Salt Lake City Passive House by Certified Passive House Consultant David Brach.
Courtesy PHIUS/David Brach Salt Lake City Passive House by Certified Passive House Consultant David Brach.

A new certification focused on the energy usage of U.S. Passive House projects will also help raise public awareness of the benefits of the stringent building system.

The new PHIUS+ certification system combines elements of the Passive House standard and the HERS index energy-efficiency rating. The Illinois-based Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS) recently partnered with RESNET to offer the enhanced certification.

By translating Passive House efficiencies into existing U.S. metrics such as the HERS rating, the organization hopes to make the European building system more accessible and understandable to mainstream consumers, says Mike Knezovich, PHIUS communications director.

The industry-recognized HERS rating can help projects qualify for financial incentives more than a Passive House certification alone can, he says. For example, utility companies and local and federal government agencies offer incentives, rebates, and grants for energy-efficient construction that are often tied to a home’s HERS rating. Buildings that meet the Passive House standard can have HERS ratings in the single digits, Knezovich says.

The enhanced certification also is expected to help Passive House buyers more easily qualify for higher appraisals and energy-efficient mortgage loans. “It’s making Passive Houses more marketable and more sellable,” Knezovich says. The new standard also will help to make Passive House buildings more compatible with other green building programs that use the HERS index.

“By harmonizing our standards with RESNET—one of the most respected standards organizations in the country—we expect Passive House to vault into the mainstream, where it belongs,” says Katrin Klingenberg, PHIUS executive director.

The announcement of the new certification follows a recent rift between the Germany-based Passive House Institute and PHIUS, which ended their relationship in August. Knezovich says part of the fallout was because the European group took issue with the idea of partnering with RESNET and other U.S. building industry organizations. Some hard-core Passive House enthusiasts voiced concern that pushing the movement to the mainstream might take away its cachet.

“This was a thing they were completely against, but we saw it as a necessary step in this market and this culture,” he says. “We are going from appealing only to early adopters to bringing this to the mass market, and a whole lot of people want that to happen.”

In addition to holding multiple sessions to train RESNET raters in its new certification, the U.S. organization is also working on initiatives with other groups, including the USGBC and the Earth Advantage Institute, Knezovich says.

“The bottom line on all this is to get Passive House away from a cult-like thing that cannot be touched,” he says. “Let’s really show how it’s something people can do right now to save energy.”

Jennifer Goodman is Senior Editor of EcoHome.