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Passive House in Affordable Housing: Measuring Performance

How does the Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS) Certification construction compare to conventional high-performance approaches to construction in affordable housing? To understand the impact, our researchers performed a field study to monitor and evaluate two different Chicago-area six-flat properties to gain valuable insights on the value of passive design.

One property was built to PHIUS Certification standards, while the other was built to the ComEd PY9 Affordable Housing New Construction Standard (historically known as the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Energy Efficient Affordable Housing Program Standards). Our team conducted in-depth monitoring of both properties to understand the overall difference in performance and the energy and indoor environmental impacts of discrete elements of the passive house approach. These include insulation levels, window performance, air sealing, heat pump heating, ventilation, appliances, and more. The results will also provide ways to make future affordable housing efficiency programs as effective as possible.

By comparing these properties—in terms of energy performance, construction cost, indoor air quality, and comfort—we can understand the benefits of passive construction and their value.

At present, we can share the preliminary findings from the first heating season in 2019. Project results will inform the future design (and role of PHIUS certification) for the ComEd Affordable Housing New Construction (AH-NC) Program. Final results will be released at a later date.

For more information, and to read the preliminary results, visit the project page on

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