2021 Year In Review

What a strange year it was. Didn’t it feel like an endurance test that just refused to end? So what the heck happened this past year at PHN?  Let’s hit some highlights. Let’s think about 2022.


On January 6 we started the year auspiciously with the announcement of four new board members bringing vital new experience, perspectives and networks to our board’s work….(We’ll put what happened later that day in DC aside for the moment.) Pushing ahead, our board grew again with two more great additions in October – further strengthening the independent minded and committed board of directors.  Bookending the year, Bronwyn Barry, longtime PHN leader signaled the planned transition happening in early 2022, to new Board Chair, Craig Stevenson.


Also in that first month our Passive House training got a big boost with the hiring of our first Education Associate, Sara Hill, along with the launch of our trailblazing on-demand Certified Passive House Designer (CPHD) course – that has thus far produced a 100% pass rate! Working with Managing Director, Sharon Gaber, these events marked the beginning of the biggest expansion in Passive House training offerings in PHN’s history: To follow would be on-demand PHPP, THERM, Retrofits & Passive House Windows specialized courses, an Introduction to Passive House Trades for contractors as well as ongoing and expanding work with our partners Emu in providing the Certified Passive House Tradesperson (CPHT) course and building a learning pipeline with Building Energy Exchange. We were gratified to see total student participation rise by over 60% year-over-year to more than 525.


In April, linking education, social equity, climate justice and the recognition that for Passive House to successfully transform the built environment we must proactively be inclusive and lead – the board of directors issued a strong call to action for equity and inclusion in the Passive House community. The board then decided to invest in education incentives through a fellowship to support the increase of Black and BIPOC professionals who are Passive House credentialed and look to grow participation and support in the coming year.


The annual conference, held in June, in NYC, was also an endurance test that was challenging in many respects. But with the support of many volunteers and dedicated staff, lead be Associate Madeline Warriner, we established a hybrid conference model that can go forward in various markets that’s accessible, affordable and maintains the very highest quality content. And while the vicissitudes of the pandemic hampered our in-person turnout in June, we had over 600 participants total and we look forward with cautious optimism, with your help, to a successful event this June in Boston


Not only did networking happen in person at the conference in 2021 but we managed to get back inside building tours too – at the International Passive House Open Days in June and then, much more ambitiously, in November – with a total of over 500 people visiting buildings. As we’ll never stop saying, the best way to convince people about Passive House is to have them visit a Passive House – and so we look forward to expanding the tours again this year. If you have a Passive House building – don’t hide it, but share it.


We consider the execution of a Certified Passive House building as a critical step in the education of Passive House practitioners – it is the apprenticeship, the field work, the closing of the loop. And to make the most of this educational opportunity, we’ve worked more closely with the North American Certifiers Circle, an association consisting of 13 independent PHI certifiers operating in the US and Canada. By hiring a certifier early your building project will be better optimized, and quality assurance will be achieved. It’s more than worth it.


As summer came to a close, we started to release work from earlier in the year, rebranding NAPHN to The Passive House Network. It was and is a far reaching process that in itself is an endurance test of sorts, as we’ve made great strides in developing our new branding but there is much more to do as we expand it across everything. We give an explainer here.


Last March we also held our first symposium, on Passive House Ventilation, to provide foundational knowledge and better working context for the standards, the unit certifications and the applications, with expert presentations and panel discussions. We also, in cooperation with Peel Passive House, produced a report comparing PHI and HVI ventilation certification standards and testing data. Today we are planning two symposiums – one on wood and Passive House, happening later this month, and the other on Passive House fenestration in March.


Providing useful information in easily digestible reports was anther new initiative this past year, and in addition to the ventilation report we issued another on multifamily costs, in cooperation with Steven Winter Associates, and then later in the year one from Passive House home builder, One Sky Homes, making the case for Passive House’s cost effectiveness. We hope to have another in the series soon on cost estimating – and many more in 2022.


Our series NAPHN Live became PHN Presents in the rebranding and provided many topics, all worth AIA credit, for free, that helped connect people and apply regional, national and global knowledge sharing – from case studies to building science to marketing.  Recent highlights included a presentation on the rapid growth of Passive House in Massachusetts, by Beverly Craig and then a paradigm shifting presentation on beneficial electrification by Yu Ann Tan and Bomee Jung. See them all on the PHN Presents page and be sure to sign up for the Jan 11th presentation on implementing Passive House in California.


It is all about connecting and community and a significant effort is put into cultivating the Passive House community, particularly through our membership and regional chapters.  And starting in January 2022, Community Associate, Gael Oriol will be launching a national student chapter. We hope you are a member or become one.  We’ve been working on making the member directory more robust and as we start to build out member resources – we’re hopeful to see chapters plan more in-person events as the Spring approaches.


And while it didn’t get released in 2021 as we’d hoped, after lots of hard work with Tim Martel, Steve Mann and others, over the course of this past year, we are excited to launch the PHN PHribbon in January 2022 and give Passive House practitioners the ability to calculate total building carbon emissions and optimize designs for the greatest climate impact. 

SPONSORS & SUPPORTERS: When Passive House started in the US there were not even a handful of companies supplying Passive House quality products to our market. Today there are many more, with a growing number of manufacturers located in the US and Canada.  Passive House Institute (PHI) Certification is the gold standard for quality professionals and components. So, we are gratified to be supported by a growing number of manufacturers and service providers that have obtained PHI certification. We couldn’t do what we do without their critical support. We hope you join us in 2022!


Society will push ahead with electrified buildings supplied from a green grid.  But will they perform in increasingly unpredictable conditions? Will they be affordable and beneficial to all people? Delivering on these questions, is the clear and essential usefulness of high-quality Passive House buildings. So beyond the inevitable metrics of growth that accompany any measure of success, delivering high quality has never been more important, and as a North Star we cannot lose sight of it. 

We understand that affordable high quality is not mythical but simply a matter of intention and priority. Affordable Passive House high quality means transforming the market, transforming how the industry thinks and works with buildings. We must change the vocabulary and the conversations – and Passive House training does that. Make sure your colleagues are getting trained by PHN in 2022. We see such transformations happening in places across the US. In 2022, let’s work together and scale these wins and make the systemic difference we know is possible.  Let’s persist. Let’s endure. Let’s thrive.