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National Passive House Conference

Three of us from The Artisans Group (Randy, Tessa and Zeta), recently attended the three day North American Passive House (PH) Conference in Portland Oregon (Nov. 4 to 7). With almost 400 passionate PH pioneers attending, it was highly educational and the networking was priceless.

On Saturday, Randy presented his PH payback modeling spreadsheet at one of the sessions; he had tremendous feedback from the audience. The spreadsheet allows a PH consultant to easily represent the payback period to upgrade to a PH from a typical home. Because the math involved in conveying this information is otherwise complex and off-putting, Randy rendered it into a graphical representation that is easy to appreciate by all parties. This is especially great for the homeowner because it helps them to make informed decisions about choosing PH; when they see the payback is often under 10 years and their monthly utility bill is down by 75% or more, PH sells itself. And that makes our jobs so much easier! [click here to read an earlier post about this spreadsheet]

Another highlight of the conference was to listen to two legendary powerhouse physicists, Amory Lovins, green energy guru and Dr. Wolfgang Feist, founder of PH, share the podium to convey their thoughts and insights on Passive House and the future.

With the numbers of PH consultants on the rise (15 in 2008 to 200 this year), there are many PH projects in the works nationally, which were the subject of many presentations. We were particularly impressed with the Habitat for Humanity prefab PH projects on the east coast. The idea of affordable and deeply energy efficient has been theoretical until now. Very exciting times in the building industry.

We toured several PH projects in the Portland area on the last day of the conference. That was a wonderful opportunity to see the different assemblies designers are coming up with. Because Passive House is not prescriptive, the ‘roads to get there’ are varied. We saw traditionally designed homes to modern, we even toured a remodeled home, quite impressive!

I must say, after three days with all these fine folks, it was the best conference I’ve ever attended. The information was timely, critical and stimulating, at the end of the three days, I was exhausted and super-charged by the people involved and the subject matter. There is an interesting and distinct willingness of PH industry folks to share their knowledge freely about lessons learned. The personality of the PH movement feels very healthy and cooperative, everyone seems to work and play well together despite the perception of ‘competition’; I’ve heard people comment several times, “there’s plenty for everyone”. This open source approach creates a strong sense of team-work, a very compelling and inviting way to propel a revolutionary movement forward!

Lastly and most importantly, a warm thank you to the hard-working folks at PHIUS who created this opportunity for all of us.