Blog Post

Buffalo Students Earn CPHC® Credentials, Collaborate on Community Development Project

University at Buffalo professor Nicholas Rajkovich details his students' experience taking the Phius Certified Consultant training and applying those skills to a community project.

Credit: Douglas Levere/University at Buffalo

The Phius Certified Consultant (CPHC®) training has historically targeted experienced design professionals, but for the past decade there has been a small number of university instructors across the United States who have successfully adopted the program in the university setting to train the next generation of high-performance building professionals. 

These instructors – such as Mary Rogero at University of Miami, Ohio, Alison Kwok of University of Oregon and Walter Gronzik of Ball State University – have paved the way for increased adoption of the program throughout the country, which we are now seeing.

In states that are experiencing an exponential increase in the adoption of the Phius certification path such as New York, the demand for entry-level professionals who are qualified to work on Phius projects has tipped the scales to convince higher education institutions to incorporate the CPHC training in their existing curriculum. Students are questioning how passive building can be better incorporated into their studies and universities are seeing the marketability associated with their newly trained students. This model is proving to be a win-win.

In the fall of 2022, a studio at the University at Buffalo focused on the design of passive house retrofits for low-and moderate-income houses in Buffalo, New York. The graduate studio of 13 students began the semester by studying and taking the CPHC exams. Through a partnership with Phius, the Phius Alliance New York Chapter, and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), students had access to the CPHC course materials, the online exam, and the take-home exam. All 13 of the students who started the studio successfully completed the Phius training and passed both exams, earning the CPHC designation for their resumes.

Credit: Douglas Levere/University at Buffalo

In the second half of the studio, students applied the knowledge learned from the CPHC coursework to a series of houses owned by a local community development non-profit, People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) Buffalo. In this collaboration, students worked with this community organization to understand how building science principles can be used to repair vacant homes and bring quality housing to neighborhoods impacted by decades of redlining and disinvestment.

The studio will continue in the spring of 2023 with 11 new students. These new students will study for the CPHC designation and then pick up where the studio in the fall left off. The hope is that by May of 2023 the students will be able to share with PUSH a roadmap of how to redevelop their older housing stock to a higher level of energy efficiency – hopefully reaching the Phius standard for their new homes and retrofit projects.

The work coming out of University at Buffalo is especially relevant in light of the recent environmental challenges the region has experienced. Located East of Lake Erie, severe lake-effect weather patterns have forced the region to consider the impacts of climate change on the future building stock of the city and surrounding regions. 

While Phius certification provides the benefit of energy efficiency and decarbonized buildings, perhaps most importantly for Buffalo it provides resiliency in the face of increasingly challenging environmental conditions.