PHIUS (Passive House Institute US) recently announced the winners of its 2016 Passive Projects Competition at the 2nd Annual Design Awards Ceremony in Philadelphia. Winners were recognized in September as part of the 11th Annual North American Passive House Conference in Philadelphia.

The juried competition recognizes outstanding achievements in passive building design across climate zones, project types, and geographic locations. Contestants were narrowed to 16 finalists across project types.

“We are thrilled about the tremendous response to this year’s competition,” says PHIUS Communications Manager Meredith Marsh. “This event has quickly become a highlight of the annual North American Passive House Conference and is the perfect venue for the community to come together to celebrate the great strides being made in the field of passive building.”

Entries were judged on their strength in energy performance, design, craftsmanship, use of healthy materials, level of difficulty for the given climate and site, and cost effectiveness of the Affordable projects.

The winners are:

2016-winner-rmiBest Overall Project: Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) Innovation Center in Basalt, Colorado
The Innovation Center is a 15,610-square-foot office building and state-of-the-art convening center completed in December 2015. RMI developed the center to demonstrate how deep green buildings are designed, contracted, constructed, and occupied. The project achieves net-zero energy, producing more energy onsite annually than it consumes—one of only 200 buildings in the U.S. to achieve this distinction as of 2015. It’s the most energy-efficient building in the coldest climate zone in North America, with a predicted energy use intensity (EUI) of 17.2 kBtu/sf.

  • Architect: ZGF
  • Builder: J.E. DUNN
  • PHIUS+ Rater: Francisco Reina
  • MEP: PAE
  • High Performance Consultant: Architectural Applications
  • Additional Consultants: Greenhammer (infiltration), Pie Consulting Engineers (Airtightness testing)

Best Project by a Young Professional Under 35 (TIE): R Residence in Yokohama, Japan
and Right-Sized Passive Home in Oak Park, Illinois


The R Residence is a 1,600-square-foot, single-family home in the dense urban area of Yokohama, Japan. Japan is home to several PHI certified projects, but this was the first PHIUS-certified project. The project inspired major window/door companies to produce passive house grade windows.

  • CPHC®/Designer: Sayo Okada, SA2 Studios
  • Architect: Isao Kaneko, Passive House Co.
  • General Contractor: Daigo Kensetsu, Tokyo
  • Rater: Dr. Hideki Shibaike, Kyoto Institute of Technology
  • PHIUS+ Certified

Right-Sized Passive Home

Older suburbs are full of buildings at the end of their useful lives, having experienced years of neglect. When replacing them, this project team works to respect the character and quality of early 20th-century neighborhoods by providing homes that are as comfortable with a contemporary lifestyle as they are with their local and greater environment.

  • Architect/CPHC®: Tom Bassett-Dilley, Architect and CPHC
  • Builder/General Contractor: Evolutionary Home Builders, Brandon Weiss
  • Rater: Eco Achievers, Jason LaFleur
  • PHIUS+ 2015 Certified

Single Family:
Park Passive in Seattle, Washington
Park Passive in Seattle’s Madison Park neighborhood is home to an active family with a love of sustainability and modern design. The project’s fusion of high-performance building with quality design has earned it national media coverage and prestigious design awards, including the 2014 AIA National Housing Award for Architecture. Design constraints on the 2,710-square-foot home and its 2,000-square-foot urban lot were abundant, including a small, shallow floor plate, an oddly shaped zoning envelope, limited solar access, and performance requirements that called for 17-inch thick walls.

  • CPHC®: Rob Harrison, Harrison Architects
  • Architect: Marie Ljubojevic and Lauren McCunney, NK Architects
  • Builder: Sloan Ritchie, Cascade Built
  • Rater: Tadashi Shiga, Evergreen Certified
  • Mechanical Engineer: Jonathan Cohen, ImaginEnergy
  • THERM Modeling: Bronwyn Barry, One Sky Homes; Bob Ryan, Passive House Academy
  • Structural Engineer: Panos Trochalakis, YT Engineers
  • PHI Certified

Single Family – Honorable Mention: 
Madrona Passive House in Seattle, Washington
Madrona Passive House combines contemporary design with high-performance building to create an environmentally responsive and resource-efficient house. A 9.8 kW rooftop solar photovoltaic array provides enough energy to offset the home’s energy consumption on a net annual basis. Eight months of monitored occupancy have demonstrated not just Site Net Zero Energy balance, but enough extra production to account for usage of the main family car, an Electric Nissan Leaf.

