Why Your Project Should be Phius Certified

Why should I certify my project?

That is one of the most common questions we get asked by project teams and their clients. It’s a valid question that can be answered in a number of ways. And while we could go on and on about the advantages of Phius certification, we thought it would be helpful to put together a concise guide to help answer this question. 

As a Klingenblog reader, you may already be familiar with the topics discussed below, but we invite you to use this as a tool should anyone ask you why they should get their project Phius certified. 

Why Certify?

When properly harnessed, passive house principles help create buildings that are efficient, resilient, healthy, durable and comfortable. But if your project is not Phius certified, you have no assurance that it meets any of those criteria.

Simply “incorporating passive house principles” is not enough. Phius certification is the only way to guarantee the quality and performance of a passive house project — like insurance on your investment. Think of certification as a risk management tool. 

That is the Phius Difference.

How does the Phius Certification process guarantee results and benefit project teams and clients? We’re glad you asked.

  1. Park Ave GreenIt provides comprehensive design review and consultation throughout the entire building delivery process Our technical staff works with teams during the design phase to optimize energy and cost efficiency, and to identify and solve potential problems early on.
  2. It mandates third-party verification — This ensures the building is designed and constructed to meet the high-performance standards for energy use and that critical systems are commissioned into proper operation. Third-party verification is also typically required by the incentive programs of utilities and governments to insure their investments. It mitigates risk for all stakeholders in a project.
  3. It introduces risk management — Passive building requires special attention to moisture control and ventilation. Phius Certification staff and third-party QA/QC professionals can identify problem areas at the design stage before they become real-world problems.
  4. It builds and shares knowledge — As more scenarios, project types and solutions pass through the certification process, Phius pays it forward to future project teams through direct feedback, building the public Certified Project Database and ongoing updates to the Guidebook.

So, what is the certification process like?

The Phius Project Certification process has two main components: design review and final construction review. The design review is an iterative feedback process, often exchanging detailed feedback back and forth with the submitter three times before design certification is awarded.

Phius’ feedback isn’t just a yes/no response. We want your projects to be successful and therefore offer insight when red flags arise and are as committed to taking your project to the finish line as you are.

To learn more about submitting a project for certification, visit our Project Certification web page or email certification@phius.org.

PhiusCon 2021 in New York was Spectacular!

Katrin HeadshotPhius Co-Founder and Executive Director Katrin Klingenberg gives a round up of all the happenings at PhiusCon 2021 from her own perspective.

Back home in Chicago on the Sunday after PhiusCon, I found myself sitting at the lake staring out at the blue waters reflecting and trying to process what just happened at the Sleepy Hollow Hotel in Tarrytown.

A pedicab passed behind me, and I noticed the song being played softly “Here comes the sun…it’s all right.”

The pandemic experience has humbled many of us, gave us lots of time for reflection and to put things into perspective. It made it even clearer how significant our work is and how necessary it is that we succeed in keeping global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. The challenge makes even a pandemic look like a warmup.

Conf Kat1One word comes to mind when I look back on PhiusCon 2021 – grateful! I’m grateful for us being able to (finally) bring everyone together safely, during COVID times. This was no small feat. Thanks go to an amazing organizing team at Phius that braved the odds – with Knezo, Jennie and Michael at the helm. Thank you to all our phriends — our tight-knit community — who boarded planes to come from all around the country and continent (Canada and Mexico attendees).

Thank you for trusting us! We did sell out, so apologies to those who wanted to attend but who we could not accommodate in the end. And thank you all for making this event as safe as possible by taking as much personal responsibility during the conference as you do in your work for the planet. The amount of love, care and commitment this group brings to the table is unprecedented. And thank you to the venues and the New York weather gods who smiled upon us. There were lots of beautiful large outdoor spaces to mingle, which was made possible by gorgeous late-summer sunshine and temps.

Being reminded that the enthusiasm that comes from being together in person, sharing work and lessons learned, progress and successes is soooooo valuable. Keep pushing forward with the great work you are all doing!

A few thoughts and observations about the conference

Conf crowd1

There is clearly an acceleration that can be felt. The skillsets of teams and their precise, knowledgeable work, even on more complex projects of all walks of life, was off the charts. Integrated space conditioning solutions and emerging next frontier systems designs as well as large-scale heat pump hot water solutions are helping get components up to speed! And emerging business models that promise to become larger scale economic catalysts are finally emerging. Thank you Sloan, for sharing your biz-model and offering to mentor fellow developers! That is crucial.

