Maine Passive House, Part 3: Passive House Politics Creates a Distraction ~

In the middle of Corson’s project, however, a political tempest struck the Passive House teapot. On August 17, the director of the Passive House Institute (PHI), Dr. Wolfgang Feist, published an open letter announcing that the German-based parent organization was severing official ties with its American offspring, Passive House Institute US. In the letter, titled “Passive House: a public good,” Dr. Feist wrote, “PHI’s long-standing relationship with PHIUS, an organisation founded by Katrin Klingenberg, has done much to bring Passive House to the American market and we appreciate what PHIUS has achieved in the US. Unfortunately, recent actions by PHIUS have culminated both in breaches of contract and good faith, unnecessarily reinforcing false divisions within the Passive House community. In light of PHIUS’ disregard for its standing agreements with PHI, we are left with no other choice but to suspend all standing contracts.” GreenBuilding Advisor carried this story about the breakup (“ The Passivhaus Institut in Germany Disowns Its U.S. Satellite,” by Richard Defendorf and Martin Holladay). The dispute, GBA reported, stems in part from a PHIUS decision to implement its own curriculum and testing standards for training and certifying Passive House consultants in the United States. “Many certified Passive House consultants in the U.S. have spent the last few days trying to figure out whether their credentials are internationally recognized,” GBA reported. The Jetson Green blog, however, noted a potentially more significant source of dissension (" PassivHaus Institut Suspends All Contracts with Passive House US," by Preston Koerner): according to PHI, some of the Passive House certifications awarded under the auspices of PHIUS lacked the proper documentation, "threatening the integrity of the standard." In an open response to Dr. Feist’s letter, PHIUS founder Katrin Klingenberg focused on the physical criteria that make up the Passive House standard: annual heat load, peak heat load, annual cooling demand, total source energy, and air leakage. “The standard belongs to no one or no organization,” wrote Klingenberg: “Legitimacy begins and ends with the knowledge and skills to design and build structures that meet the cold hard performance requirements ... Legitimacy doesn’t live in Darmstadt , it doesn’t have an address, or a country, or even a continent.” The disagreement will no doubt take months, or years, to play out. For Chris Corson this summer, the dispute is a bump in the road — regrettable mainly for the embarrassment and confusion that it brings to a very young movement in the high-performance housing arena. For Corson's own project, he says, the dispute won't matter too much. While he sympathizes with much of Klingenberg’s position, he says, " I'll just get my house certified through both agencies. Which I was planning on doing anyway. It will be one of the first houses certified in the U.S. by the European organization. The design is already pre-certified by PHIUS, and I am confident that we'll be able to pass the standard. Then we'll be one step closer to saving the world. "