water heater as are most other products in this category).  It’s easily the most energy efficient of the class and worth the money. Heat pump hot water heaters should be located inside the thermal envelope in super low load homes because they can contribute to cooling and dehumidification in the shoulder and summer seasons (this location even makes sense in heating dominated climates).  Stiebel Eltron has 30 years of experience with this technology.  Most recently Stiebel-Eltron in Europe is also offering a small decentralized through the wall ventilation unit with a ceramic heat exchanger. Those units “pulsate”, they reverse supply and exhaust ventilation and as the direction of the air flow changes across the ceramic heat exchanger energy is transferred and recovered. They are very efficient and are an alternate solution to centralized balanced ventilation systems, applicable to single room occupancies or small hotel rooms. Stiebel Eltron is considering introducing this product in the US. I admit I am a fan; Stiebel-Eltron products are well engineered and offer top performance!

Whew! Last year it took two posts to cover all the passive building exhibitors on the tour — this year, it’ll be three! I’ll post the third and final installment on March 5.

Thanks for reading,

Katrin

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!

Kat

 

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.