On the standards front, it has become clear that the community understands that the design of the right standards, being climate specific and with an eye toward economic optimization and accommodating retrofit conditions, matters a great deal. Quality assurance processes during design and construction also matter a great deal to the overall success of projects. And it matters to be able to share lessons learned, and to collect data for feedback loops from as many projects as we can to continue to make these systems better and update them continually. Thank you all for embracing this idea of sharing through certification for the greater good and success of the community! We need to be able to measure and quantify our success.

And that measured success was represented by fantastic winners of the Design Competition. Thank you to all who entered. All of the submissions were terrific projects, no question about it. And thank you to the most knowledgeable and experienced jury in the history of the competition.

I would also like to thank all the speakers throughout the Pre-Conference, Core Conference and plenaries, for sharing your expertise, experience, hope and sense of responsibility!

Special thanks go to two speakers, our keynote bookends, who have been long-term pillars of high-performance efforts in North America and my mentors, Eric Werling and Joe Lstiburek.

Conf Boogie1I saw the sun come up over the lake this morning, and have to thank Eric for the wonderful reminder of hope! “Here comes the sun, it’s all right,” was his theme.

And Joe, what a stimulating, beautiful, poetic closing keynote. It combined the joy of intellectual curiosity, scientific understanding and pleasure to tackle what lies in front of us. We need to be firmly in our saddles technically, but we also need to remember that we need to play, have fun and keep our motivation nurtured, even if things get tough — and they will.

I said it at the closing of the conference, and I’d like to say it again: I have, in all these years that I have been in this with you all, not been as hopeful as I am now. We can do this! Let’s start this new cycle of next-gen passive house work hopeful, mindful, recharged, refocused and re-energized!

Why We Can’t Wait for PhiusCon 2021

PhiusCon 2021 is nearly upon us, and the excitement is palpable.

This will be the first opportunity for all the leading building science professionals in the country to be under one roof in nearly two years. Our team at Phius has spent nearly that long preparing for PhiusCon, so to say we are thrilled that the conference is finally here would be a substantial understatement.

We have written blogs (here and here), sent emails and posted on social media almost nonstop over the last few months in an attempt to keep all interested parties informed of the details of PhiusCon 2021. But now that it’s nearly go-time, we wanted you to hear straight from the Phius team exactly why we are so fired up for the conference.

 

Katrin HeadshotKatrin Klingenberg, Co-Founder & Executive Director

Be with my tribe again IN PERSON — like-minded, determined, passionate, caring people…feeling the energy and excitement…looking forward to recharge, design, envision the future with everyone…listen to Joe talking about what red wine and buildings have in common…and of course geek out plenty! And then there is the Building Science Boogie Band…can’t wait.

 

 

 

 

isaac picIsaac Elnecave, Certification Staff

I am looking forward to meeting the builders and developers who turn the Phius standard into actual buildings that people can live and work in. These are the people who turn our ideas into reality. 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael FrancoMichael Franco, Product Certification Program Coordinator

I’m very excited to see what our exhibitors have to show our attendees. It’ll be really interesting to see some of the physical models and displays of products that we certify and that our practitioners use in their buildings.

 

 

 

 

 

photographs by lawrence braunJohn Loercher, Certification Staff

I’m most looking forward to the time in between sessions: planned meetups and impromptu conversations. This is always a time to be open to new possibilities, connections and ideas that keep me learning and challenge me to think outside of my current perspective. This year, considering the location of the conference center, I am looking forward to a lot of that happening outside along the Hudson River with a special view of the NYC skyline.

 

 

 

 

32tev__gGraham Wright, Senior Scientist & Chair of the Phius Technical Committee

I am looking forward to meeting with the Phius Technical Committee, and to Joe Lstiburek’s keynote address.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

James OrtegaJames Ortega, Project Certification Manager

I’m most excited for Phius’ constituents to meet Phius’ new team in person. I simply can’t wait for my new colleagues to get a glimpse at how wonderful and enthusiastic this community is.

 

 

 

 

 

Al MitchellAl Mitchell, Technical Staff

I am most excited to put faces to names, and meet all of the passive building people in person.  I also am hoping for some informal, idea generation over a round or two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steven Reid-WynnSteven Reid-Wynn, Office Administrator

I’ve never attended a conference before so I’m excited to experience it for the first time. It’ll be great to learn even more about how others are working toward getting to zero.

