Consultant to Consultant: Six Essential Lessons from the Trenches

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Beyond Efficiency will be presenting at two upcoming Passive House conferences and we hope to see you in California, Maine, or both:

9th Annual North American Passive House Conference

September 11-14, 2014
San Francisco Bay Area, California
Presenter: Katy Hollbacher, P.E.

North American Passive House Network 2014: Conference & Expo

September 22-23, 2014
Portland, Maine
Presenters: Katy Hollbacher, P.E. + Lizzie Adams

Here's a sneak preview... 

Introduction

Achieving the Passive House building energy standard requires a scientific design process, high level of detailing, and robust approach to construction quality control that is unlike anything most people in the U.S. building industry have ever experienced in their careers. Creating a Passive House building requires discipline and collaboration from the architect, engineers, general contractor and subs—and in most cases also involves a Passive House consultant who’s been specially trained to learn the principles of Passive House and how to use the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) energy modeling tool.

A consultant’s career in Passive House is typically launched by taking an intensive eight- or nine-day training offered by a small handful of organizations, as was the case for me. The training presents a huge array of information that is challenging to fully absorb, especially as the information is disconnected from one’s specific projects. So it is one thing to emerge from this training and quite another to embark on a Passive House project; for most consultants the training leaves them strapped into an amusement-park car at the start of a brand-new roller coaster that will bring them up, down, around, again and again. Wouldn’t it be nice to have more of the thrilling downs and fewer of the arduous climbs as one rides the Passive House learning curve?

Upon completing the Passive House Consultant’s Training in 2009, I was on that car and about to embark on what I later came to realize was the real high-performance consulting world. Since then my company, Beyond Efficiency, has consulted on more than twenty Passive House projects around the U.S., from cushy climates like Coastal California to sun-starved western Pennsylvania to sub-zero mountain towns in Wyoming. In these five years I’ve confirmed for myself that technical Passive House challenges are very real, yet in project after project it’s coordination and communication challenges that I have come to believe are the biggest hurdles to success on Passive House projects. Following I will outline what have been the most important lessons for me in hopes they will help to reduce the learning curve for other consultants. Each lesson will be taught through specific experiences from Beyond Efficiency’s projects, including small commercial, multifamily and single-family.