Tag Archives | Passive House

Reflections on the North American Passive House Conference

I recently attended the North American Passive House conference here in Pittsburgh at the William Penn Hotel.  It continues to be one of the most intellectually engaging and cutting-edge conferences in green building today.  The Passive House building method is all about the envelope, particularly downsizing equipment so that money can be transferred back into […]

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Passive House

How Do Passive Houses Hold Up In Cold Weather?

It is of great interest to our Western Pennsylvania Passive House Alliance Chapter to know how well Passive Homes are performing during the cold spells that have engulfed much of the U.S. this winter. We’ve received several reports on this and wanted to share our findings with the Green Building Alliance community.  As many may […]

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Thoughtful Balance’s Recent Passive House Project: Did We or Did We Not?

We have completed our McKeesport Downtown Housing project, 84 units of single room occupancy (SRO) housing for people at risk for homelessness.  It is a remarkable project in several ways; it is the first attempt at a complex multi-family retrofit as a Passive House in the country, it is a historic building insulated from the inside, […]

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Passive House Beyond the House

Presented by Passive House Western PA.  Powered by Bayer Material Science and Green Building Alliance.

Passive House WPA

Passive House and Its Audience

Like most new design ideas, the Passive House concept was first applied to residences.  The small internal loads and the control of the project by a single party made these smaller projects ideal for developing the concept.

Now, Passive House design concepts are being applied to commercial, institutional and other non-residential projects for many owner types and developers alike.  The size of and the variation in projects employing Passive House has increased significantly.  Decision makers are increasingly interested in conserving more energy than other design approaches have offered.  There are challenges and opportunities for each party in the project delivery process:

  • Architects – The overall building design concept has never been more linked to building performance.  General construction has never been as integrated into building performance.
  • Mechanical engineers – Mechanical systems will be radically different from the norm in terms of capacity, rules of thumb and equipment.  The talents of the engineer are essential for successful building performance.
  • Contractors – The integrity of the building envelope has never been more important.  Contractors who can deliver building envelopes without infiltration and thermal bridging because of their knowledge and commitment will be required and valued.
  • Building owners – A growing number of owners from all over the country have decided to use Passive House as a differentiator for their projects.  Most also want to act on their desires for a more environmentally responsible project.

Passive House 1 Passive House 2

Mixed-use multi-family projects by Onion Flats, Philadelphia, PA


Katrin Klingenberg, the national leader for the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS), will discuss the national trends toward more non-residential Passive House projects.  She will share examples from other parts of the country.  We will see projects that are both beautiful and high performing.

Tim McDonald, a Philadelphia design/builder and developer of multi-family and other commercial projects, will share his experiences in using the Passive House concept.  Tim McDonald has earned national recognition for his work.  He proves that Passive House can be used for market-rate competitive development projects that are also beautiful.

Laura Nettleton, owner and principal of Pittsburgh’s Thoughtful Balance, Inc., will share her experiences doing Passive House non-residential projects such as the Hazelwood Library deep retrofit.  Her firm is recognized as a national leader in the use of Passive House.

Michael Whartnaby is the resident energy geek at Thoughtful Balance.  Apart from his excellent design and drawing talent, Michael has rapidly become an expert on Passive House and on making low-energy buildings.  Michael loves to build, and his experiences – remodeling his house, making the first Passive House chicken coop in Pennsylvania and building a skateboard ramp for his son – have given him a keen sense of how to deliver projects affordably and sensibly that tailor to the needs of the client.  Michael values collaboration and likes to engage in an integrated design process whenever possible.

Matthew Shaffer, a product development engineer with IBACOS, will discuss how small-diameter ducts can lead to superior air mixing in a room and increase both thermal satisfaction and indoor air quality.

Passive House members are eligible for the Member of Partner Organization rate for this event.  Breakfast and lunch are included in member and non-member registration, courtesy of The Fluted Mushroom.

Come and see how Passive House is working and what part you can play!


International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers: Local Union No. 5

5 Hot Metal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15203 


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GBCI CMP   AIA logo This event is pre-approved for 5.0 GBCI CEUs and 5.0 AIA HSW credits.

Partnering with USGBC and AIA, GBA makes it easy for our members to report CE hours. Please provide your GBCI and/or AIA number so we can auto-report your credits (for applicable events).  Non-members can still earn continuing education credits but will need to self-report their GBCI CEUs. 

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Passive House Science

NOTE: the following article originally ran in BreakingGround Magazine – http://www.mbawpa.org/breaking_ground.asp Odds are very high that if you are a reader of BreakingGround Magazine that you are familiar with green building certification programs. After all these sustainable programs have been around for decades and heck one could debate that we live in the birthplace of […]

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PHWPA: Deep Energy Reductions in Existing Homes: Lessons Learned from the Thousand Home Challenge

Join Passive House Western Pennsylvania for Linda Wigington’s presentation on the lessons learned in the highly successful Thousand Home Challenge.

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The Thousand Home Challenge is an initiative designed to demonstrate the potential for deep reductions (70% or greater) THC logoin existing homes across the United States and Canada. Examine the basis for the determination of a project’s customized threshold. Explore lessons learned and find out how the 1000 Home Challenge complements and contrasts with Passive House and other high performance building initiatives. Through the combination of efficiency, behavioral choices, community solutions, and renewables, unique strategies emerge. Results?  The EUI (net site energy) for the 24 projects who officially meet the Challenge is 6.75 KBtu/ft². By comparison, the average EUI for single-family homes in the U.S. is 42.6 KBtu/ft².

