Passivhaus Institut Suspends All Contracts with Passive House US

Update 8/19/2011: PHIUS just published its response [PDF].

Today, tweets exploded on our Passive House list maintained through Twitter.  It started with word this morning that the Passivhaus Institut, founded by Dr. Wolfgang Feist in 1996, had revoked certifier status held by Passive House US (PHIUS), the only Passive House certifier in the United States.  This news was verified by Dr. Feist himself on Twitter, with a link to an open letter issued by the Passivhaus Institut explaining what was going on.  

According to the open letter: “[R]ecent actions by PHIUS have culminated both in breaches of contract and good faith, unnecessarily reinforcing false divisions within the Passive House community. In light of PHIUS’ disregard for its standing agreements with PHI, we are left with no other choice but to suspend all standing contracts.

So what happened?  Three main things.

First, PHIUS allegedly certified Passive House buildings without the requisite documentation, threatening the integrity of the standard.  I’ve contacted Dr. Feist in an effort to determine which buildings were certified in this manner and will update this article upon hearing from him, the Passivhaus Institut, or PHIUS.

Second, PHIUS allegedly infringed the Passivhaus Institut’s copyright in the PHPP software by selling and making changes to it without authorization or license.

Third, PHIUS introduced a competing professional certification scheme and allegedly refused to honor existing contractual obligations with the Passivhaus Institut.

What’s next?  Buildings can be certified through an authorized Passive House Building Certifier (the list is here), who can provide certification anywhere in the world.  The Certified Passive House Designer designation is available worldwide, including via the Passive House Academy in New York.  And the 2007 English language version of PHPP can be purchased from the Passivhaus Institut.

I emailed Katrin Klingenberg, founder of PHIUS, for comment and will update this article when I receive a response.

[+] Passive House: a public good – open letter.

Credit: Passivhaus Institut.

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  • MrSteve007

    From what I’ve heard (by a coworker, who’s US Passive House certified), much of the “threatening the integrity of the standard” is by modifying the software (and the certifying forms) from their metric measurements to US standards; also the German institute to wanting to have all the certification forms sent to and qualified by the Germans, vs. Americans. I’d be curious if you could verify this.

  • Stufix

    The international database for Certified Passive House Designers can be found here:

    Don’t be too quick to blame PHIUS, there have been miscommunications and confusion on both sides. Rest assured, Passive House in North America will continue, through both North American and Internationally certified design.

    • Preston

      No one is blaming PHIUS and we’ve asked PHIUS for comment with no response. 

  • Acohen

    This is such a travesty to see the sniping in this important community.  this is really about metric vs imperial and understanding the US market vs the EU market, plus some personality conflict thrown in for good measure.  Both PHIUS and PHI will continue to push the standard with PHIUS focusing on the requirements specific to the North American climate and market.

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