Massachusetts Data Shows Phius Projects Achieve Promised Energy Savings at Negligible Cost Premium

isaac picIsaac Elnecave, a member of the PHIUS certification team, has written this post examining data regarding the energy savings of Phius buildings.

From May 5-7, 2021, the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) ran the BuildingEnergy Boston Conference. Among the many can’t-miss sessions there were a number focusing on Phius including: The Proof is in the Project: Cost and Performance of Built Passive Multifamily. This panel focused on both the cost and energy use of multi-family projects built to the Phius standard.

Massachusetts agencies and utilities have established a robust set of incentives that have resulted in a sharp increase in the number of projects built to the Phius standard. Panelists for the NESEA session were: Beverly Craig of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (CEC), Brendan Place of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and Katie Bartolotta of Green Building United. The question addressed by the three presenters in this session was whether the projected energy savings from building to the Phius standard does, in fact, materialize, and whether it can be achieved cost-effectively.   

The CEC ran the “Passive House Design Challenge” that provided incentives for eight projects around the Commonwealth. A second incentive program is open for multi-family buildings of 4 stories or more. An incremental cost analysis of four of the eight projects that have moved far enough along (including one project that has been completed) to get cost data shows that these projects:  


  • Have an incremental cost range from 1.4% to 2.8%. (For completed projects and projects that have gone out to bid). 


According to an analysis by DOER, projects built to the Phius standard:  


  • Use 60% less energy than a comparable project built to the energy code. 


Cost Blog Chart 6.7.21This data, along with data from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Authority and NYSERDA, dispels the myth that the energy savings, health benefits and resiliency that come with Phius projects come at an unacceptably high cost. Instead, the incremental costs are within the range of costs for these types of multi-family projects. Finally, as developers build more Phius projects, spurred by these incentives, they gain the experience and knowledge necessary to reduce construction costs reflected in the results shown above. 

Ultimately, once a sufficient number of developers, architects, and builders gain experience and comfort building to the Phius standard and the cost and energy savings information becomes more widespread, we expect to see the number of projects built to the Phius standard increase. 


How Onion Flats in Driving NZE Affordable Housing Nationwide

Within the following website, there is detailed information on the incremental cost of high performing buildings including Phius.