Linda Wigington provides residential energy consulting services through her firm, Linda M. Wigington & Associates, based in Waynesburg, PA. She is the founder of and has been associated with the Affordable Comfort Conference from its inception in 1986 through 2013. Currently, Linda is leading the effort to demonstrate the feasibility of achieving deep energy reductions in existing dwellings through the Thousand Home Challenge.  In addition to her work with the Thousand Home Challenge, she operates a ductless heat pump contracting business and is the team leader for the SWPA Initiative, Reducing Outdoor Contaminants in Indoor Spaces (ROCIS).  Linda was a founding board member of Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS).

Passive House WPA

PHWPA is a membership organization dedicated to lowering energy use in buildings. PHWPA’s goal is to provide education and promote awareness, transparent resource sharing, and advocacy for Passive House strategies for commercial and residential buildings in our region. In pursuing this goal we will foster a collaborative network to unify the Passive House community in this region and in the country.

To learn more about PHWPA organization and how you can get involved, please visit the Passive House Western PA website.

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Are You Interested in Passive House Training?

Passive House is quickly gaining traction in our region.  Would you be interested in Passive House training if it were available? The Passive House movement is quickly growing locally:  our recent day-long Passive House workshop attracted over 100 attendees, Pittsburgh hosted last year’s North American Passive House Conference, and local professionals are designing and building […]

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PHWPA : Passive House Rating and Building Diagnostics for Multifamily, Commercial, and Institutional Buildings

Join Passive House Western Pennsylvania in examining the PHIUS+ rating system. Building Performance Architecture’s Rob Hosken will share his experience as a building energy consultant using PHIUS+ rating for diverse building types throughout Pittsburgh.

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PHWPA image 2

PHWPA image 1While architects and Passive House consultants design and fine-tune Passive House buildings, Passive House raters test, inspect, and evaluate the actual built conditions to verify that buildings meet Passive House standards.  Developers and architects in the Pittsburgh area are pushing the boundaries of the PHIUS+ rating system, which the Passive House Institute initially created for single family homes.  Building Performance Architecture (BPA) has worked at this leading edge of PHIUS+ rating, for multifamily, commercial, and institutional buildings in Pittsburgh.  At the same time, BPA has been a key team member for Pittsburgh’s largest-ever blower door tests.  BPA’s Rob Hosken will show how large buildings can be evaluated to verify compliance with Passive House standards.
Rob Hosken is an architect and energy consultant with Building Performance Architecture in Pittsburgh, PA.  Rob has used his 18 years of professional experience as an architect to develop a unique, comprehensive approach to building energy consulting.  His firm, Building Performance Architecture, provides financial-grade energy audits for existing buildings, energy certification for new construction, building diagnostics, and energy-related architectural services.  Building Performance Architecture is the first Pittsburgh-area firm to provide Passive House rating services.

Passive House WPA

PHWPA is a membership organization dedicated to lowering energy use in buildings. PHWPA’s goal is to provide education, and promote awareness, transparent resource sharing, and advocacy for Passive House strategies for commercial and residential buildings in our region. In pursuing this goal we will foster a collaborative network to unify the Passive House community in this region and in the country.

To learn more about PHWPA organization and how you can get involved, please visit the Passive House Western PA website.

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Hard Hat Passive House Tour

Join GBA for a hard hat tour of a Passive House under construction!

Squirrel Hill Passive House 1

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Squirrel Hill Passive House 3

Building progress: March 23, 2015


Lucyna de Barbaro, Ph.D., served on the Board of Directors for the Passive House Alliance Western PA Chapter (now PHWPA). She and her husband, Ayres Freitas, Ph.D., are building a duplex in Squirrel Hill to Passive House standards, and they are graciously working with GBA to provide a detailed tour of the first-class, energy-saving building. Coffee and breakfast pastries will be provided, and you’ll get to sport one of GBA’s snazzy hard hats during the tour! For more information about the project, check out Lucyna de Barbaro’s Facebook page.

What is a passive building? In short, it involves an extreme energy efficiency (targeting 60-70% energy use reduction) and performance verification that is proven through an air tightness test with rigorous passing standards. For more information, visit the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) information page.

Members of Passive House Western Pennsylvania (PHWPA) may register for reduced price as Members of Partner Organizations.

Please note: one half of the duplex is for sale and listed with Keller Williams Realty!



1. Understand the requirements of the Passive House (PHIUS+) standard

2. Understand the principles of Passive House construction

3. Explore techniques used to achieve an air-tight envelope (air tightness goal of 0.6 air-changes at 50 Pascals)

4. Explain typical mechanical system components for Passive House: Energy Recovery Ventilator and heat pump


GBCI CMP AIA logo This event is approved for 1.0 GBCI LEED AP BD&C CEUs and approved for 1.0 AIA HSW credits.

Partnering with USGBC and AIA, GBA makes it easy for our members to report continuing education credits.  Please provide your GBCI and/or AIA number so we can auto-report your credits (for applicable events).  Non-members can still earn continuing education credits but will need to self-report their GBCI CEUs.

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