 

 

 

 

 

SONY DSCLisa White, Associate Director

I’m most excited for the inspiration and spark we all get to take away from it. It’s hard to explain, but after an exhausting jam-packed week, I always find myself reinvigorated, inspired, and even more motivated to take on the next year. 

 

 

 

 

 

Mike KnezovichMichael Knezovich, Director of Communications

When these people get together and geek out over building science, I get jolts of energy and inspiration. That doesn’t happen on Zoom. It just doesn’t. I can’t wait. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Max LapthorneMax Lapthorne, Marketing Communications Specialist

I have never attended a professional conference, and am not a building science expert, so I am most looking forward to soaking in the atmosphere and learning from the brightest minds in the field.

 

 

 

 

 

Josh RuedinJosh Ruedin, Professional Training and Education Programs Manager

I’m looking forward to meeting our instructors and past trainees in person. 

 

 

 

 

 

Jennie EberJennie Eber, Alliance Constituent Coordinator

I’m so excited to meet Alliance members at the Annual Member meeting on Thursday night.

Guidance on Retrofits and Decarbonization for All Buildings

32tev__gEmbodied carbon is an important and complicated subject. Phius Senior Scientist Graham Wright helps sort it out and discusses Phius’ new REVIVE program in this post.

Let’s talk about retrofit, starting with the proposition that we need to decarbonize all buildings by 2050.

Stopping direct emissions is a good start; the electrification crowd is right about that. But only stopping direct emissions just moves the burden onto the utility/energy supplier, and they have to contend with transportation electrification as well.

The key question for the building sector, and for society at large, is how much effort/investment to put into increasing the clean energy supply, versus reducing the demand by such measures as passive building and heat pumps.  

The scale of the required transition is daunting no matter which way we approach it, especially considering that we have to do all of this utility infrastructure and building retrofit work without throwing off a lot of emissions in the process. The embodied carbon crowd is right about that, though I think a materials focus doesn’t go far enough.  

One way to get at the balance-of-investment question is with the idea of life-cycle cost. What mix of grid upgrades and building upgrades minimizes the total cost of getting the job done, on an annualized/life-cycle basis? I brightened up to this when it occurred to me that carbon could be included in that calculation by including a cost of carbon. Let’s use full-cost accounting!  

That price might be set based on the cost of, say, direct air capture of CO2, that is, at some point it becomes cheaper to actually pull the carbon back out of the air. The full-cost metric I am thinking of would include all of the following:

Tentative name: Annualized Decarbonization of Retrofitted Building Cost (ADORB Cost)

ADORB Cost = sum of the following components, each an annual/annualized cost:

  • Direct energy cost. E.g. site kWh * $/kWh = $
  • Direct building retrofit measures cost (material & labor) including building-level electrification cost. E.g. ft3 of stuff * $/ft3 = $
  • Social cost of carbon, upfront/embodied. CO2e kg * $/kg = $
  • Social cost of carbon, operating. CO2e kg * $/kg = $
  • Energy system transition cost (e.g. new utility solar + storage). $/MWh * MWh = $

The idea would be that a baseline cost in this sense is calculated for the scenario of continuing to operate and maintain the building as is for some decades. Any proposed retrofit should at least have a lower cost than that, hopefully much lower. Basically one designs as if there’s a carbon price. (In a baseline case I calculated for my apartment, 70 percent of it was the carbon cost of continuing to operate the gas furnace and water heater, even after the grid electricity was completely decarbonized).

This seems useful, but there are a few issues with it, therefore it can’t be our only lens. 

Issue 1 

It would not prohibit supply chain emissions from the retrofit work. Arguably the ideal is, call it Absolute Zero: No CO2 emissions occur anywhere in the building delivery/retrofit process, supply chain, or the building operating life, at any time. We need to decarbonize everything — the whole economy. In this view, the policy stance is that any carbon capture tech is devoted to removing carbon previously emitted, not keeping up with new work.  

All the current net-zero and carbon-neutral programs have this limitation. We can’t really do everything without emissions yet, so in order to convince ourselves we are zero there all these offsets and avoided-carbon credit schemes. I’m starting to agree with the youth climate activists that this is weaselly.  

Issue 2

At the system level, it’s tricky to use cost to decide grid-versus-building investment, because those costs in turn depend on which approach we decide to scale up in the first place. Commit to industrialized retrofit construction and those costs can come down. Commit to scaling renewable generation and transmission and those costs can come down.  

