Five reasons we’re excited for the North American Passive House Conference in Chicago

For ten years the North American Passive House Conference has brought the continent’s leading passive building practitioners and partisans together to share techniques, breakthroughs, and lessons learned. During those ten years the Passive House movement has experienced tremendous growth, with hundreds of certified projects and many more hundreds on their way. We’ve felt some growing pains during that time as the Passive House approach has been applied throughout North America. One outgrowth is PHIUS’ new climate-specific adaptation of the Passive House standard, PHIUS+2015.

News about this development will be among the passive building information gold that will be on offer at the 2015 conference in Chicago (September 9-13). Here are five reasons we at H&H are excited about our trip to the Windy City:

  1. Get the real dope on the standard adaptation. This year’s conference dedicates an entire track to the standard adaptation and how it is faring in the real world. Is it “easier” or “harder” to achieve than the original…or neither? What are the implications in our Pacific Northwest climate? Does it change decisions around rooftop solar? What about affordability? How about comfort? Ten expert practitioners will share their lessons.
  2. Joe and Achilles. Joe Lstiburek and Achilles Karagiozis are two North American building science rock stars (it is not an oxymoron) that you gotta catch at the conference. (Unfortunately, as a sign of the conference’s embarrassment of riches, their presentations happen during the same time slot.) Joe is a principal and mainstay of Building Science Corporation, and will go deep with WUFI hygrothermal modeling results. Achilles is Director of Building Science at Owens Corning (before that he was a distinguished research and development engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory) and will be sharing tips about something near and dear to our hearts at H&H: comfort modeling for residential buildings.
  3. Hartwig Künzel. This guy’s an international building science rockstar, the Bono of building physics (though that probably dates me). He’s head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics. Fraunhofer is the applied research megalith that, along with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is behind the dynamic modeling software, WUFI, and its variants like WUFI Passive. Künzel will be delivering a not-to-be-missed Saturday keynote.
  4. Sam Rashkin. In his various roles at the US Department of Energy Sam has done as much as anyone in the US to spur on the practice and implementation of high performance home building. He’s also a great advocate for Passive House; it is no accident that PHIUS+ certification and DOE’s top home energy certification, Zero Energy Ready Home, are so closely aligned. In addition to Sam’s building science smarts, he has great insights about how building geeks can better communicate the very real benefits of high performance building. We’ve learned a lot from him, and look forward to his keynote to close the conference.
  5. Tours! Saturday night will feature a boat tour of Chicago Architecture (super awesome), while Sunday boasts the highlight of any Passive House gathering: a tour of built projects.

Frankly, in a conference with 90 presenters, it’s a fool’s errand to single out five highlights. For example, because I’ve become a bit obsessed with renewable energy and how it relates to super-efficient building, I can’t wait for Graham Irwin’s presentation about Passive House as a form of energy storage. For each attendee there will be many such allures; so many great ideas to absorb, so little time.

If you do join us at the conference (and you should) please say “hi.” And of course we’d love for you to check out one of H&H’s presentations. Sam Hagerman and Dan Palmer will present about our experience with Passive House doors. Dan Whitmore will present a case study about the Sanden CO2 heat pump water heater, as well as co-present real-world, side-by-side comparisons of the old standard versus the new standard using built examples. And I’ll be presenting a session about the complementary nature of net zero energy and passive building, as well as a lunchtime presentation, “Who’s Afraid of Big Bad Jevons”, aimed at challenging climate defeatism.

See you in Chicago? Hope so!

“The Bean” photo above by Matt Robinson, creative commons license.

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