NAPHC2019 Interview: PHIUS Executive Director Katrin Klingenberg and "The Profitable Blueprint for ZERO"

December 06, 2019


On Wednesday I got the chance to sit down with PHIUS’ Executive Director Katrin Klingenberg in the midst of the whirlwind of North American Passive House Conference pre-conference trainings and workshops in Washington, DC. Our conversation covered a bunch of interesting topics, which I’ll share next week in a full version of the interview. But this morning, the day the core conference opens, I wanted to share Katrin’s comments about NAPHC2019 and what to expect from speakers Jeremy Rifkin and Lisa Mallory.

Zack Semke: The NAPCHC2019 theme is, “The Profitable Blueprint for ZERO.” Tell me about that, and what you are hoping to accomplish with this year’s conference?

Katrin Klingenberg: It’s a provocative title. Our Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency [passive building] projects have shown that we can even go negative with additional costs—that there’s less cost than baseline. Cost really is the single biggest hurdle. For affordable housing developers, a little bit above cost is not as big a problem because they hold the project, so it makes total sense for them because of the additional benefits of reducing maintenance through better durability, less complex mechanical systems to maintain, all of that.

But the market rate developers, they’re curious. Sloan Ritchie [of Seattle builder/developer Cascade Built] has blown through all the doubts or problems that the market rate developers have had. So the trick to make it mass market is to get those market rate developers to open the door. We’re saying, if you design it correctly, it can be less costly than regular buildings.

People can’t argue anymore. If there’s a tiny little bit of additional costs, and I want to maximize my profit, fine; but if it’s a cost savings then this is a proposition you can’t refuse. To drive that home, we invited Jeremy Rifkin because his last book—The Zero Marginal-Cost Society—talks about all the disruptive technologies that further access additional efficiencies and how, through those, we’re bringing additional marginal cost per unit produced down. We need to find those screws to turn for the building sector. That’s why he’s here. We’re going to pick his brain: “Tell us about this stuff. How are we going to do this? How can we not only barely make it and barely make the sale, but make it profitable so that people really can’t argue anymore?”

I’m also really happy that Lisa Mallory from the D.C. Building Industry Association is our official local welcome. We started working with them on hosting training, and she actually came to us and said, “It’s all great in D.C. They’re making all these policy advancements, but they forgot to educate the workforce, and my stakeholders are coming to me wondering, ‘How are we going to do this. We need training.’”

So, I’m really glad that she’s committed to getting engaged. She’s really trying to find a way to explain that it’s a profitable solution and the right path to take, so I’m excited that she’s here and that we get to interlink with that community.


Zachary Semke
Zachary Semke
Zack Semke is Director of Passive House Accelerator and a member of Al Gore's Climate Reality Leadership Corps. He writes and speaks about…


Passive House Accelerator’s coverage of NAPHC2019 was made possible by support from Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US.

Passive House Accelerator’s coverage of NAPHC2019 was made possible by support from Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US.

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