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.

A Tree Grows at Phius: Keeping Up with Expansion Digitally

SONY DSCIn this week’s blog post, Phius Associate Director Lisa White gives insight into the organization’s new centralized data management system and how it will impact Phius professionals.

I’m here to report on an update to the behind-the-curtain, inner-working organizational elements we’ve been working on at Phius. It will change the way professionals interact with Phius virtually, and greatly expand our capacity for data collection and cross-referencing.

But first, a little background. 

Since I started with Phius almost 10 years ago, we’ve grown significantly as an organization — continually evolving with new offerings to help execute our mission. Training programs have expanded, Alliance membership and benefits have grown, the building certification programs have advanced, and the product program has evolved — to name a few. With capacity and infrastructure limitations, program managers did the best they could with what they had to carry out and build their respective programs. And yes, this means many great Google Sheet coders were born of Phius staff (I’ll be the first to admit the satisfaction of successful G-sheet programming, and I’m sure some tech staff will miss it just a little). But ultimately these programs were all disconnected, because they grew organically. We recognized that we’d reached limitations and needed to make a leap in order to continue to grow sustainably.

A little over 2 years ago, we set out with a goal to streamline and optimize our workflows and internal processes. We began working with a consultant to perform what they called a “data inventory” of Phius. The review captured everything Phius offered — the who, what, why, where, when and how. 

The resulting product was essentially an exhaustive report on business operations: major processes, products produced, core customer profiles. We documented who was involved, which resources we used, required data inputs and outputs for the workflows, which data points triggered other processes, where those linked up with other systems, etc. And then of course we looked at the gaps. The sheer amount of opportunity to optimize our business excited me, but I knew we had a lot of work ahead of us. 

I like to think of that startup phase as a bunch of branches held together by tape to create the “Phius Tree.” And it worked for a while, as long as we kept adding tape and kept the branches light. But what we’re creating now is the tree trunk — the firmly rooted central connection piece for all of our data and workflows to feed the branches. This trunk is a Customer Relationship Management tool (CRM). I think of it as a Content Resource Manager, because we’re going to use it to organize more than just customers. We’ve built custom modules to manage data for building projects, building components and products, policies, continuing education units, etc. But of course, all of those are ultimately centered around the customer.

CRM GraphicOur CRM is the new central data hub and workflow engine for Phius. It’ll hold all the information about our constituents, the activities and events they’re involved in, professional certification statuses, continuing education reports, products and projects they certify, etc. It will also house workflow rules and blueprints — activating, automating, and communicating data as needed.

The CRM content will be displayed in Phius’ shiny new website databases for Professionals, Projects, Products, Events, and Policies. These databases are greatly improved from previous iterations because they’ll have more filters, search functions, and connectivity! Yes, this means a certified project is now connected to the certified products it uses, the Phius certified professionals involved, and the policies or incentives that helped make the project possible. Plus, we’re expanding the data that we collect based on what we’ve learned our constituents need over past years.

So what does this mean for you?

Probably the most notable impact on professionals will be the new customer portal for Project Submitters, Trainees, Certified Professionals and Phius Alliance members. 

This portal will be your “gateway” into the CRM. You will be able to: 

  • Access and edit your core profile information, including your professional database listing
  • Access Alliance members gated (Member-Only) content 
  • View past and upcoming Phius events that you are registered for
  • View expiration dates for Alliance membership and professional certifications
  • Log and track continuing education units (I am especially excited about this one)
  • Submit certified project data for the website database listing
  • Track your product certification jobs and product expiration dates
  • Renew memberships
  • Submit support tickets or questions to Phius staff/departments 

Additionally, all Phius Phriends (contacts in the system) will be assigned a 6-digit Phius ID. This will replace any and all other personal numbers assigned by Phius or the Alliance in the past, alleviating confusion moving forward. This also means a single login for all Phius-related activities! 

What I’m most excited about

From my perspective as Associate Director, I’m most excited about having a single source of truth for data — eliminating duplicate data entry and variables. Also, about the amount of knobs and automations we can set up in the system to improve both the experience for our constituents as well as the administrative load for Phius staff. It will be great to free up more time to focus on our mission — certify more buildings and products, enhance educational offerings, connect developers with passive building policies and incentives, educate the general public, etc. 

From my past role as Project Certification Manager, I’m most excited about the data — and the reports, statistics, and other findings we can pull from it. The certified project and product databases are going to be greatly enhanced, allowing us to track and sort data like never before. This adds significant value for customers, especially in the product program. And, now we feel better suited to answer questions such as “Is this the first certified project greater than 4 stories and over 62 units with ICF construction in the Midwest?” :)

While this may seem mundane, and you may be thinking “duh” from the outside, this is a significant step for Phius. This will allow us to continue to exponentially grow and alleviate some of our growing pains. As we get close to the finish line (planning to launch before the end of the year) I can reflect on the process and see a lot of similarities between optimizing building design and optimizing business processes. It’s still all about finding synergies.

What’s Next?

