Passive House Leaders: Top 10 under 40 in the US and Canada

passive house 10 under 40

Imagine putting this story in a time capsule. What will we recall in the future about the 10 individuals in this special leadership list, representing innovators within the Passive House movement in the U.S. and Canada?

Of course, no one can answer that question yet, but we can already see these leaders’ contributions to the future, where institutional, commercial and residential buildings are truly sustainable, requiring upwards of 90 per cent or more less energy than conventional structures.

Passive House has rapidly evolved from an eco-extreme concept to one where even the most conservative beancounters can quickly see payback and return on investment with massively reduced energy bills; in structures that are both appealing in design and comfortable as homes and work-places.

The names here were selected through a review of relevant association leadership, business accomplishments, and other forms of public recognition. Individuals are listed alphabetically, so shouldn’t be ranked in any hierarchy.

Stuart Fix, principal, ReNü Engineering

Stuart Fix has built a thriving and leading-edge organization focusing on Passive House and Net Zero Energy building construction in Canada’s western provinces. “ReNü’s focus has always been on pragmatically delivering the most cost effective high performance buildings possible.” he says. “We use a blend of building science and mechanical engineering to find the right balance between building envelope and HVAC systems to deliver comfortable, healthy and low life cycle cost spaces to our clients.”

Edmonton-based ReNü Engineering achieves sustainability with economical Passive House and Net Zero Energy building design

Michael Frank, vice-president of engineering, McKinstry Company

Michael Frank is passionate about designing for performance. “However, what really gets him out of bed in the morning is trying to bring the best out of all the engineers on his team by not only being amazing engineers, but being active participants in the communities where we live and work,” his profile says.

He’s managed the design of many major projects including office buildings, data centers, museums, medical centers, industrial facilities, residential condominiums and laboratories. Frank has LEED accreditation.

Katrin Klingenberg, co-founder and executive director, Passive House Institute US (PHIUS)

Katrin Klingenberg designed and built the first home in the United States constructed to the passive building energy standard. Her experience led her to co-found e-cological Construction Laboratory (e-colab) with builder Mike Kernagis in 2003 as a non-profit affordable housing developer in Urbana, Illinois to further investigate the feasibility of applying passive building principles in the United States. Later she took part in starting PHIUS, according to her biography.

Klingenberg has designed and consulted on numerous passive building projects across North America’s varied climate zones. As PHIUS’ executive director, she directs the organization’s technical and research programs. She is also the lead instructor and director of curriculum development for the PHIUS Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHC) training program.

Owen Marten, lead draftsman, Artisans Group

Owen Martin has contributed to several of this Washington state sustainable architect’s projects, including the Madison House in Olympia.

“Designed to be the ideal energy-efficient home for the couple, the Madison House is bright and comfortable with a light-filled interior, consistent temperatures throughout, and high indoor air quality,” the project award citation says. “The great room’s expansive views create a sense of connection between the interior and the surrounding community. This passive house also includes a utility room with driveway accessibility and plenty of space for repair and storage to let the couple continue to bike as their main form of transportation.”

James Ortega, PHIUS

Based in Chicago, James Ortega has a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology and is a member of the PHIUS certification team, where he provides design review and energy modelling services to evaluate project qualifications for PHIUS+ Certification.

“Ortega works closely with the submitting CPHC to provide feedback on questions pertaining to energy modelling and building plans. He also provides consulting services on static and dynamic energy modelling in WUFI Passive and THERM, and spearheads energy modelling deliverables on feasibility studies for projects interested in pursuing PHIUS+ Certification,” his PHIUS profile says.

Sacha Sauvé, manager of communications, Passive House Canada

Sacha Sauvé says she is inspired in “witnessing people’s commitment to changing the way we build.”

There is a growing network of people who are stepping forward and demanding their governments join them in the movement toward sustainable development,” Sauvé says.

“The community is making incredible strides and changing policies from local municipal government to the United Nations Framework on High-Performance Buildings. The unprecedented shift towards a higher standard that is better people and the planet is incredible to be part of.”

Tessa Smith, architect and principal, Artisans Group

Tessa Smith is a Certified Passive House Consultant and has LEED AP certification. Based in Washington state, her vision of the future is that “architecture is a cohesive part of lasting and joyful experiences” and is dedicated to “stunning and sustainable design.” She focuses on projects with determination and optimism and says she loves tackling design challenges.

Matthew Tokarik, vice-president, development at Subterra Renewables

Besides his work at Subterra Resources, Tokarik is a sessional instructor at the Ryerson University Department of Architectural Science in Toronto, Ontario.

He’s made presentations at numerous conferences primarily dealing with the impact of passive energy saving measures and their financial input. He has been a certified Passive House Consultant (PHIUS) since 2013 and participated on the steering committee for the Canadian Green Building Council (CAGBC)’s Zero Carbon Buildings Standard.

“I love to find simplified solutions for complex problems,” Tokarik says. “I do not believe we are waiting for any new technology to reach our national/global carbon reductions targets. We can achieve our goals with the industry knowledge and technology currently available such as Passive House design strategies, heat pumps, and PV. We only require the willingness and attention to deliver.”

Tiffany Rolfing, principal, Idea Broker

Tiffany Rolfing has an impressive credentials list, including leadership roles with the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia, the American Institute of Architects’ Housing Committee of Philadelphia, and serving on the Green Committee (Home Builders’ Association chapter) of the Building Industry Association of Philadelphia. She also is an adjacent professor at Jefferson University.

“Passive is new not easy, and tricky to implement,” she says. “That’s why I think it’s fun. I enjoy the aspects all of systems thinking from all perspectives in order to deliver a tangible outcome. “Also, I enjoy the strategic thinking it takes to pull together a diverse team of highly technical individuals to accomplish a goal. I really enjoy educating and training throughout the building process because I end up learning as much as everyone else.”

Willem Paynter, engineering technologist, Passive Design Solutions

“I have always wanted to do my part for the planet, and Passive House allows me to do that while combining my interests of buildings, engineering and technology, Paynter says, describing his work with the Nova Scotia organization. “Passive House is the most energy efficient, comfortable and durable building standard and is a product that I am proud to work with.”

Paynter has presented at the North American Passive House Conference in Boston about Integrating Passive House and Canada’s Net Zero Home program.


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