Comfort and Joy, and a Farewell from the Board Chair
As we head out for the holiday break, and wrap up business for the year, I’d like to take this opportunity to firstly wish everyone a well-deserved rest. I am delighted to re-affirm that I’ll be taking some much-needed rest myself, and will be officially passing the reins as Board Chairperson on to our current Board Treasurer, Craig Stevenson.
This transition has been carefully planned since early 2020. I’m confident that the foundations we’ve built over the past decade are in great hands, and that Craig will use his established business-minded skill-set to further the work that we’ve collectively started here at PHN. Passing this batton provides a lovely opportunity to reflect on that work, and what we’ve accomplished together at PHN.
Many of you may not know where – or how – the Passive House Network (formerly NAPHN) was founded, so I’d like to briefly tell that story here, both for posterity and as an acknowledgment of thanks and recognition to all who’ve helped along the way. In 2011 a few of us convened a small gathering around Mary James’s dining room table in Marin, California. Representatives from New York, Massachusetts, PHnw and California met to discuss how to form a national organization that remained connected to the global Passive House community and which reflected the values and structure that we could all support. This was how and where the ‘American Passive House Network’ (our initial name), was born.
In those early days, we centered our actions around resource sharing. We hosted bi-monthly ‘Roundtable Calls’ and an annual speaker tour – bringing in notable presenters that we ferried around the country to keynote at regional conferences. We had enormous fun hosting Nick Grant from the UK, Bjorn Kierulf from Slovakia, Kara Rosemeier from New Zealand, the inimitable Günther Lang from Austria, and Dr. Wolfgang Feist himself from the epicenter of all things Passivhaus: Darmstadt, Germany.
In 2014 Barry Stephens (gently) forced us to take the leap to host our first conference in Portland, Maine, by booking the hotel and paying the deposit. That joyous gathering was followed in 2015 in Vancouver, where we helped what was then ‘CanPHI West’ host their first major event. (I’ve loved watching them rapidly transform themselves into the juggernaut that is ‘Passive House Canada’ today.)
PHN’s own big transformation came in 2018 – after extensive outreach and a ‘Summit’ event, led by facilitator Jay Gentry in Pittsburgh, directly following our conference hosted by PHWPA. With the help of many we made a big pivot. We restructured ourselves and re-incorporated to become a 501c3, focused on education and training. Our goal was to become a ‘best in class’ Passive House training and membership organization. We saw this as our best value-add to our community because we recognized that training and education are the foundational building blocks to achieving lasting industry transformation.
Today – with the help of our training partners at BEEX and PHA and funding support from NYSERDA – we’ve successfully launched the first on-demand CPHD course in the US. We’re now well-positioned to remotely train designers, consultants, and tradespersons anywhere in the U.S. – an asset during a pandemic that has delivered multiple co-benefits.
As we move into the next phase of our organization’s development, I’d like to acknowledge some of the highlights of my tenure as Board Chair (and with founding co-chair, Ken Levenson):
- Back in 2017, thanks to the efforts of Bob Cavey and his ally, Scott Foster, UN Deputy Secretary General, Amina Mohammed honored us with a welcome recording for our Conference Opening Plenary.
- This opened the door for us to expand what was then, a very small but mighty policy track. By 2019, the Policy Roundtable that we organized with NYPH allowed us to convene some of the most ambitious policymakers from across the global PH community – including representatives from New York, Brussels, Vancouver, Germany, and the UK.
- Our 2019 conference held so many highlights: our student speed-mentoring session – initiated by Deborah Moelis and hosted by Sharon Gaber – was one of the most fun, and dynamic sessions I’ve ever attended at a conference.
- Jumping back to 2018, based on the women’s initiative started in Pittsburgh, we committed to NO All-Male panels in future events. This organically grew and transformed our 2019 event into one of the most diverse conferences ever. This in turn allowed us to naturally diversify our board because we had already laid the foundations of a more diverse community.
- In 2019, thanks to Ken’s initiative, we won a NYSERDA grant that allowed us to partner with BEEx and PHA to develop the on-demand CPHD course, right before the pandemic hit.
- In August of 2020 I managed to persuade co-founder and co-conspirator, Ken Levenson, to become our first Executive Director – an epic move that has already radically transformed our capacity and reach in a very short space of time…!
- There are two projects undertaken on my watch that I’m immensely proud of are:
- Our rebranding and renaming – work we finished in April, under the fabulous guidance of Karen Spiegel and Edie Dillman, who were brought onto our board to lead this project.
- The new PHribbon for the US – the embodied carbon plugin tool that uses the EC3 database – was commissioned from Tim Martel. We expect this to allow the US Passive House community to lead on integrating both operational and embodied carbon – something not being done elsewhere. The PHribbon will be available in 2022. Find out more.
- Lastly, the steps we have taken to foster partnership with a broad array of like-minded organizations working in building sustainability, ranging from all our regional Passive House allies, to NESEA, BEEx, ILFI, the Urban Green Council, to NBI and USGBC. I’m very proud to have initiated many of these crosswalks and bridge-building alliances, which I look forward to continuing to cement.
I will remain on the Board at PHN as an at-large member for a few more years, where I plan to further the Policy Advocacy work which I have found to be intriguing, rewarding and exasperating in equal measure. I’m hoping to use my passion and tenacity to initiate the seismic shifts we’ve recognized are needed in the coming decade.
I leave you with a quote by author, Simon Sinek (inspired by new board member, Lori Atwater):
“ Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we LOVE is called passion.” Co-founding and building NAPHN has been a true passion-project for me. I’ve enjoyed (almost) every minute and I thank every single one of you who has shared this amazing journey so far. Big thanks to all of you for your own courage and tenacity in moving Passive House forward in your regions.
With that, I wish you great comfort and joy, and a little rest of your own.