After the CRM and Portal launch in early December, all constituents will receive their new Phius ID. Alliance Members, Certified Professionals, Trainees and Project Submitters will receive login information for the Phius Portal. We’ll take this opportunity to ask everyone to review their profile and project information — sharpening it up before the new website launch in early 2022!

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

Building a ZERO Carbon Future, Together!

Katrin HeadshotPhius Co-Founder and Executive Director Katrin Klingenberg wrote this week’s blog post in advance of her “Zero Energy and the Future of Phius” webinar on Sept. 14. It covers a variety of topics related to Phius’ work and the expanded vision of the organization.

“The west is on fire, and the east is drowning.”

Those attention-grabbing words were the first thing I heard when I turned on my TV the other day.

“The levees held, but the power grid folded”

That was a headline from the day after hurricane Ida swept across Louisiana. Most of the state was left without power; temperatures in the aftermath were predicted to rise into the 100s, all after a ton of rain and flooding. The combination of high temperatures and humidity is life-threatening — on top of all the other hardships brought on by the storm.

And then there was the Texas winter with the grid folding and people and pipes freezing in homes…

The urgency is clear. At our most recent Phius board retreat there was consensus: we are in dire straits climate-wise — it is now or never.

Since its inception, Phius’ vision has had a North Star: to create a carbon-neutral, healthy, safe, and just future for everyone by mitigating the climate crisis. And our mission is to do just that by making passive house and building standards mainstream.

The vision was extended to using passive house and building principles as the basis for all zero-energy and carbon designs. We added the Phius Source Zero certification program in 2012. Net zero is a good first step, but we need to revise the framework. In practice, net zero isn’t enough. 

The conclusion we at Phius have reached — following the thought leadership of our Senior Scientist Graham Wright — is that we need to aim to reach absolute zero in short order to avert the ultimate climate crisis. And that is absolute zero as per the original definition of zero – the absence of a measurable quantity.

A New Brand

We are upping our game on multiple levels in order to emphasize our renewed commitment to solving the ZERO-carbon puzzle for buildings. 

New Brand Same Phius GraphicWe started by reimagining the Phius brand. We are updating its look and making products and messages more relatable without sacrificing what we are known for: scientific rigor, precision, quality assurance, proven guidance, and performance. We are also unifying and expanding our suite of certifications for buildings, products and professionals. We are upping the ante on benefits to our professional members under the Phius Alliance leadership and yes, we are creating exceptionally cool swag to encourage everyone to join our tribe and make it our lifestyle together! Together, our community is creating momentum in the market — and having fun with it!

We also re-organized ourselves internally in more efficient ways over the last year, invested in a new website and a CRM, architecture. And we doubled our staff — to aim for greater, faster and increasingly exponential impact and service for our stakeholders. 

In addition, we are making dedicated efforts to reach out to communities beyond the building industry, to explain why what we do matters to everyone. Renters and owners all have a stake in what we do, and we are all one or the other. We want to give everyone an opportunity to get involved. It is up to all of us now! Join us!

Expanded Vision

Over the last decade, Phius has become the global leader in defining cost-effective and climate-optimized, passive house and building standards. Phius certified projects are now coming in at little or no cost premium compared to conventional buildings. Phius also leads in professional training, certification, and workforce development. We also provide an element critical to mainstream adoption: Quality assurance and risk management.

The building sector accounts for 40 percent of carbon emissions, and is key to achieving emissions reduction goals. Passive house and building principles have been, and will continue to be, CORE to our efforts. In that spirit, the formerly known PHIUS+ building certifications have been renamed and expanded. 

PHIUS+ will now be referred to as Phius CORE (before renewables) and PHIUS+ Source Zero will now be Phius ZERO (based on CORE), and will extend to netting out emissions on an annual basis. New passive house and building retrofit certifications are in the offing as well. Phius CORE REVIVE and Phius ZERO REVIVE, as well as a new commercial building certification called Phius CORE COMM and Phius ZERO COMM will be introduced in 2022. 

Phius certifications have grown exponentially around the continent in recent years. Policy progress nationwide has been impressive to say the least. We are in Tarrytown, New York, for PhiusCon 2021 (formerly North American Passive House Conference) to celebrate the leadership of New York State/NYSERDA in formulating an aggressive climate action plan — a process which Phius helped inform. Other states, such as Massachusetts, have modeled their plans after New York’s. Phius’ pre- and fully certified unit count in Massachusetts over the last few years alone is impressive.

Phius Housing Units (In Process or Complete)

 

The Phius Alliance has expanded nationally, and the global network continues to grow. Phius projects have now been completed or are under way in many countries with varying climate zones. The Phius professional training has been translated into Japanese and has been taught this year successfully in Japan by Phius partner PHIJP.

The last decade was focused on figuring out the building part of the decarbonization equation (mission accomplished — solving for climate, cost, comfort). Now it’s time to expand beyond the building itself. We see Phius buildings as valuable capacitors of the new, renewable grid. They are low-load buildings that have the ability to load-shift and shed, which is immensely beneficial to the optimization of the overall grid design and resilience. 

