From Vienna to Pittsburgh: What’s the Fuss with the Passive House Movement?

In the past year or so you may have noticed that GBA has been quite supportive of the Passive House standard.  Why?  Well, designing and building buildings that use 1/10 the energy of traditional buildings is likely one of the best ways to reduce human’s contribution to climate change.  And as we are all about supporting buildings that are high performing and promote human health – Passive House addresses both of our main objectives with incredible success.

The high performing aspect is self-evident, but Passive House buildings are a boon to human health because of the vastly improved thermal comfort and superior indoor air quality due to a dedicated ventilation system that continually supplies fresh, filtered air – unlike forced air systems that only run when heating or cooling is needed.

Honestly, we, along with a number of those working on the leading edge of best building practices, see Passive House to be where LEED was 10 years ago: this is where the market is going and it will soon be common place.  Architects that have been frustrated by not achieving energy goals when attempting LEED or Living Building Challenge certification have turned to Passive House to successfully meet and exceed their energy goals.

So for all those reasons: climate change, human health, and the direction of the market, GBA has been working to actively build capacity here in Western Pennsylvania.  To do this, we have been working closely with Passive House of Western Pennsylvania to bring more Passive House education to our area.  Much of this has been visible in the events that we have collaborated on – but behind the scenes we have been brewing something bigger.  Our lovely education director, Leslie Montgomery, wrote a grant to West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund to support the development of an education hub for Passive House here in Pittsburgh.  Well.  She did it.  Pittsburgh now has 7 of the 15 Passive House Institute certified trainers in the U.S.

To successfully get these seven trainers to this point… has been a process.  The process started with putting out a call for applicants to receive a scholarship to become Passive House trainers.  After a review and selection process based upon building knowledge and teaching experience, seven people were selected to participate in becoming trainers.  Next GBA flew over two trainers from Ireland to teach a Certified Passive House Design course in Pittsburgh last fall.  Although this course was open to the public – the to-be-trainers did get some extra time with the trainers from Ireland to help refine their Passive House knowledge and teaching skills.  Our Irish trainers are from Passive House Academy – and one of whom built and lives in the first Passive House built in the English speaking world.

After the training, and all the to-be-trainers passing the exam to become Certified Passive House Designers/Consultants – the next step was heading off to Vienna to attend both the International Passive House Conference and the Train-the-Trainer course provided by Passive House Institute.  And now our trainers are starting their teaching with support from both Passive House Academy and North American Passive House Network (NAPHN).  As NAPHN has a goal of providing many more Passive House trainings – the Pittsburgh based trainers will help to provide trainings throughout the U.S.

So thank you West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund for believing in what GBA and Passive House can do for Western Pennsylvania — and congratulations and a HUGE thank you to our 7 trainers that all stuck with us through this process — and will be teaching Passive House for years to come:

Adam Bertonaschi, Jim Bischoff, Rick Eckstrom, Bill Kristan, Rhett Major, Gary Moshier, and yours truly (Kristen Osterwood).

If you want to learn more from these cool cats, check out the five day Certified Passive House Training to be held in…Pittsburgh! We’ve never been so excited for September 18th.

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