The North American Passive House Network once again knocked it out of the park with the second day of PH2020: Choose Your Future. Like the first day, the program ran from 1–4 ET and the sessions’ subject matter was varied enough to give those who attended a chance to explore some new and different aspects of the Passive House ecosystem. The schedule consisted of two pairs of 1‑hour presentations (PHPP & Dynamic Energy Models: Understanding an Evolving Relationship; Historic Preservation, Use Conversion & Affordable Development: An EnerPHit Story; Making PER Work for Large Multifamily Buildings: Tools for Futureproofing; and Virtual Building Tours), which were held simultaneously, and a plenary presentation to close out the day. You can check all sessions out by registering for the event now because the entire event is being archived.
Historic Preservation, Use Conversion & Affordable Development: An EnerPHit Story
The focus of this session was The Tyler, a retrofit of a school in East Haven, Connecticut. The project is being developed by WinnCompanies, while Steven Winter Associates is serving as the Passive House consultant to ensure it is EnerPHit certified. It consists of two wings that were originally built in 1936 and 1964 and will provide 70 units of low-income housing to seniors when completed.
Christina McPike, MS, who serves as the Director of Energy & Sustainability for the developer, WinnCompanies, shared her perspective on the way financial incentives can shape a historic preservation project. While the tax credits associated with historic preservation are the primary incentives from a developer’s point of view, municipalities can also give preferential treatment to projects that incorporate sustainable design elements. This was the case with the Tyler, as a large amount of funding came from a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit from the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority. For policymakers, this is a reminder that straightforward financial incentives are extremely effective at pushing developers to adopt high-performance building methodologies.
Lois Arena, PE, Director of Passive House Services with Steven Winter Associates, focused on some of the specific design difficulties associated with the project. Because so many historic elements needed to be preserved, such as the school’s double doors, window frames, and even lockers, this presented the team with a lot of challenges. The doors were particularly difficult to air seal and the integrity of the historic design could not be maintained with triple pane or even double pane windows.
For those who are interested in the building science of historic preservation, or who simply want to be blown away by ingenious solutions to make older buildings more efficient, this is one session you may want to go back to watch again and again. Arena’s solution for the window surrounds was especially impressive.
Virtual Building Tours
As the name suggests, this session was comprised entirely of virtual building tours of Passive House homes from around the world, including:
- Hyperlocal Workshop’s AB Passive House, an off-grid Passive House Plus project in Colorado.
- 2554 Morgan Avenue in the Bronx, which was designed by Lindsay Architecture Studio.
- Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture’s Star Garment office and factory in Sri Lanka.
- TE Studio’s Good Energy Haus, the first Passive House new construction home in Minneapolis.
- Laurel Architecture’s Passive House in the Bay Area.
- Passive House Los Angeles (PHLA+) by Paravant Architects.
- Passive House Pavilion of Longfor Sundar, which was the only commercial project featured during the session.
Vancouver & New York State: Two Climate Leaders Show Their Cards
Finally, there was a plenary session featuring Sailen Black, Senior Green Building Planner with the City of Vancouver, and Greg Hale, Senior Advisor for Energy Efficiency Markets for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Unlike the Global Passive House Happy Hour, where representatives from Vancouver and New York City “fought” to the figurative death over which city is doing the most to accelerate the adoption of Passive House, the two very cordially described the ambitious climate goals and policies of their respective regions.
Through the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), the State of New York has committed itself to transition to 100% clean energy system by 2040. The state hopes to have a clear roadmap by spring 2021 to accomplish this. As part of this decarbonization work, NYSERDA has spearheaded the Buildings of Excellence Award and RetrofitNY—which is modeled on the Dutch program known as Energiesprong—among others.
New York City, meanwhile, hopes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 and has enacted one of the most progressive legislative packages in North America to reach this goal—the Climate Mobilization Act. The most important element of the CMA is Local Law 97, which places emission limits on larger residential and commercial buildings in the city.
Vancouver and British Columbia share many of these general goals, but the specifics of their policies are unique. For example, British Columbia has introduced the BC Energy Step Code, which has generated a lot of interest not only within the building scienceworld, but also among policymakers in Ottawa. The performance-based code uses incentives to encourage more sustainable design and construction practices that go beyond the requirements of the province’s building code. Performance targets become increasingly ambitious as one goes up the five “steps” of the program. Compliance for progressively higher steps become required over time until all new construction is net-zero energy ready starting in 2032.
The city of Vancouver, meanwhile, is pursuing even more aggressive policies that would require all new buildings be zero emission by 2030 and all buildings be retrofit to be zero emission by 2050. Vancouver is especially fixated on building emissions because they account for 58% of total emissions citywide. They are seeing results, too. To date, roughly 4 million square feet of proposed construction is zero emission, 1.04 million square feet of approved construction is zero emission, and 346,000 square feet of buildings under construction are zero emission.
There are still four more days of sessions coming up through the end of July and videos of all previous sessions have already been archived. If you haven’t registered yet, you still have time.
This type of thinking reflects the importance of the Passive House building standard in some seemingly unconnected policy debates.
The step code, which David Arnott characterizes as “stepping stones to get us to Passive House and Net Zero by 2032,” may become a nationwide policy for Canada.
Fast. Factual. Fun.
Get the latest passive house news, trends, & insights delivered straight to your email inbox.