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The Local Nonprofit Aiming to Make the Building Industry More Efficient

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Photo by Deborah DeGraffenreid

By now, we’ve seen and heard about the myriad benefits of leading a more sustainable lifestyle. As demand for eco-friendly and energy-efficient products grows, so does their production.

But when it comes to the building and construction industry, progress has been inching along at a slower pace, as companies navigate the accessibility of materials, regulations and codes, and other factors that sometimes hinder making a transition into truly sustainable methodologies. That’s where the Passive House Alliance US (PHAUS) comes in.

This national nonprofit is a membership-based network with local chapters, including one here in the Valley. PHAUS is committed to helping builders, developers, and designers lower their carbon footprint by providing them with training, resources, marketing, and advocacy support for creating passive homes and buildings.

“A passive building is one that incorporates five key principles: high levels of insulation, high air tightness, low levels of thermal bridging, high-performance windows and doors, and mechanical heat recovery ventilation,” says Michelle Tinner, who volunteers as president of the Passive House Alliance Hudson Valley chapter. “Passive buildings provide superior comfort, a healthy indoor environment, durability, and resilience, all while using up to 90 percent less energy than their typical counterparts.”

Passive buildings like this one use up to 90 percent less energy than their typical counterparts. Photo by Pamela Cook @prcphotos

So why aren’t more builders committed to passive house design when — according to the PHAUS website — the building industry is responsible for consuming the largest percentage of energy production in the U.S., contributing to 47 percent of greenhouse gas emissions?

Tinner, who otherwise works as a senior project manager at green building, construction, and property management company Sustainable Comfort, Inc., says that “short-term thinking and misinformation about cost barriers” provide some of the biggest challenges. That’s why PHAUS aims to push passive house construction methods into the mainstream standard of building through its regional chapters. During quarterly meetings, volunteers disseminate information, host trainings, and allow building professionals to discuss challenges caused by regulatory structures, climate considerations, and other roadblocks.

“We host quarterly events that include featured presentations by passive house professionals and relevant industry sponsors,” Tinner says. “We do targeted outreach to local officials, architects, engineers, energy consultants, builders, developers, and students. We also seek to include homeowners and renters; all are welcome at our meeting regardless of experience or knowledge level. As professionals in the building industry, and potential homeowners or renters, we have the choice to be part of the problem — continuing the status quo — or part of the solution by embracing building standards like Passive House.”

Learn more about the organization or view a meeting schedule at pha-hv.org.

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