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The Passive House Conference in California Is Where It’s At!

PHIUS will host the 9th annual North American Passive House Conference next month

Posted on Aug 20 2014 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD

The 9th annual North American Passive HouseA residential building construction standard requiring very low levels of air leakage, very high levels of insulation, and windows with a very low U-factor. Developed in the early 1990s by Bo Adamson and Wolfgang Feist, the standard is now promoted by the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt, Germany. To meet the standard, a home must have an infiltration rate no greater than 0.60 AC/H @ 50 pascals, a maximum annual heating energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (4,755 Btu per square foot), a maximum annual cooling energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (1.39 kWh per square foot), and maximum source energy use for all purposes of 120 kWh per square meter (11.1 kWh per square foot). The standard recommends, but does not require, a maximum design heating load of 10 W per square meter and windows with a maximum U-factor of 0.14. The Passivhaus standard was developed for buildings in central and northern Europe; efforts are underway to clarify the best techniques to achieve the standard for buildings in hot climates. Conference is less than a month away. You knew it's going to be in California, right?

It's unfortunate that the other Passivhaus group has chosen to use the same name that the Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS) has been using since 2006, but I've already discussed that confusion. (Full disclosure: I am on the board of directors of PHIUS.)

All you need to know is that the main passive house conference is in California, not in Maine. And here's why you ought to get yourself registered for it ASAP.

1. Great speakers and presentations

Bill Rose, author of one of my favorite building science books, Water in Buildings, will give the opening keynote address. The smart, funny Achilles Karagiozis will give the closing keynote. Here are a few other notable presenters and presentations:

  • Terry Brennan - Multifamily QA/QC
  • Sam Rashkin, Kat Klingenberg, & Graham Wright - New climate-specific standards
  • Iain Walker & Brett Singer - Ventilation & IAQIndoor air quality. Healthfulness of an interior environment; IAQ is affected by such factors as moisture and mold, emissions of volatile organic compounds from paints and finishes, formaldehyde emissions from cabinets, and ventilation effectiveness.
  • Chris Benedict - Newest market rate multifamily project in NYC
  • Joe Lstiburek - Multifamily ventilation design

The breakout sessions are where you get to hear about what's working and what's not. Builders, architects, engineers, and certified passive house consultants, all will be sharing their experience with Passivhaus projects they've been working on.

2. Pre-conference sessions

I'll be learning WUFI Passive this year with Prudence Ferreira and Mattias Pazold. Other pre-conference sessions include:

  • PHIUS + Rater: Taught by John Semmelhack and Terry Brennan, this designation gets HERS raters involved in Passivhaus projects.
  • Domestic Hot Water Design: Gary Klein is the guru of hot water.
  • Passive Building Science Fundamentals: Dr. Joseph Lstiburek.

With one exception, the cost to attend these sessions is insanely low.

3. Climate-specific Passivhaus standards

Do you know what the most frequently given answer is to just about any applied building science question? “It depends.”

The original Passivhaus standard, developed in Germany, hasn't worked so well here in North America, mainly because its rigidity doesn't hold up to our greater climate variation. Kat Klingenberg did a great job explaining all this in her article at Green Building Advisor earlier this year, so that's a good place to learn more.

PHIUS has been working with Buildilng Science Corporation to develop climate-specific standards and open things up a little bit here. On the first morning of the main conference, those new standards will be unveiled.

4. Dynamic energy modeling

Climate-specific standards aren't the only thing that distinguishes PHIUS from the followers of the German PHI. The main tool of PHI is the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP), which is an Excel spreadsheet with all the calculations you need to model a Passivhaus project. But the PHPP gives you only a static look at what's going on. WUFI Passive incorporates the hygrothermalA term used to characterize the temperature (thermal) and moisture (hygro) conditions particularly with respect to climate, both indoors and out. modeling of WUFI along with the load calculations necessary for Passivhaus design. (Be sure to see Adam Cohen's quote about PHPP below.)

PHIUS certifies Passivhaus projects using either tool, and you can learn more about the dynamic modeling of WUFI Passive at the passive house conference in California.

5. We have a pirate!

OK, Adam Cohen isn't really a pirate. Anyway, he denied it when Joe Lstiburek asked him if he was one last year at the conference. But he is one smart and committed Passivhaus designer in Virginia. You can read a bit about him in this article by Martin Holladay, which is also where the following quote comes from:

"There are tons of things in the PHPP that I don’t agree with. I know that a building doesn’t work with the PHPP defaults. Energy modeling is 25% science, 25% experience, 25% art, and 25% voodoo."

What more do you need! The 9th annual North American Passive House Conference is really where it's at! And of course the Bay Area is a lovely place to visit, too.

See you there!

Allison Bailes of Decatur, Georgia, is a speaker, writer, energy consultant, RESNET-certified trainer, and the author of the Energy Vanguard Blog. Check out his in-depth course, Mastering Building Science at Heatspring Learning Institute, and follow him on Twitter at @EnergyVanguard.

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Image Credits:

  1. Image #1: PHIUS
  2. Image #3: Martin Holladay

Aug 20, 2014 4:48 AM ET

Two Passivhaus conferences in September
by Martin Holladay

As Allison points out, there will be two different Passivhaus conferences in the U.S. in September.

Allison will be attending the September 10-14 conference in California; I hope he will report on the proceedings in a blog for GBA.

I will be attending the September 22-23 conference in Maine -- the one with the keynote address by Wolfgang Feist -- and will report back to GBA readers on the goings-on there.

Aug 20, 2014 12:13 PM ET

by Peter L

At least they didn't schedule both conferences on the same week. This way one can attend both if they choose.

Aug 20, 2014 9:09 PM ET

by Malcolm Taylor

Wouldn't it have been more fun if they were scheduled at the same time in the same conference centre?

Aug 20, 2014 11:12 PM ET

all we care about is :
by Jin Kazama

PHIUS new climate dependent standard and its new rules .

You shall be judged by your actions :)

Aug 21, 2014 7:39 AM ET

Response to Malcolm Taylor
by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD

Hey, maybe you've hit on something there. It seems that the two groups aren't willing or able to reunite, but maybe we could hold a joint conference for the good of the movement. I know people who go to both, or would like to, so this could be a way to bring everyone together without exhausting their finances. There are a lot of obstacles to overcome to make this happen, but stranger things have happened.

Aug 30, 2014 6:28 PM ET

Meeting at PHIUS Conference?
by Bronwyn Barry

Hi Allison, I've just registered to attend the PHIUS conference as a North American Passive House Network representative. I would be more than happy to meet with you (and any other PHIUS/PHAUS Board member/s) to discuss ways to either cooperate or at least coexist peacefully. This is a huge continent and there is much work to do. Multiple PH organizations and events offering a diverse array of options should really be seen as a good thing.
I look forward to the PHIUS Conference. A pirate show is always worth the price of entry. I hope he brings a parrot? :)

Sep 4, 2014 7:15 AM ET

See ya there!
by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD

Hi, Bronwyn, I look forward to meeting you next week. I've never seen Adam with a parrot, but that would definitely be cool!

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