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PHIUS takes a deep breath: Reappraising Passive House


Katrin Klingenberg (right) with a few of her students

Katrin Klingenberg, co-founder and executive director of the Passive House Institute of the US [PHIUS] is a visionary leader and inspiring teacher.  Since 2006, she and Mike Kernagis built the first Passive House in North America, established the Institute, and trained hundreds of professionals–myself included–in the Passive House system. During that period, at least 106 buildings have been built or precertified, using this system.

But it has become apparent that the Passive House system, developed in Germany in the 1980’s by Dr. Wolfgang Feist, did not translate seamlessly to  the wide range of N. American climates, and the actual performance of homes built in regions with extreme weather conditions failed to meet what had been modeled and certified prior to construction and occupancy.

Compounding the performance issue, the recent availability of cheap energy thwarted the rationale for the ponderous extra cost for thickened wall, roof, and floor assemblies, and other associated features. In some cases the pay-back for exceeding code standards is estimated to take a century.

So it is to her credit, and a testament of her courage and integrity, that Katrin and her associates are undertaking a serious reappraisal of Passive House methodologies and standards. What is most promising is PHIUS’s collaboration with Building Science Corporation, to develop a new set of climate specific, cost effective standards.

On the one hand, I can’t help but feeling a sense of disillusionment over what I had been taught. There is also the weird sense of validation, for the objections I encountered in studying–and implementing–the original methodologies. But that’s life on the bleeding edge–you bandage up your wounds and soldier on.

Read Katrin’s full report at: