Where do we go from here?


The Passive House community here in the U.S. is still processing last week’s divorce between PHI and PHIUS.  The two organizations have accused each other of breaches which may have led to the ultimate break.  On the ground, Passive House consultants, designers, green building advocates, bloggers and other observers are drawing lines in the sand and speculating who started the fight and the “true cause” of the breakup.  This is beginning to be like trying to figure out why your parents got divorced.  Yes, it is sad and painful but let’s face it, we’ll never really know.  As someone wise once told me when I got married, “when couples fight, 75% of the time the parties are fighting about completely different things.”  So, PHI and PHIUS probably don’t even know for sure.

Enough about that!  What we need to do is figure out the way ahead.  The important thing is for all of us in the PH community to learn something from this, pool our resources together and perhaps build a structure for the Passive House in the U.S. that is more robust and effective.

Is PHIUS obsolete?  I don’t think so.  They still have the experience of building and certifying PHs, a network of people they trained (me included), the political people they met along the way and the various relationships they maintained.  As Adam Cohen pointed out at http://zeroenergyconstruction.blogspot.com/2011/08/views-from-front-lines.html both (PHI and PHIUS) are “equally guilty of terrible customer relations, with inquiries going unacknowledged and support when it does come being abbreviated.  I think this is a great opportunity for PHIUS to change they way they think and operate.  Without the backing and reputation of PHI, PHIUS needs to think and operate like a business that “means business”.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with being “grassroot” but it must have strong systems and an organized infrastructure, along with in the right people, possibly some money in place to really make things happen.  Let’s face it, we all love the passive house approach to building but that is because we all care about green building enough to want to understand it on the deepest level.  How many people can you pay to sit through a Therm Analysis presentation?  The science works but we need to sell it!  PHIUS needs to establish Passive House as the performance green building brand and it needs to really sell it to the government of all levels, corporations and the common folks.  Otherwise, what is PHIUS’s certification for its consultants or buildings worth outside of this circle?  They need to do it because their survival really depends on it.  I think all of us PH consultants, builders and designers are willing to help this cause.  So, please let us help.

A U.S. based certifying body under PHI must and probably will emerge quickly to fill the void.  Now, what happens if this certifying body gets dumped by PHI or if it dumps PHI in a few years?  We’ll be back to where we are.  So, I think the stakeholders (the entire PH community) need to figure out how we individually or at least as regional groups want to affiliate with the PHI and with the greater IPHA.  International co-operation can only grow in importance as the movement matures and we can’t have a broken link there.

As Kat states in her response that Passive House as a standard, “belongs to no one or no organization”.  This is very true, even our laws reflect that, an idea or approach cannot be protected by copyright laws.  The goal is to spread this approach as far and wide as possible for anyone who is willing to learn to learn it and build, retrofit homes for the future (not of the future).  I think we are at a critical juncture for something great, so, let’s stop wasting energy fighting and get our heads together and really bring this to mainstream.

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