Passive House Design: The Birth of the National Passive House Alliance in the U.S.

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Mark A. Miller is a practicing architect/builder/developer living in Chicago who designs projects around the country. His studio, Mark A. Miller Architects + Builders, designs and builds high-performing, energy-efficient homes that speak to the soul. Mark recently co-founded the Passive House Alliance Chicago and is lecturing about the Passive House standard throughout the Midwest. You can learn more about his unique approach to designing thoughtful homes at his websites: Zen + Architecture and Passive House Midwest . 

This was an exciting week for the Passive House movement.  The U.S. headquarters for the Passive House Standard, or PHIUS, announced that a National Passive House Alliance organization will soon be starting.  There are already a handful of regional alliances, in places such as California, Minnesota and the Pacific Northwest.  Having a national alliance organization, however, will make it easier and ensure greater success for the city, state or regional alliances that will continue to grow as the Passive House movement continues to build.

Through public outreach, education and professional support, the alliances strive to bring Passive House into the mainstream. Toward this effort I teamed up with George Sullivan, a PE and Certified Passive House Consultant in Chicago.  We organized the first meet-up for our new group, The Passive House Alliance Chicago.  The Passive House movement is seeing regional groups forming around the country, where passive house consultants, consultants in training and champions of energy-efficient design are meeting monthly.  The activities from the “alliances” take several forms:

Web site: The alliances are running their own websites where professionals and the general public can learn more about the Passive House Standard.  The sites contain a number of resources: announcements for local lectures, open houses to visit projects finishing up construction, links to local Passive House consultants, architects, builders, engineers and the latest building products that Passive House folks are using in their projects to meet the certification.

Monthly meetings: These are geared more to the practicing Passive House professional.  The beauty of the Passive House movement is that it has a similar spirit to the early computer geeks (and I am saying this with the utmost admiration). Those pioneers of today’s digital age were a bunch of hobbyists who were more interested in figuring out how to make a computer than they were in how to make a buck off of their invention.  It’s really a beautiful thing if you’ve ever been a part of an effort.  The greed and legal activities seems to kill that spirit, so there is a great sense of camaraderie amongst Passive Housers, in sharing the latest details, techniques, successes and mistakes, all in the spirit of trying to make the most energy efficient buildings. Information is shared freely amongst the professionals.

Education: The alliances will spearhead local educational events.  This could be inviting noted Passive House professionals to town to present their latest work, or it could be product manufacturers who are creating higher performing products that make our projects that much better. You see, here in the U.S. we don’t have 20 years of research and development when it comes to making higher performing building components.  Also, while in Germany there is great demand for high performance products and local codes demand these products, we are still way behind.  I am excited to see how as the size of the movement grows, it should encourage national companies to get going on ramping up their game.

Conferences: The fifth national Passive House Conference will be held this November 4 through 7 at the Hilton Portland in Portland, Oregon. If you happen to be in the Pacific Northwest, I would encourage you to attend.  In time, we will start to see regional conferences as well. To learn more, visit www.passivehouse.us/

It’s an exciting time to be at the beginning of the U.S. Passive House movement for all, whether you are a designer, builder, green advocate, building product manufacturer, or building or home owner.  Keep an eye out for a Passive House Alliance forming in your neck of the woods soon.  Next week, I will start sharing some insights into the techniques of the achieving the Passive House Standard.

Read more thoughts from Mark Miller on Passive House design!