Two Years in at Passive House Accelerator, by Zack Semke and Michael Ingui

When Michael launched Passive House Accelerator two years ago this week, he had no idea what was coming. None of us did.

He knew he wanted to create a platform for all comers to share their experiences and insights about Passive House. But specifically what form that would take was deliberately left open. He recruited content contributors to share articles and videos on the Accelerator’s website. He reached out to Passive House organizations and leaders to start building an event calendar and to promote their work. In September 2019 he brought Zack on board as Director. They traveled to DC for the Phius conference and then to Toronto for the Passive House Canada conference and all of the way to China for the International Passive House Conference. They live-tweeted those conferences, conducted interviews, Instagram-Lived from the exhibit hall floor, and wrote about their experiences.

Then Covid hit and the world changed.

In the earliest days of the pandemic, Monte Paulsen and Shaun St-Amour recognized the hunger for social connection that was growing for everyone, including all of us in the Passive House community. They launched the first Passive House online social in March of 2020 and reached out to us to provide the platform and logistical support to grow and sustain it as a weekly fixture. The Global Passive House Happy Hour was born, adding Prudence Ferreira as co-host. Sixty-two weeks later and we’ve featured over sixty speakers and reached over 4,000 participants.

Along the way, Matthew Cutler-Welsh approached us with his Passive House Podcast idea, and he and Zack launched that weekly series, which has received 34,714 downloads (and counting). Mark Wille, Kevin Brennan, and Shaun proposed Construction Tech in the fall of last year, and we’re now on episode 29 of that trades-focused weekly show. Recently we added co-host Shannon Pendleton to the mix. In addition, we’ve staged monthly summits, developed a library of downloadable creative commons Passive House explainer infographics, posted social media campaigns, issued twice-weekly newsletters, created a growing project gallery, and formed content partnerships with iPHA, NAPHN, NYPH, Passive House Canada, and Phius.

All the while, we were in conversation with Mary James, editor and driving force behind Passive House Buildings Magazine, about joining forces and adding her journalistic firepower to the platform while also giving us the chance to work with her team, Sydney Gladu, Tamara Melnik, and Leanne Maxwell. We launched the first issue of Passive House Accelerator Magazine focused on Passive House Prefab in January of this year. Today we’re releasing our second issue, this one focused on Passive House retrofits. We’re lucky to be working with a talented team that also includes Jay Fox, Dylan Ingui, Justin Ingui, Beth Genzale, and Sydney Fishman.

All of this has been made possible by companies who see common purpose and common cause with the Accelerator: our sponsors. Our Founding Sponsors provided early support to fund our launch as a platform, and they continue to sustain us with major support. (Thank you 475 High Performance Building Supply, Baxt Ingui Architects, Glavel, Minotair, Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US, Partel, RDH Building Science, ROCKWOOL North America, Sto Corp., and Zola Windows.) Our Champion Sponsors provide major sustaining support. (Thank you, SIGA.) NYSERDA’s generous support underwrites all      our work, with a focus on programming and information sharing that helps advance New York State’s climate goals. Finally, our Patron Sponsors provide sustaining support. (Thank you AeroBarrier, BR+A Consulting Engineers, Brennan Brennan Airtightness and Insulation, Innotech Windows + Doors, and US Engineered Wood TStud.)

The past two years have been a wild and exciting ride, turbocharged by the turn to online life that COVID forced on all of us. So, as we begin to emerge from the pandemic, what’s next?

Honestly, we’re not totally certain. After the past 16 months, how can anybody be certain of anything? But we do know that we will continue, evolve, and expand our programming. While the receding of COVID will mean less of our lives will revolve around Zoom, the ability to transcend geography with Passive House innovation sharing and community building is still a big deal. Plus, with every Happy Hour and Construction Tech that we present live, we’re creating a video record of the insights shared—something that can be enjoyed asynchronously by thousands of viewers into the future.

We also know that we will remain laser-focused on accelerating the adoption of Passive House and zero carbon building. To do that we will work to reach new audiences in the design and construction communities. As society works to decarbonize buildings through energy efficiency, reduced embodied carbon, electrification, and renewable energy, the solutions that Passive House offers will be more relevant than ever. We see our job as helping to show the broader AEC industry the ways that Passive House can make their climate mitigation—and climate justice—goals easier to achieve.

We’re continuing our journey of learning around diversity, equity, and inclusion. We’ve been fortunate to learn from leaders like Bomee Jung, Ingrid Green, and others. We’re looking forward to the Centering Equity in Passive House community workshop, co-presented by Countee Astrid and Johnny Rezvani later this month on the 24th. As we learn and engage, we look forward to taking steps to advance DEI at the Accelerator and in our community.

In short, we’re excited about what the future holds for the Accelerator and for the entire Passive House community, even in the face of uncertainty. One of the brightest lights that shone for us during this past couple of years has been the smarts, kindness, and sharing spirit of the Passive House community. We like to think of the Accelerator as simply a manifestation of all that.

So, what will the next couple of years hold for the Accelerator? Everything that you and this community make possible.

In gratitude,

Zack and Michael

Author: Zachary Semke