  • CPHC®: Dan Whitmore
  • Architect: SHED Architecture & Design
  • Builder: Hammer and Hand, Inc.
  • Rater: Skylar Swinford from Energy Systems Co.
  • SF: iCFA 3778 ft2 (TFA 3389 ft2)
  • PHIUS+ 2015 Certified

Multifamily: Village Centre Apartments in Brewer, Maine
Maine’s first large-scale multifamily passive house is a 48-unit, 54,000-square-foot affordable housing project in a town with more than 7,000 annual heating degree days (snowfall in May is not uncommon). In addition to a challenging climate, the project also faced a difficult budget environment and an unconventional design process. As a result of a 2011 controversy over the cost of affordable housing in the state, all affordable housing projects in Maine are subject to a hard cost-cap. These spending limits forced the team to design and permit a conventional building to ensure funding, and then develop creative solutions to meet passive house standards, balance budget, operating costs, and the lifecycle environmental impact of the project. After passing its post-construction on-site testing, Village Centre opened in June 2016. The project has become a highly publicized example of the potential for high-performance affordable housing in extreme climates.

  • CPHC®: Colin Schless, Thornton Tomasetti
  • Architect: CWS Architects
  • Builder: Wright Ryan Construction
  • Rater: Diane Schless, Horizon Maine
  • Verifier: Chris McTaggart (PHIUS QA/QC)
  • Developer: Erin Cooperrider, Community Housing of Maine
  • PHIUS+ 2015 Certified

Multifamily – Honorable Mention: Ivy City Passive Townhomes – Block A in Washington, D.C.
In 2010, when the Passive House Standard was still new in the U.S., Habitat for Humanity Washington, D.C. decided to pioneer applying passive house standard in an affordable, multi-family scale and assembled a project team to achieve this goal. The aim was to enable homeowner families to consume significantly less energy overall. The 3,775-square-foot passive house model embodies Habitat for Humanity’s vision that all people deserve safe, comfortable, affordable, and sustainable homes.

  • CPHC®: Barbara Gehrung, bg design & consulting llc
  • Architect: Zavos A&D, Bruce Zavos, Matt Fine
  • Owner: Habitat for Humanity Washington, DC: Theresa Hamm, Daniel Hines, Andrew Modley
  • Mechanical Engineer: L. S. Grimm
  • Rater/Verifier: Conway Energy, Chris Conway
  • PHIUS+ Certified

Affordable: Village Centre Apartments in Brewer, Maine
Details above in the Multifamily Winner Category

  • CPHC®: Colin Schless, Thornton Tomasetti
  • Architect: CWS Architects
  • Builder: Wright Ryan Construction
  • Rater: Diane Schless, Horizon Maine
  • Verifier: Chris McTaggert (PHIUS QA/QC)
  • Developer: Erin Cooperrider, Community Housing of Maine
  • PHIUS+ 2015 Certified

Affordable – Honorable Mention:
Alice Street Duplex in Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada
Housing Nova Scotia and project consultant Passive House E-Design completed a showcase Passive House project in Truro, Nova Scotia. This 3,441-square-foot project is the first subsidized affordable home to be certified to the Passive Building Standard in Nova Scotia and shows that environmental sustainability and energy efficiency can be affordable and achievable there.

  • CPHC®: Natalie Leonard, Passive House E-Design
  • Rater/Verifier: ThermalWise
  • PHIUS+ 2015 Certified

Commercial: RMI Innovation Center in Basalt, Colorado
See details above in the Best Overall Project Winner Category

  • Architect: ZGF
  • Builder: J.E. DUNN
  • PHIUS+ Rater: Francisco Reina
  • MEP: PAE
  • High Performance Consultant: Architectural Applications
  • Additional Consultants: Greenhammer (infiltration), Pie Consulting Engineers (Airtightness testing)
  • PHIUS+ 2015 Certified

l – Honorable Mention: Viridescent in Falmouth, Maine
TideSmart Global is an experiential marketing company in Falmouth, Maine. When it came time to replace a small residential structure on their campus, they wanted a new building that would meet passive house standards and serve as an example for the building residential industry in Maine and beyond. The result is a certified 1,800-square-foot house that generates more than twice the energy it consumes, making it significantly net positive with zero emissions. This is achieved by dramatically reducing the building’s energy demand and installing copious amounts of renewable energy in the form of a 19.4 kW solar array that occupies the entire roof. This “extra” power is used to power a vehicle charging station (that is free for public use) and to offset power consumed by other existing buildings on TideSmart’s campus.

  • CPHC®: Edward Pais
  • Architect: BRIBURN
  • Contractor: R&G Bilodeau Carpentry
  • PHIUS+ Certified

PHIUS is a 501(c)(3) organization committed to transforming the building sector by developing and promoting North American specific standards, practices, and certifications for buildings, professionals, and products to create structures that are durable, comfortable, healthy, and energy-efficient.