Certified Passive House Vs The Pretty Good House — Part I

Part 1:  The state of the question:

I recently completed my Certified Passive House Builder training.  The training consists of several parts.  It starts with a self-paced, online tutorial followed by a two-week class, and concluding with a written exam.  It demands a sizable commitment of time and effort; but by completing the over 40 hour class and passing the 12-16 hour written exam, I will be certified as a Passive House Builder.  I am taking the time to learn the Passive House system in part because I am just interested in building science and always enjoy learning more.  I am also certain that it will make me a better builder.


But I am less certain that the Passive House program is the best path forward for our clients and even for the planet as a whole.  There is a growing number of committed “green” builders who question the value of its complicated rigor and bristle at the cost of its implementation.  Feeling the urgency of the moment, these builders argue that complexity and high costs are the greatest impediments to building green and that simplicity and competitive costs are the key to scaling up energy efficiency in our buildings in the short term.  And we may only have the short term, given the unforeseen acceleration of the climate crisis.

In a series of blogs over the next three months, I will be looking more deeply into this tension within the green building community.  On the one side we have the Passive House advocates who swear by its methods, its transparency and its rigor.  On the other side we have those who champion a more informal, but arguably more wholistic approach.  These voices have rallied around the idea of the Pretty Good House (PGH), a name not without controversy of its own, pitting those with marketing savvy against those who feel the PGH will sell itself on its obvious merits. 

The battle lines have been drawn.  Let the match begin. 

My manner of proceeding here will be to write a blog that champions the point of view of each the two camps.  The fourth and final blog in the series will explore whether differences between the two can be sorted into complementary competencies, or whether we would all be better off if one were to effectively sideline the other.

Stay tuned . . .