Last weekend I spent a jam-packed couple of days in a room with 16 other highly skilled RESNET raters
at the inaugural Passive House rater training in Urbana, Illinois. The Passive House Institute US, or PHIUS for short (kind of short) rater training was spent talking about advanced products, materials, applications; and yes, with all of these rock-star RESNET folks, it was easy to geek out on a topic or two with all of these advanced people to discuss energy efficiency and other passive house concepts with.
What is PHIUS training all about anyways? It is like a want ad, isn’t it: “PHIUS is seeking qualified RESNET raters who want to learn how to give accurate and meaningful ratings of buildings designed and constructed to the Passive House standard. Working with experienced RESNET raters, PHIUS has developed a curriculum leading to qualification to rate projects seeking PHIUS+ Certification.” Taking the Passive House training in hand with the scope of the project, PHIUS raters are able to bring a project full circle.
In a word or three: Project. Team. Raters. So here it goes…follow me on this one… PHIUS appoints a consultant, then the consultant works together with project team and submits their planning package to PHIUS for review, then after project has been reviewed (pre-certified), a rater is assigned, reviews package and then the project will have the great privilege to be assessed across 4 phases of construction (read: inspections). These 4 inspections are: 1. slab and foundation insulation and site shading, 2. site visit for air sealing details before insulation which includes a preliminary blower door test, 3. Insulation, duct work and domestic hot water inspections and 4. Final Inspection and Testing. Interesting note, not just caulking and spray foam for air sealing, taping is shown to work best when applied correctly. Raters take all of the elements of the project that they see on site and communicate the qualifications back to the project team in its entirety to keep the Passive House on track.
Talk about a house that was kept on track! Here is an interesting case study: The 16 of us rater trainees heated a Passive House home we toured almost 10 degrees just standing around being the RESNET folks that we were- not because we’re hot (or full of hot air, even), but because of the proper air sealing techniques and insulation that the Passive House standards have been set and achieved. In this case study home, we got to see something super-cool: CO detectors were attached to ERV to ramp up the fresh air when needed- this was interesting and I’d never seen this system in person before. Our second field trip lead us to t0 a Solar Decathlon house that was a passive house. Side Note: After the competition it appears that the students who had built the home had -sneakily- taken out original HVAC and had installed a “super-secret” and small CERV system that has everything -heating, cooling, ventilation, de-humidification, all in one box. It is estimated that the very small CERV system will take 3 days to get the home to a stasis, but then once you get it to the temperature that you want, it just stays- talk about super-efficient. It might not be instant gratification, but it is definitely energy efficient. These were just some of the nifty case study items we got to check out towards the end of our rater training.
To wrap it up, PHIUS just wants us to build highly sustainable, energy efficient homes that focus on these key elements of design: Building Envelope, Shading, Heating and Cooling, Ventilation, Lighting and Appliances, Hot Water, Renewable Systems – and I’m on board with that. The faster we get there the better.