Issue 3

It’s not clear how to make this full-cost metric take into account that some things just can’t happen fast enough. For example, renewable generation and even transmission may not cost that much, but siting the required high-power transmission lines from remote western wind and solar farms to eastern cities might take too long.  

Issue 4

We’ve gotten into trouble across the board lately with our global economy by trying to minimize cost without regard to resilience. It’s more resilient to do extra things to reduce building loads rather than putting the ball in the grid’s court to both decarbonize AND stay up.  

McKeesport RetrofitTherefore, I am thinking that our new REVIVE Pilot program for building retrofit needs a number of different frameworks. I have listed them below along with a few possible elements of each:

Land use

  • Retrofit, replace/redevelop, or raze/rewild?
  • FEMA hazard assessment
  • Emerging climate hazard assessment (e.g. derecho, wildfire smoke)

Decarbonization

  • Cease direct emissions.
  • Use and generate renewable energy (reconsider off-site renewables framework).
  • Re-use high-embodied carbon structure.
  • Calculate a carbon score (no criterion, just how low can you get, i.e. without offsets).

Cost/Financial/Equity

  • Calculate ADORB cost, goal to at least beat the existing condition.
  • Use load reduction, grid interactivity and storage to financial advantage.
  • Limit the cost burden on low-income people.
  • Look to make policy cases for feebates, incentives.

Resilience 

  • Design for outages and known/emerging hazards.
  • On-site/local power, microgrids, on-site/local repair parts
  • Design for low loads.

Quality and Health

  • Assess existing deficiencies (EPA indoor air quality risk list).
  • Audits: tests, energy models?
  • Commissioning & documenting that goals are met (e.g. ASHRAE 202)

Phase planning

  • Scope includes operations, not just design.
  • Plan covers both an end state and interim retrofit phases.
  • Try to cover critical loads in the first phase.

I will have a bit more to say about this at PhiusCon 2021 this October 12-15 in Tarrytown, New York. The REVIVE Pilot program is in pilot phase, looking for sample projects, and the goal is to have an on-ramp in place. The general development strategy is to evolve from informational guidance to hard requirements in an orderly way, preferably without much backtracking.  

Our existing Phius Certification program for retrofit projects remains available through the Phius CORE REVIVE 2021 and Phius ZERO REVIVE 2021 programs, outlined in Section 3 of the Phius Certification Guidebook.

Regards,

Graham

New Brand. Expanded Vision. Same Phius.

A lot can change in 18 years.

While our core values at Phius have remained constant since our inception as an affordable housing organization in 2003, our vision has expanded significantly. Our goals are more ambitious than ever, and the methods by which we plan to achieve them are ever-changing.

New Brand Same Phius GraphicIn an effort to properly reflect the evolution of our organization, we thought it necessary to reimagine the Phius brand. But before you roll your eyes, it is important to know that this is much more than a new color scheme and font family; this is an update to more accurately reflect who we are as an organization.

The process has included surveying stakeholders, internal organization evaluations, spirited discussions about Phius’ future, and yes, some interesting logo iterations. Those efforts resulted in the establishment of the foundation on which the Phius brand will continue to build.

You have likely already noticed the new Phius logo and color scheme, as we have been slowly integrating it over the past several months. Our annual conference also has a new name: PhiusCon. Aside from being a bit snappier than the North American Passive House Conference, the new name makes clear that Phius is synonymous with passive building. 

Speaking of PhiusCon 2021, attendees will get an early look at the completely overhauled Phius professional portal and brand new website that is to be launched in the new year. Our talented website team has been working tirelessly to improve the functionality and reorganize all the valuable resources we have accumulated over nearly two decades. These new tools will provide a much smoother user experience, and we cannot wait to share them with you.

Phius is still the premier zero-energy and carbon neutral ready building solution. It is still the leader in educating and certifying professionals on passive building best practices. Its ultimate goal is still to make Phius the mainstream building standard. But in order to do those things the best way possible, we needed to expand our vision. This re-branding serves as the outer layer of a plan for the future that permeates all aspects of our mission, including the renewable energy transition and how Phius buildings interact with the new grid.

We have made great progress in our quest, but there is still a lot of work to be done. And as our organization evolves to meet the challenges ahead, we want to make sure you are right there with us.