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Passive House Goes to the Next Level

The Orchards at Orenco in Hillsboro, OR is the largest multifamily passive building in North America. Photo credit:  Casey Braunger, Ankrom Moisan Architects

The Orchards at Orenco in Hillsboro, OR is the largest multifamily passive building in North America. Photo credit: Casey Braunger, Ankrom Moisan Architects

By Katrin Klingenberg, PHIUS Executive Director

Each year for the past decade Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) welcomes our partners and colleagues to the annual North American Passive House Conference. This September as we gather in Philadelphia, we will reflect on the outstanding accomplishments made since our first conference in Bemidji, Minnesota at the BioHaus in 2006. From building the very first passive house in North America in 2003, to this year reaching the milestone of over 1 million square feet of certified and pre-certified projects across 1,200 units nationwide, we have seen tremendous growth in passive building from coast to coast.

Taking the conversation beyond simple energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions reductions to put a greater emphasis on human comfort, health, and resilience led to the devolvement of the PHIUS+ 2015 Passive Building Standard released by PHIUS this past year. PHIUS+ 2015 is the first and only passive building standard based upon climate-specific comfort and performance criteria aimed at presenting an affordable solution to achieving the most durable, resilient, energy-efficient building possible for a specific location.

Climate-Specific Solutions

With nearly a decade of experience certifying projects in climates as varied as Louisiana, New England, Illinois, and even Alaska, we recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to achieving comfort, durability, and resiliency. That’s why the PHIUS+ 2015 Standard takes a climate-specific approach to performance, providing tailored solutions at the local level that add up to achieve wide-scale adaptability.

Big Gains in Multifamily

The cost-optimized PHIUS+ 2015 Standard has contributed to substantial growth of multifamily passive buildings across North America, particularly in the affordable housing sector, including projects such as Village Centre in Brewer, ME, Beach Green North in New York City, the Orchards at Orenco in Hillsboro, OR, and Second + Delaware in Kansas City, MO. These projects demonstrate to affordable multifamily housing developers and program managers that pursuing passive building standards can have a huge impact on helping them meet their bottom line while providing quality, healthy homes for those in need.

On our recently launched Multifamily Resource Center at multifamily.phius.org we are compiling detailed performance data and metrics for these real-world case studies to inform designers, developers, policymakers, program managers, and investors about the levels of performance that can be achieved with a PHIUS+ certified building.

Village Centre Apartments in Brewer, ME is one of the largest multifamily passive buildings in North America. Photo: Community Housing of Maine (CHOM)

Village Centre Apartments in Brewer, ME is one of the
largest multifamily passive buildings in North America.
Photo: Community Housing of Maine (CHOM)

The Quest for Zero

Buildings designed and built to the PHIUS+ 2015 Standard consume 86% less energy for heating and 46% less energy for cooling (depending on climate zone and building type) when compared to a code-compliant building (International Energy Conservation Code IECC 2009), resulting in an overall site Energy Use Intensity (EUI) of approximately 10-20 kBTU/ft2 year.

Energy efficiency at this scale means that the addition of a small renewable energy system cannot only zero out a building’s greenhouse gas emissions and reduce its carbon footprint under normal operation, but occupants can also survive off the grid in the event of natural disaster or other crisis. If all buildings were built to passive building standards, then a small micro-grid would suffice to power an entire community and make it less vulnerable to larger-scale power outages.

Connect with Us

Join us in Philadelphia from September 21-25, 2016 for the 11th Annual North American Passive House Conference (NAPHC2016) as we explore these topics in greater depth. The event features two days of in-depth pre-conference workshops, followed by two days of core conference breakout sessions, and culminates in a daylong tour of passive building projects in the region. Let’s work together to bring the benefits of passive buildings – health, comfort, safety, resiliency and efficiency – to the mainstream.

To learn more and register to attend NAPHC2016, visit naphc2016.phius.org.

Katrin Klingenberg is the Executive Director of Passive House Institute US (PHIUS), which she co-founded in 2003. A German-born and -trained architect, she drove the development of the new climate-specific, cost-optimized PHIUS+ 2015 Passive Building Standard and directs the technical and research programs of PHIUS. Learn more at phius.org.

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