A 10 Year Look Ahead for Passive House in the Northwest
Evan Anderson (Zola Windows’ VP of Operations) and I just had the pleasure of attending the Passive House Northwest (PHnw) conference in Portland on February 28 and March 1. Zola was proud to sponsor the event and happy to see the highest-ever attendance of a PHnw conference: nearly 250 attendees. Maybe it should come as no surprise to see this sort of turn out given that this was PHnw 10th annual conference. In any case, it was heartening to sense a growing momentum in the region’s Passive House community, both from a vendor perspective (Zola has been providing high performance windows to the Northwest’s Passive House community almost from the inception of PHnw) and from a concerned citizen’s perspective (we have no time to lose to transform buildings from “climate problem” to “climate solution”).
I’m now in my third year of PHnw board service, and in that capacity was invited to deliver a keynote address at the conference sharing a vision for what the next ten years will hold for PHnw and the Passive House community. Here are a few highlights from that talk.
It’s safe to say that the next ten years will be a big decade for the high performance building industry and for the planet. Last October, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) released a sobering report, “Global Warming of 1.5°C,” finding that, at our current rate of carbon emissions, we have just 12 years left in our “carbon budget” before we exceed 1.5°C warming. The report also lays out a litany of impacts anticipated from 1.5°C warming (bad) and 2°C warming (worse). One headline-grabbing stat: at 2°C warming, 99% of coral reefs will die. Dire stuff.
Still, the report affirmed that it is still possible to limit warming to 1.5°C, though conceded that “there is no documented historic precedent” for the scale of change necessary to hit that target. The report was a carefully crafted piece of climate communication, with every word scrutinized for its precision and impact. The takeaway quote:
“Limiting temperature requires unprecedented changes in society, but will have huge benefits. Every half a degree of warming matters.”
That word, “unprecedented,” is really the centerpiece of the report. We are past the time when incremental change will cut it. We need exponential change, a step jump. Spoiler alert: that’s what Passive House does for buildings.
This idea of exponential progress in climate action has been a focus of Christiana Figueres (of Paris climate talk fame) and other leaders who published the “Exponential Climate Action Roadmap” to coincide with the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco last summer. According to Figueres:
“Disruption is here. Three unstoppable forces are pushing us towards a future of prosperity, growth, and clean energy: climate leadership, market forces, and the digital revolution. This roadmap provides an insight into how these will combine to create the future we all want.”
As the roadmap states, to limit warming to well below 2°C, the world must follow the “carbon law”: ensure that emissions peak by 2020; cut them in half by 2030; cut them in half again by 2040, and again by 2050, and so on.