The growing pains of Passive House in the US couldn’t be more evident at this point, especially with the tension of keeping the standard intact while also having it properly reflect the region in which it is implemented. After the Director of Passivhaus International (PHI) wrote a public letter severing ties with Passive House Institute US, PHUIS issued an emotional response to the accusations and went on to detail what they feel led to the estrangement. The very public break up of these two organizations leaves a lot of questions about why it happened – are the accusations accurate? And most importantly what does this mean for the future of Passive House in the US? What’s interesting is how the standard itself is not the issue, but rather the way it is being implemented, and also that such a straightforward system has led to such a public brouhaha.

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What seems to be the core issue is the control of the certification of individual consultants, something that PHUIS has contended to be an ongoing sticking point when importing the European metrics and details to the American market as well as performing the standard European certification test. PHIUS sent a letter out in late July detailing how they were going to administer their own tests to certify consultants and designers after having so much negative feedback about the current test’s difficulty to comprehend and low passing rate. They claim PHI has refused to certify the test results and will not recognize those that passed the CPHC test. A separate more difficult test for designers does not seem to be in contention.

Right now those interested in or currently involved with Passive House have a choice to make. They can follow the new direction of certification by PHIUS which may have a better localized approach and hope that the organization will remain solvent and grow. Or they can use the traditional standard of PHI which have reached unparalleled success in Europe and has strong backing from multiple players. Passive House Designer Brian Fuentes and Consultant Lance Write agreed that they are willing to work with PHIUS and refer to the independent streak of America potentially adding great innovation to the standard. Consultant Mike Eliason reports that he will stick with the international standard and hopes to see the metric standard adopted in the US. Like many, Eliason believes the current squabbling is damaging the movement.

In the end a building that meets the Passive House standard, no matter if it’s based on the US or the international system will perform the same. Three basic metrics have guided the process from the beginning – air tightness, peak heating and cooling loads, and annual energy demand per square foot or meter. How to actually achieve these is now a lot more complicated. We look forward to interviews with both Dr. Feist and representatives of PHIUS to discuss the future of Passive House in the United States.