I spent this morning on the job site of a high-performance home – a MacArthur Construction Company design-build project in Cambridge, MA. Mike Duclos was there to perform a third-party energy model for the home, evaluating it against the Passive House standard.
As a lowly business person, I was there to answer one question: Why Passive House?
Duncan MacArthur, founder of MacArthur Construction, is a pragmatic guy. He finds Passive House useful for re-framing conversations with mechanical engineers and clients:
I’m just glad somebody’s setting the bar extraordinarily high. It’s something to shoot for – sure, we usually end up backing off in certain places, but by starting the conversation with Passive House we’re ending up in a drastically different place than by trying to make incremental improvements over what was done in the past.
Mike Duclos, instructor for NESEA’s new Building Energy Masters Series Passive House training course, put it this way:
I started my career in technology – building high-tech products. [Holding up his cell phone] At that time nobody thought this was possible. Then somebody built the first one and it was a huge thing that looked like a brick. Now we have iPhones. I think something similar is happening with buildings, and in five years we’ll be in a dramatically different, and better place. Germany is already there – all we have to do is import.
My takeaway: Passive House is easier to understand as an outsider than LEED, or any of the other high-performance building standards. So if you’re committed to sustainable building, it may be the most useful tool available for framing conversations with clients and subcontractors in a way that steers the project in a successful direction. You can play good cop, while the strict, German standard plays bad cop. As a marketer, project manager, and business owner, I see tremendous value in having the right conversations and the power of language on your side. Having Passive House in your arsenal is a great investment for building professionals, even if you don’t get there with every (or any) project.