20 August 2011
Recently, the Passivhaus community in the US has been stirred by a split between the PHI (Passivhaus Institute, Germany) and the PHIUS (Passive House Institute US). As a dedicated supporter of the standard and as one whom has discussed the intricacies of the standard as well as the politics with both sides I thought a chance to put my two cents in may help others dealing with this issue.
FIRST and foremost, for those of us determined to make a difference in the way we build in the US that have found logic and intelligence in the Passivhaus methodology, this split is irrelevant. Our goal is in creating buildings that perform as designed to a much higher level of both function and longevity then is standard in the US now. The appealing thing about the PH methodology is that it is a numbers and physics based system that is not prescriptive, but rather scientifically based. So the thing that attracted me and I am sure many others is the validated and repeatable performance of buildings that use this system.
I have been asked over the past few days by many of my colleagues, where does that leave us. It leaves us in the same place we were prior to this occurrence... US pioneers in creating high performance buildings. This movement was never about a certificate or a plaque. It is all about performing as designed, designing intelligently to create beautiful, affordable and low energy projects, and leading the way out of the morass that the US building industry has been stuck in since Reagan took the solar panels off the white house and had his Saudi friends flood the market with $1 gasoline!
So where does that leave us as Passivhaus Pioneers. Well truthfully the same place we were. PHIUS will still be pre-certifiying projects, as I assume PHI will. I have found that one of the most useful items offered by PHIUS is the per-certification of projects. Having a knowledgeable and competent colleague verify and challenge your calculations prior to construction is an invaluable service. As a lone pracitioner in an isolated part of the Blue Ridge of Virginia, having access to the folks at PHIUS has been invaluable to me.
Now here i must level an honest critique that both PHIUS and PHI share. Both organisations are victims of there own success and we all have shared the frustration of trying to get timely answers out of them. I have been in contact with both organisations over the past few years and both are equally guilty of terrible customer relations, with inquiries going unacknowledged and support when it does come being abbreviated. After getting to know both organisations, i realize that both are swamped and can't keep up with the requests, also i know both are supposed to be working on this, but in my opinion, it is the one that solves this support problem most effectively that will gain the most momentum in the US.
BACK to the item at hand - the split. There are many reasons for the split, but first and foremost in my opinion it is a conflict of misunderstanding and strong personalities. The Germans think in a way that is different from the US and the ability to both hear and act on each others differences seems to be lacking. I could see this schism coming over a year ago and i advised both the US and German players that splitting publicly when the movement was just gaining it's footing would only hurt the goals that all of us share. The truth is that both sides agreed, but each also had strong opinions, built up over years, of the other that was very difficult to overcome.
There is nothing in my heart but admiration and warmth for Dr. Feist and Kat Klingenberg. Without both of their unyielding efforts the Passivhaus standard would not be achieving the success it is today. I am confident that both of them, as well as others involved, truly and completely have the same goal in focus... unfortunately there is strong disagreement as to the best method of reaching this goal in the US market, and that has left us where we are today.
It is my fervent hope that as time goes, these wounds will heal. The way will open as the US Passivhaus market matures, that both parties will find the way forward and honor the respect for each other that I know they hold.
In the mean time, Passivhausers (Hausi) keep the nose down and the feet forward. This movement is up to us to make or break! It is not about titles, organisations, certificates or plaques, IT IS ABOUT PERFORMANCE. The physics are there to understand and as a community if we support each other and try our best to vet projects and create high quality work the success will happen.
This will seem like a minor issue in the years to come.
CHEERS to all -- Adam