PHI-Certified Building Components

Passive House specifiers often tell me that they aren’t interested in specifying Passive House Institute (PHI) certified products – that the PHI building certification program allows them the flexibility to exercise their expertise to find ways of achieving Passive House certification without using certified products.

Consider the intent and the benefits of the PHI Building Components Program.

Why does PHI certify building components? “As an independent authority, the Passive House Institute tests and certifies products in respect of their suitability for use in Passive Houses. Products that carry the Certified Passive House Component seal have been tested according to uniform criteria; they are comparable in terms of their specific values, and are of excellent quality regarding energy efficiency. Their use facilitates the designer’s task and contributes significantly to ensuring the faultless functioning of the resultant Passive House.” Read more here.

The main product categories supporting successful Passive House projects are well-understood. In a sense, certified products are pre-engineered, that is, they are known to make a substantial contribution toward the goals of Passive House. This application know-how is shared with the industry in the form of product certification. Using PHI certified products provides an opportunity to spare Passive House designers costly time spent sifting through dozens and sometimes hundreds of product choices, by narrowing the list to products already proven to be well-applied on Passive House projects.

Here are some examples:

High efficiency ventilation units
PHI promotes continuous ventilation through high-efficiency energy-recovery ventilators (ERV). On the face of it, the certification program for ERV seems to be focused on providing heat recovery efficiency in excess of 75%, low leakage construction and electrical consumption less than 0.765 W/CFM. One could “shop” the industry for ERV meeting these requirements without PHI-certification, or one could visit the PHI-certified ERV web page to narrow the list. By picking an ERV from the list, an engineer will also be picking a product that meets multiple criteria intended on Passive House projects. And, costly post-construction performance testing can be avoided, as well as a possible 12% penalty for using uncertified products.

Windows are one of the most critical items to “get right” in any building project that aims to be meaningfully more energy efficient than the building code, but this is especially true for a Passive House. Fortunately, when a window product is certified to the Passive House standard, significant benefits for designers and buyers result from this product certification, based upon the way that the thermal performance of the product has been determined. For non-certified products in North America, the modelling methodology to prove performance is adequate – in that it is truthful and validated – but not really helpful at a detailed level; the glazing unit and frame are all modeled together for overall performance. This can enable a manufacturer of a mediocre-performance window frame to model it with very high-performance glass, and advertise their windows with a pretty decent level of performance. However, for a Passive House certified product, the modelling methodology requires that the frames be modelled separately, in addition to the overall performance. This enables designers and buyers to compare windows on the basis of their frame technology’s performance alone, and then select the glazing that meets the project’s requirements.

A second benefit from this methodology is that the user of the performance data – the designer or passive house consultant – can accurately calculate the performance of the products at the actual size that they will be in a given project, rather than just a single “representative size”, which is a restriction resulting from the non-certified methodology. While it’s important not to overlook other characteristics of a window, such as physical testing results or long-term durability expectations for the framing materials, thermal performance is often where the selection process starts for a Passive House’s windows, and certified products definitely provide essential product data to users who are trying to build the very best buildings.

PHI’s certified product database is easy to access online. Enter the database, then get product performance details by drilling down to view the products’ certificate, which includes certified data. But don’t stop there – contact the manufacturer to see if a certified product offers as-applied performance exceeding even the requirements of PHI certification!

Also, save time by picking PHI-certified products from the database embedded in PHPP (Passive House Planning Package.)

If you have questions about the Passive House building component certification program, explore the PHI website, or contact us here at NAPHN.