PHN Instructors

The Passive House Network trainers are leaders in the Passive House sector and bring real-world experience and a love of teaching. Get to know them.

Ben Leer, PHN Trainer

Ben has had a diverse career focused on sustainability and the urban environment. He has taught both undergraduate and graduate building science courses at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the City College of New York. He is currently a trainer for the North American Passive House Network, where he instructs professionals to become Passive House Certified. Ben has consulted on numerous projects, spanning ecological infrastructure to Passive House design. He specializes in high performance daylighting systems, providing a comprehensive suite of services ranging from design review, thermal bridge modeling, specification and sourcing, as well as onsite installation support. He has given numerous talks, trainings, and workshops on the topic. Ben graduated with a MS in Sustainable Architecture from the City University of New York. He is a Certified Passive House Consultant who has worked on projects across North America. He has a passion for creating environmentally friendly buildings, and is deeply committed to the Passive House movement.

Ed May, PHN Trainer

Ed is a Passive House Consultant, licensed Architect and a LEED Green Associate. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 2001 and a Masters of Architecture from Parsons the Newschool in NYC in 2009. Ed has been an Adjunct Professor at Parsons the NewSchool University as well an Industry Professor at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ where he directed the school’s 2015 US DOE Solar Decathlon program. In addition, Ed teaches with the Passive House Academy the North American Passive House Network, and Passive House Canada and is certified by the Passive House Institute (PHI) in Germany and the Passive House Institute of the US (PHIUS) as a Certified Passive House Consultant.

Gaby Brainard, PHN Trainer

Gaby is a licensed architect, CPHC/D, building envelope specialist, and educator. Her work includes technical consulting, academic research, and teaching architecture students and professionals. In her consulting practice, she helps clients design and build efficient, durable, and constructable building envelopes using Passive House principles. Her research on envelope retrofits has been supported by NYSERDA and the AIA Upjohn Research Initiative. She teaches architecture and building science at Pratt Institute and Columbia GSAPP, and previously taught at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Gaby joined the Passive House community after a decade working as a facade specialist on high-profile commercial and multifamily residential projects in New York City, as a senior technical architect at SHoP Architects and a facade consultant at Heintges. She has a Master of Architecture from the Yale School of Architecture.

John Mitchell, PHN Trainer

John Mitchell graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Colorado College in 1996 and a Masters of Architecture from Parsons the Newschool in NYC in 2009. In the interim, John worked as a carpenter, first on residential renovations and later design and construction of custom homes, and as a project manager and digital fabrication specialist for a theatrical design and production company. The combination of design and craft embodied in Passive House resonated with John when he was first exposed to Passive House as a construction manager for Parsons the New School/Stevens Institute of Technololgy’s 2011 Solar Decathlon entry. John soon became a Certified Passive House Designer and in 2015 began training others in Passive House principles. John is a partner in BLDGTYP, a high-performance building consultancy located in Brooklyn, NY.

Matthew Bowers, PHN Trainer

Matthew Bowers spent 6 years in the Navy as a nuclear engineer and became interested in Thermodynamics and Fluid Mechanics. Once his tour was over, he attended RIT’s Mechanical Engineering Technology Program where he wanted to become a HVAC designer. While at RIT he learned of “homes so efficient they don’t need furnaces”. He then focused his career path on Passive House. He graduated with the highest honors in 2010. Since 2013 Bowers has worked as a Certified Passive House Consultant and Tradesman and HERS Rater. In 2017 Matt started his own Company – Rochester Passive House Consulting – specializing in high performance homes. He has been featured in the Journal of Light Construction’s Energy Column under multiple topics including Blower Door Testing for extremely tight homes, Infrared Scanning, Blower Door Testing and Retrofitting airtightness and trouble spots for airtightness in new homes. He was the designer of Rochester’s 1st Certified Passive House – his personal home. Matt started certifying Passive Houses in 2019 and provides training for PHPP and FLIXO. Matt is also a certified trainer for the Certified Passive House Designer (CPHC/D) and Certified Passive House Tradesman (CPHT) Courses.

Shawn Torbert, PHN Trainer

Shawn’s career in sustainability began in 2007 when he left the medical device industry to become Vice President of New Business Development at Greenable, Inc., Philadelphia’s first green building material supplier. Since then, he has maintained a strong focus on sustainable building materials, energy-efficient design & construction, and energy policy in NYC, Canada, and the U.S. for multiple global and domestic corporations. Currently, Shawn serves as an Owner’s Representative and Passive House Construction Project Manager for real estate developers in New Jersey while also providing sustainability consulting services to building material manufacturers.
Shawn served on the Board of Directors of New York Passive House (NYPH) from 2014 to 2016 and co-founded the New Jersey Passive House (NJPH) Chapter of the North American Passive House Network (NAPHN). He is a Passive House Instructor for the Building Energy Exchange in NYC and is a NAPHN Ambassador.

Shawn holds a Master of Science degree in Sustainability Management from Columbia University, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from Lehigh University, and is a LEED AP and Certified International PassivHaus Consultant/Designer.