Passive House Training – One year later.

Note: this blog entry was published on Green Building Advisor on March 31, 2014

I have been asked about my Passive House consultant training by other architects enough times that I though I’d write up a quick synopsis, one year later.

For me, the Passive House training was very useful for several reasons, not the least of which was the networking aspect. It is a small community with some really great conversation happening and it is fun to be a part of that. There is a lot of controversy as well, especially on Such as where does the law of diminishing returns kick in when it comes to insulating and how to handle latent loads (excess moisture). Plus there’s the whole U.S. vs the rest of the world thing which I won’t go into as I find it rather annoying, or at least boring. Secondly, It represents state of the art science on how to build good buildings with an overriding emphasis on simplicity and quality. Passive House is really all about quality and even, as I’m finding out, represents a necessary re-thinking of how to get something built. A much more collaborative approach is necessary than often happens when building even high-end projects. The process gets much less linear. I also like the idea that the Passive House approach is a valid part of the conversation, not just achieving certification and getting the plaque to hang beside the front door. I see projects being showcased that utilized the approach in a value engineering manner to get the most bang for the buck that simply don’t have the budget to go all the way and attain certification and I like the general consensus that that is okay.
Much of my own work had been trending in the PH direction anyway so it was good to undergo the intensive training so that I could make decisions with much more confidence and authority that comes with PH credentials. As an architect who was never very (ahem) enthusiastic about the numbers and physics of things and more into the airy-fairy poetic nature and scholarly aspect of architecture it was also helpful in terms of training my weaknesses. I call myself a Passive House designer rather than a consultant in part because If I were to attempt a full-on certified Passive House, I would want to hire someone more experienced who does this on a daily basis to do the actual numbers part and look over their shoulder through the process – at least for the first few times.
There is also the notion, similar to my approach to structural engineering where I try not to design anything too complicated to engineer myself – I prefer not to design anything that would require a complicated heating/ventilating system. It does get more complicated in renovation/addition work though for sure. My approach to structural engineering has always been very intuitive and very related to my own building experience and knowledge of materials, assemblies and connections My structural engineering professor once told me that the intuition part is vital and more than half the battle. First you intuit the solution then you apply numbers and formulas to check yourself. The Passive House training augmented my intuition and gave me more confidence to apply the numbers as well as a perspective on when, where and why.

Plus it was really good for marketing.


  • Alpenglow says:

    Great entry. I recently took the CPHC training and had an identical experience. The concepts and overall process made sense on a fundamental level. The physics and math on the other hand, gave me a headache daily. My biggest complaint to the instructors was the carbon-reduction goal ( i.e. we need this now or else..) combined with a very tricky and elite exam to then go out and do this work. Didn’t make sense to me. More and more I see projects going “Passive-Lite” because its just too anal. Net-Zero or Net-Zero Positive projects seem more obtainable and marketable.

  • bob says:

    I like the “Pretty Good House” on Greenbuildingadvisor for our climate. It gets you just far enough to solve the issues.

  • bob says:

    response to a GBA comment reposted here:
    I am an architect with assorted professional titles after my name and I find that “the more I know, the more I know what I don’t know” if that makes any sense. I rely heavily on the conversations here on GBA to gain knowledge and to learn what the questions are as much as what the answers are if not more so. I am aware that many architects don’t make the effort – same with builders.
    I actually, really enjoyed the PH training for the numbers aspect to things and have no notion that, just because I have the certification, it makes me an expert. It does allow me to have productive and intelligent conversations with the real experts. A parallel might be plumbing. I know enough about plumbing to do my own simple repairs but will never have the experience and knowledge to be a plumber myself. It simply allows me to design in a way that makes the plumber’s job easier, simpler and less expensive for the client. I love architecture and my profession and am merely trying to be the best I can be at it.
    When I say “boring” it is a callous way of saying that I, like many others, look upon the current bickering between the different factions of the Passive House world with one raised eyebrow and the general feeling that I would rather not get involved with that aspect of it. I am more interested in the bigger picture of how I can make my buildings better – what are the best practices and why? what ways of doing things are less likely to be successful and what have a higher likelihood of failure.
    Honestly, almost everything I learned in PH training, you could get from detailed study of GBA but doing the training was certainly more concise.
    As a solo practitioner, I learn so much on every project and my collective knowledge is the result of working with many different builders and clients (often one and the same) I may never be asked to do a fully certifiable Passive House. Most of my work is along the lines of “pretty good house” for new construction and for many projects, simply helping people with construction and design related issues to help them live better and more comfortably in their own homes – which may or may not include lowering their fuel bills. I really hope that I will be asked to design a Passive House because I would learn so much. It would be Fun.

  • Great entry. I recently took the CPHC training and had an identical experience

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