A personal note about the Good Energy Haus by Tim Eian

In 2006, I was working for a very creative design/build firm in Minneapolis. We officed out of a warehouse loft (read: the polar opposite of a Passive House), and practicing “cowboy green” architecture. What I mean by that is the approach of essentially shooting from the hip at energy efficiency and comfort measures.

In 2007, I heard about the first North American Passive House conference that happened a place called the Waldsee Biohaus the prior year. I also knew the guy who designed the building as he had been a client of my firm a couple of years prior. I remembered the Passive House concept from my University studies in the Nineties.  So I dug in and started to research Passive House, and how I may be able to apply its metrics and targeted measures in the US and my adopted home state of Minnesota. Much to my surprise, the building professionals surrounding me at the time did not find as much excitement in this scientific approach as I did—perhaps a function of the perceived stakes being higher than the status quo, and creativity and “surface-greening” being easier than modeled energy performance, extreme comfort and high durability. I have come to know this attitude well in the years since, as it is still seemingly pervasive in our industry. After a bit of research, I found a person who was looking to organize the Passive House effort in the US, and we had a call. During that call I realized that we were at the very beginning, or perhaps even before the real beginning of Passive House in the US.

At this point, I remembered all of my building science and ecological construction classes back at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern—my alma mater. Those were the early days of Passive House in its home of Germany. The concept was mentioned a few times during those days, but the predominantly design-driven professors were not (yet) too keen on this measurable stuff, that snake-oil that offered salvation by cutting the pesky Carbon out of the built environment; also, the early years of high-performance architecture were littered with failures and huge learning curves—something that I was ready to take on all these years later.

So in early 2008, I signed up for the first ever Passive House training in the US and found myself with 30, or 40 other building geeks in a room, trying to get on top of things, on top of energy modeling with Excel, on top of building science, on top of formulas and calculations. I went back—2 more times (more than most who attended the first session), and I graduated that class with a certificate (that was not even the organizer’s plan). I became one of the US’ first Certified Passive House Consultants. Now what?

Well, once I “got it”, perhaps much like Al Gore, I figured, this is it! We solved it! Passive House was my calling and I felt, and still do, that it is the way that we can rejigger the built environment to make our way of life sustainable. So I did the next logical thing and quit my job! I started TE Studio to focus on Passive House. I started giving lectures and talking to all sorts of people, decision makers, home owners, politicians, business owners and colleagues. I still do.

In late 2008, I got my first Passive House commission for a project that went on to become Wisconsin’s first certified Passive House, also known as the Passive House in the Woods. I was also fighting cancer at the same time but was fortunate enough to live to tell about both experiences. My life was completely transformed.

Since then, I designed many Passive Houses. The years came and went with Passive House still being exotic, weird, cool, amazing, too-good-to-be-true, a no-brainer, the best thing ever, snake-oil, salvation and everything it always had been. And the story is much the same today, over 10 years later, as the construction industry moves like a sloth when it comes to the adoption of new ideas. Now, in 2018, I am finally embarking to build my own Passive House: The Good Energy Haus. It will serve as a beacon of what can and should be done in my community. I am being joined by a roster of wonderful partners and thrilled to “walk another talk” with them. The Good Energy Haus is also a modern building—influenced by my studies of Bauhaus and my fascination with clean, modern, and earthy architecture. It will be very functional, beautiful and sustainable, and I am sharing the experience with you via social media #GoodEnergyHaus.

Join the building revolution. Build, or retrofit with Passive House. It’s Good Energy!