A group of about 130 designers, builders, and Passivhaus fans gathered at U Mass Boston on October 27, 2012 to attend a one-day conference organized by Passive House New England.
It’s impossible for this report to be comprehensive, unfortunately, and I won’t be able to do justice to all of the conference events. My report will focus on three speakers: Adam Cohen, Chris Corson, and Roger Normand. Among the presentations not reported on here:
Adam Cohen is a designer at a firm called Structures Design/Build in Roanake, Virginia. In recent years, he has had a surprising degree of success convincing residential and commercial clients to build to the Passivhaus standard.
Cohen opened his presentation with some jokes about his corner of Virginia. “I work in the Bible Belt South,” said Cohen. “Right before I came up to this conference, my Obama yard signs were stolen. Someone suggested that I call this session, ‘Passivhaus in redneck country: Building for people who don’t care about the environment.’”
Cohen then shared an affectionate look back at his countercultural roots. “When I was 25, I was a hippie and an idealist,” he said. He showed us a photo of a house he built with his wife (see Image #2, below). “The house cost $3 a square foot. We lived on a commune. Back then, we were building off-grid houses. We were trying to live off the land. If we had 4 or 6 Arco solar panels, that was a screaming big PV system. We used gas appliances, wood appliances, gas refrigerators. We built thermosyphon solar hot water systems. We built hydraulic ram pumps out of PVC. Why did we go do all of this? Because we were poor hippies.”
Cohen has come a long way. He is now a successful designer of single-family homes and commercial buildings.