Professional Certifications from the Passive House Institute US

Michael Tobias
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    Passive house construction is an ideal complement for energy efficiency measures and renewable generation systems. While energy efficiency has the goal of reducing the energy consumption of building systems, and renewable generation helps properties become less dependent on the power grid, the purpose of passive house construction is to add building features that minimize energy needs in the first place. It is important to note that the term “passive house construction” is general, since the measures also apply for high-rise multifamily and commercial buildings, which account for the largest portion of floor space in New York City.

    The Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) offers many certification programs for design professionals and contractors. Considering that NYC has ambitious renewable energy adoption and emissions reduction targets, the demand for engineering services to improve building performance can be expected to be high in the foreseeable future. The following are some of the programs offered by the PHUIS:

    • Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHC) Training
    • Certified Builders Training
    • Quality Assurance and Quality Control Programs: PHIUS+ Rater and PHIUS+ Verifier

    PHIUS Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHC)

    The CPHC credential was first launched in 2008, and it is now the leading professional certification program of its type in North America. The CPHC program includes training in the WUFI Passive energy modeling software, as well as a continuing education program. The program is custom-tailored according to the North American construction industry, considering the range of climate zones found in the region, market conditions and availability of building components. So far, PHIUS has granted the CPHC credential to more than 1350 professionals in North America.

    A CPHC is qualified to lead the delivery of passive building projects anywhere in North America, regardless of climate zone variations. Projects developed with the assistance of CPHCs follow the quality assurance and quality control guidelines of the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), whose standards are recognized by the US federal government and mortgage industry, as well as the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy. These projects consistently achieve high scores under the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) index, and residential constructions are granted Zero Energy Ready Home status by the US Dept. of Energy.

    The main aspects covered by the CPHC training program are the following:

    • Passive House Institute US basic principles: heat transfer, air-tightness, thermal bridge free detailing, super-insulation, high-efficiency ventilation and moisture control.
    • WUFI Passive training: WUFI Passive is a software solution that performs passive house verification, heat and moisture assessment, and dynamic modeling. The software was developed by PHIUS in partnership with the Fraunhofer Institute of Building Physics and Owens Corning.
    • Developing energy modeling skills by completing an entire project, including energy balancing, hygrothermal assessment and comfort assessment per ASHRAE 55.
    • Overview of North America climate zones, and how to adjust passive house design strategies accordingly. The program includes case studies for all climate zones.
    • Materials and components available in the North American market.
    • Introduction to THERM, a heat modeling software developed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
    • Quality assurance and performance, according to PHIUS+ Certification guidelines.

    It is important to note that PHIUS certification requires a professional background in construction, architecture, or a relevant and closely related field.  The normal price is $1800, but it is reduced to $1650 for Passive House Alliance US (PHAUS) members.

    The CPHC training program is divided into two phases. Phase I is completed online, taking a series of webinars. Phase II has a duration of 5 days and is taken in person, addressing software and other aspects that require direct interaction between the instructor and trainee. There is an optional exam that brings extra benefits for CPHC trainees who score 70% or better - being listed in the PHIUS CPHC database and the PHAUS professional services directory, and access to the latest technical information from PHIUS.

    PHIUS Certified Builders Training

    Unlike the CPHC program, which targets professionals with a design and consulting background, this program is for contractors. It is a four-day program that includes both classroom training and on-site training, where the main topics addressed are:

    • Passive house principles
    • Common building envelope issues and how to address them
    • HVAC: main considerations and system testing
    • Building component availability in the North American market, cost optimization and bidding process
    • Quality assurance / quality control (QA/QC)

    To become a PHIUS Certified Builder, the contractor must obtain a score of 75% or more in the program exam. In addition, only contractors who are licensed and who hold liability insurance are eligible for the certification. Upon meeting all program requirements, the contractor can use the PHIUS Certified Builder logo.

    QA and QC: PHIUS+ Rater and PHIUS+ Verifier

    PHIUS also offers two QA/QC training programs, where the PHIUS+ Rater program focuses on single-family residential projects, while the PHIUS+ Verifier program is for the multifamily and commercial sector. Professionals with the certification are qualified for:

    • Verification of construction plans and energy models during the design phase.
    • Project testing and inspection during the construction phase.

    QA/QC is carried out according to the PHIUS+ 2015 Passive Building Standard, which provides performance metrics for each climate zone in North America.

    The PHIUS+ Rater training has a duration of 2 days, while the PHIUS+ Verifier training ahs a duration of 2.5 days. Although each program focuses on a different type of building, the main aspects covered are the same: design strategies for enclosure integrity, mechanical and ventilation systems in passive buildings, on-site verification, airtightness/blower door testing. In both cases, an exam must be approved for the trainee to receive certification, and a professional background in green construction is required for acceptance into the program.

    It is important to note that Certified Passive House Consultants can also become PHIUS certified QA/QC professionals, but they are not allowed to assume both roles in the same project.


    Property development companies considering energy efficiency and renewable generation should not overlook passive house construction, since the three approaches achieve synergy when deployed together. A CPHC can offer professional consulting and design services, a PHIUS Certified Builder can be hired as contractor, and a PHIUS certified QA/QC professional can verify standard compliance.

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