In this week’s blog, Phius Alliance Constituent Coordinator Jennie Eber reflects on her experience at the recent Humid Climate Conference.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Humid Climate Conference in Austin, Texas, put on by the Phius Alliance chapter in Austin (go Austin!). 

It was my second passive building conference – my first being PhiusCon21 – and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The Austin Chapter did a fantastic job putting on the conference, including sharing their Phius projects and inspiring an audience that was more than just local. It was an affirmation of the hard work Phius Alliance chapters and representatives have been doing this year. 

The Austin chapter made a significant impact on its community while also attracting other Phius members from Georgia, Arkansas, and Louisiana. The chapter hosts this conference every two years, but with its cancellation in 2020 this year’s event was a long-time coming – and you could feel that momentum. They did a great job of lining up incredible local food and beer and curating a valuable succession of speakers. 

Jonathan Bean, of the University of Arizona, kicked things off, showcasing the design of his 2022 Solar Decathlon team, the Design Challenge Grand Winner in the Commercial Division for their Sunblock project. He was an excellent emcee throughout the event and has been working hard to help build community and activity in the Southwest.

Dr. John Straube, of RDH Building Science Inc, true to form, helped set the stage for the full conference with humor and hope. He was the first to point out to the crowd that while our efforts are still vital, climate change has slowed and we are no longer doomed for a 4 degree celsius rise. Throughout the conference, this message of optimism rang through, encouraging us to continue to challenge the status quo and continue our work. Educate, engage, and understand the bottom dollar – and a reminder that it’s all about priorities.

My colleague at Phius, Lisa White, shared in her presentation that passive building has long had a cold climate bias that we need to move past. She emphasized that it is vital to understand that passive building applies to buildings of all types in all climates. And just as other speakers demonstrated that we are on a better path to improving climate impact – that there is hope – we are on a path to major growth of Phius projects in humid climates. She mentioned how we’ve shifted to consider our impacts beyond the building, considering how passive buildings can help facilitate the renewable energy transition. And she gave a sneak peek on some of the resilience and total carbon accounting framework under development in the Phius REVIVE pilot program for existing buildings.

Dan Cohan, author of “Confronting Climate Gridlock” and professor at Rice University, echoed this message of climate hope, discussing how his new book makes the science of climate change more accessible to the rest of the world. Hopefully some of his students will join us in Houston next year for PhiusCon 2023.

Nikki Krueger (Santa Fe), Kimberly Llewellyn (Mitsubishi Electric), and Bryan Orr (HVAC School) continue to show us that while there is improvement in mechanical systems, there is no magic answer for perfection.

Passive House Accelerator Director Zack Semke led us on a journey through black swan events, highlighting the power of exponential growth and provided inspiration. He did an amazing job explaining that Phius is SolarPunk and that we can have a radical utopian future by creating low impact, highly efficient infrastructure. 

Stacy Smedley (of Skanska) talked about the importance of transparency surrounding embodied carbon in materials and material production. She highlighted the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3) Tool and some of its useful features, like side-by-side comparative analysis of material selection.

Trey Farmer (Forge Craft Architecture + Design) and Mark Larson (Lake Travis Builders) presented their single-family homes, reaffirming that Phius certified homes are resilient and energy efficient. In Austin, just like anywhere else, a Phius certified house is still a worthy investment, and these projects demonstrated that to the local crowd. 

Gil Ramirez (Oceanfront Villas) is a member of the new Phius Alliance Houston chapter and presented his vision for an Airbnb in Galveston, Texas. He plans to have an educational component to the project so guests can understand how special their beach rental is. Not only are members creating projects, they are educating, and addressing the ignorance Dr. Straube spoke about when he gave us the top three issues we are facing. 

Just like the number of projects, the Phius activity is growing across the southern United States. This year Alliance members based in Houston formed a chapter and are doing big things! New projects are coming in, including Fly Flat, and we can’t wait to see them at PhiusCon 2023. 

We have hope.

Phius Alliance members and certified professionals are leading the way and taking advantage of the carbon counting tools Stacey Smedley shared. There has been a flurry of activity in the South, from East to West and I can’t wait to see everyone at PhiusCon 2022 because the Phius Alliance Chicago has some great things planned for you!