PHIUS Receives Grant From MacArthur Foundation for Affordable Multifamily Housing

Posted by Michael Knezovich on September 30, 2015
PHIUS Receives Grant From MacArthur Foundation for Affordable Multifamily Housing
The Stellar Passive House apartment building project in Eugene, OR.

On the heels of its 10th Annual North American Passive House conference, Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) today announced a major initiative, funded by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, to support the development of affordable housing that meets the stringent PHIUS+ 2015 passive building energy performance standard.

Buildings that meet the PHIUS+ standard use 60–80% less energy for heating and cooling compared to comparable conventional buildings, which makes the standard a perfect platform for successful affordable housing. Passive buildings are extremely comfortable, provide superior indoor air quality, and—they’re resilient. A passive building can maintain comfortable conditions for days, even during power outages.

Over the past 10 years, PHIUS has made significant progress in developing a solid design methodology and energy performance standard appropriate for North American climates and construction practices. Until recently, however, passive house remained something of a boutique niche for forward-thinking single-family homeowners. Not anymore.

PHIUS+ Passive building certification is being adopted for large-scale buildings ranging from apartment buildings (both affordable and market rate developments), mid and high-rises, professional offices to licensed health care facilities. For example:

Government and Housing Finance Agencies and major organizations like Enterprise Communities are accelerating the push by embracing PHIUS+ certification guidelines. For example:

  • In its most recent criteria, the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Authority awarded bonus points for implementing passive standards in its process for awarding Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC).
  • Enterprise Green Communities, which provides guidance to more than 20 states and affordable housing agencies, recently included PHIUS+ certification in its updated 2015 criteria.
  • Seattle has passed a code change: multifamily projects that earn PHIUS+ certification qualify for a larger Floor Area Ratio (FAR) than buildings that don’t.

With this growth in adoption has come a growth in demand for technical support (for design software and design guidance) and for PHIUS+ Certification and Quality Assurance services. To help PHIUS meet the demand, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation generously has provided financial support on two fronts:

  • The Foundation funded the recent 10th Annual North American Passive House Conference in Chicago. The support enabled PHIUS to shape its program around largescale, multifamily housing development, with multiple workshops and track sessions devoted to the topic. The conference was an enormous success, drawing 500+ architects, engineers, policy makers, educators. The conference exhibit hall showcased leading high-performance building component manufacturers including Mitsubishi and Owens Corning.
  • Ongoing Foundation support will fund the development, publication, and distribution of design and quality assurance manuals, and to increase staff to meet demand for technical support for the energy modeling software—WUFI Passive—required to design passive buildings.


Michael Knezovich is the communications director for PHIUS.

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