Passive House Designers

Earlier this summer, Kurt and I each sat for the Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHC) /Certified Passive House Designer (CPHD) exam, a comprehensive test that focuses on the stringent passive house standards and design methodologies required for a certified passive house building. As a CPHC/CPHD, one can aid in the design and documentation of a passive house building’s envelope and systems, both through drawings and calculations that will be required for building certification. The exam was administered by Passive House Academy (PHA), and followed an intense seven-day training session, also hosted by PHA.

For us, the process began during Greenbuild 2013, when we both attended a course on all things passive house.  The one-day course left us both intrigued and eager to delve deeper into the science and design of passive house buildings, so when the opportunity emerged to attend the Spring 2014 PHA class, we jumped at the chance. The class covered many aspects of planning, designing and constructing a passive house building. Course material included two large (200+ page) textbooks, plus one workbook in which a practice passive house design is fleshed out and all calculations were completed by class participants.

As is the case with learning or teaching about most any comprehensive topic, we started out focusing on understanding the “big picture” concepts of passive house design, such as airtightness, ventilation, thermal comfort and solar gains. Through the course of the seven days, we pressed forward and gradually progressed into more complex calculations involving thermal bridges, air changes per hour, energy usage and even return on investment strategies for passive house buildings.

Fast forward to early June 2014 and Kurt and I were sitting for the CPHC/CPHD exam. The test is administered by approved proctors on the same day in various locations all around the world. The exam included several multi-part word problems and a vignette passive house sketch design problem in which each applicant designs a passive house. Certain site and program constraints were given, and from there, plans, sections, elevations and critical details were required, along with a significant amount of annotation describing systems, products, and air sealing methods.

The exam content was definitely difficult, and some German-to-English translation anomalies made for an interesting pre-exam read through with the proctor. Once we completed the five-hour long exam, the proctor sent the test booklets to Ireland, and then Germany for two rounds of grading. In late August, we were both notified that we had passed the test, meaning we can now serve as Certified Passive House Consultant/ Passive House Designers on passive house projects.

Now with two CPHC/CPHD’s on staff, CICADA Architecture/Planning, Inc. is definitely looking forward to participating in the design and documentation of passive house buildings in the Philadelphia region and beyond!