Phius has begun to assess and measure the benefits of low-load buildings for the overall grid design, including micro and nano grid models. We call this initiative Phius GEB (Phius Grid-interactive Efficient Buildings) led by our Associate Director Lisa White. A pilot for a microgrid Phius community certification is underway. Buildings plug into the grid, and new opportunities for synergies and resilience arise. Design for the best result does not stop at the building envelope or lot line. 

Our new teal-colored logo symbolizes this expanded vision. It is a closed loop symbolizing whole systems design on all levels, aiming at harvesting adjacent system synergies: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” The color teal represents clarity of thought, rejuvenation, open communication and integrity. 

Same Phius

While Phius will be steadily expanding its zero-carbon framework beyond its hallmark passive house and building standards, we will maintain our core competencies of aiding in design, building, policy writing and quality assurance. We are working to solidify and upgrade our foundational programs. Certification staff has doubled and processes are being refined. We are working on getting even better at what we already do well!

The Phius focus has evolved to the broader task of decarbonization. We’ll do so with the same scientific rigor and attention to detail as before. Our goal is the next level of systems optimization so we as a society can make real-time ZERO carbon (not just net) a reality soon!

We hope you’ll join us and continue to trust us to pave the way for the future of decarbonization strategies. There is still lots to do, so let’s get to it!

PhiusCon 2021: Emissions Down, Scale Up — Together!

For four days in October, the center of the passive building world will be Tarrytown, New York.

That is to say that if there’s something important going on in the passive building world, we probably have an expert booked to discuss it at PhiusCon 2021. This year’s conference will be tucked away at the scenic Sleepy Hollow Hotel Convention Center in the beautiful Hudson Valley. It will have a distinct New York accent as we have partnered with New York State Energy Research and Development (NYSERDA) for the event.

The locale for PhiusCon 2021 is no accident. Thanks in large part to years of tireless effort by Phius and NYSERDA, New York has become the country’s unquestioned leader in climate action policy.

425 Grand Concourse 1New York State and NYSERDA have embraced passive building like nowhere else, and we are thrilled they have invited us to New York State where we can properly feature the progress that has been made in New York to our national and international audience at PhiusCon. As New York City’s gateway to the rest of the state, Tarrytown is the perfect location for PhiusCon 2021, allowing us to show off passive projects in the city and throughout the great state of New York.

Pre-Conference workshops will be running Oct. 12-13, during which attendees can immerse themselves in subjects ranging from multifamily for developers to climate and social equity and WUFI Passive.

The core conference is set for Oct. 14-15 and is to feature sessions covering the following topics and much more:

  • States’ and cities’ climate action and zero energy code progress
  • Innovation in finance and technology
  • Optimized methods to bring down cost for design, construction and manufacturing
  • Zero energy building + renewable energy grid solutions such as microgrids, energy storage, virtual power plants
  • Successful passive retrofit solutions including manufactured component approaches such as panel systems
  • International climate-specific passive projects
  • QA/QC professional experiences in multiple building typologies

The list of speakers for PhiusCon 2021 is as distinguished and diverse as we have ever had, as building science professionals from around the globe are slated to give presentations. Keynote speakers are to include: POAH Vice President for Design and Building Performance Julie Klump, Energy Circle Founder and CEO Peter Troast, and Building Science Corporation Founding Principal Dr. Joseph Lstiburek.

This is the first year in the conference’s history that there are two different passive project tours scheduled. There is a New York City tour scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 12, which will showcase some of the largest multifamily passive projects in the country. And the Hudson Valley tour on Saturday, Oct. 16, will include a variety of creatively designed single-family homes in the area.

The winners of our 2021 Passive Projects Design Competition will also be announced as part of the PhiusCon festivities. Winning and honorable mention awards for the competition will be given in five categories:

  • Single-Family
  • Multi-Family
  • Affordable
  • Commercial/Institutional
  • Source Zero

Entries are being accepted until Oct. 1. For more information on the design competition, visit the PhiusCon website.

 

COVID Protocols

The safety of all PhiusCon 2021 attendees is at the top of our minds as the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States continues to evolve.

We hope to alleviate any concerns held by prospective attendees by laying out the COVID-19 protocols that will be in place for PhiusCon

  • CDC recommendations related to masking will be followed and enforced
  • All State and local mandates related to COVID-19 will be adhered to
  • N95 masks and hand sanitizer will be made available to attendees
  • If you feel sick, do not attend the conference
  • Presenters will be distanced from attendees and masked during presentations

As of the time of this newsletter, there are no COVID-19 capacity restrictions in place at the Sleepy Hollow Hotel Convention Center where the conference is being held. For those who choose not to attend in person, there are virtual tickets on sale, which provide access to a live stream of select presentations. There is no plan to convert PhiusCon to a fully virtual event.
If you have any more questions or concerns related to the COVID-19 protocols at PhiusCon 2021, please email conference@phius.org.