MARINA — Last month, Rob Nicely of Carmel Building and Design opened up a project he is currently constructing in Carmel Valley to help introduce the concept of Passive House to the region. On Thursday, the Monterey Bay Regional Climate Action Compact’s meeting in Marina began to lay the foundation for entities in the area to come together to put the Passive House concept into action.
The compact will have “more of a facilitation role to get people to the table to talk about solutions,” said Kristin Cushman, chair of the Monterey Bay Regional Climate Action Compact. “We are going to conduct some followup meetings of focused group discussions.”
The compact will take an active role in promoting the Passive House concept to the region. At Thursday’s meeting, held at the Marina Branch Library, about 30 people came out to hear the presentations from Nicely, Bronwyn Barry, president of the North American Passive House Network, and Jay Gentry, Passive House California board member.
“We need to act quickly and effectively to bring carbon neutrality to the Monterey Bay Area,” said Nicely. “It is widely agreed that we need to achieve at least a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. According to the United Nations Environment Program’s ‘Emissions Gap Report 2018,’ we need to drive down carbon emissions by 55% by 2030 to have a 50/50 chance of staying below a 1.5 to 2.0 degree Celsius rise in temperature.
Nicely said that his area of expertise lies in the building industry so his plan is for changes in that sector.
“If we’re to succeed in averting a climate catastrophe, it will take changes in every sector including building, transportation, manufacturing, agriculture and energy production,” said Nicely.
Passive House consists of design principles used to attain a high level of energy efficiency and comfort level by employing continuous insulation and an air-tight envelope that prevents outside air coming in and the loss of conditioned air going out.
Think of an insulated thermos versus a coffee pot on a heating element. The thermos keeps the beverage hot for a long period of time without added energy while a pot on a warmer continuously uses energy to keep the beverage hot.
Passive design is all-electric and uses high-performance windows and doors, and capitalizes on the position of the sun to maximize heating in the cold season and minimize overheating during the warm season. It uses a form of balanced heat and moisture-recovery ventilation system.
Passive design strategy carefully models and balances a comprehensive set of factors including heat coming from appliances and occupants to keep the building at comfortable and consistent indoor temperatures, resulting in long-term benefits in addition to energy efficiency. The continuous mechanical ventilation of fresh-filtered air provides superb indoor air quality. Many occupants of Passive House structures have reported reduced allergies and irritations, resulting in health care savings.
Passive building principles can be applied to all building types from single-family homes to multi-family apartment buildings, offices and skyscrapers.
But the advocates for Passive House said it will take a concerted effort by many local industries, entities and jurisdictions to change policies and move the built environment — man-made structures, features and facilities viewed collectively as an environment in which people live and work — toward Passive House concepts.
Monterey County District 5 Supervisor Mary Adams addressed the meeting as did Catherine Moon from Rep. Jimmy Panetta’s office. Adams noted that the county has moved to install solar panels on its buildings, a first step toward decreasing a carbon footprint. She also introduced Ashley Paulsworth, the newly hired sustainability manager for Monterey County, who stayed throughout the meeting while the supervisor left for another engagement.
Panetta, who was at another engagement in Del Rey Oaks, issued a statement that read in part, “Increasing the energy efficiency of our homes will be a critical piece of addressing the climate crisis. Passive House’s goal to arrive at a plan that produces 1,000 Passive House level buildings in service in the Monterey Bay area must be a part of a larger regional effort to arrive at a net zero carbon footprint by 2050. On the federal level, I am also working to drive use toward net zero. I introduced the Climate Action Rebate Act to establish a carbon fee and dividend program that reduces our energy footprint to net zero by 2050, in line with the goals set forth by Passive House in Monterey County.” This was the first meeting hosted by the Climate Action Compact to hold a forum about Passive House — A Workable Solution for the Monterey Bay Area.
According to Nicely, a survey of other regions in North America that have embarked on an aggressive effort to combat the climate emergency reveal common elements of success including identifying leaders who have the means and the will to lead.
Barry said a higher bar should be set by focusing efforts on achieving a 65% reduction in carbon emissions and by doing so, “manufacturers will step up to supply the demand.” She spoke of how local leadership and entities can help jurisdictions support aggressive energy-efficient projects such as the Passive House Multi-Family alternative path.
The cities of Seaside, with its proposed Campus Town development, and Sand City, with its South of Tioga project on the horizon, would seem to be prime candidates to implement some, if not all, Passive House techniques in their respective multi-family housing designs. The city of Monterey will also be embarking on building housing along Garden Road, which could be designed with Passive House in mind.
Marina City Manager Layne Long was in attendance and said his interest is on a personal and professional level. “I’ve been following (the Passive House movement) since the ’70s,” he said. Marina has been the center of housing development on the Monterey Peninsula since the end of the recession with its Dunes On Monterey Bay and Sea Haven development projects.
Other attendees included members of the real estate, lumber and building materials, and architecture professions, as well as representatives from Monterey Bay Economic Partnership, Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments, 831 Conserve, CSU Monterey Bay, U.S. Green Building Council, Green Power, Monterey Bay Community Power, and the cities of Pacific Grove, Monterey, Marina and Santa Cruz.
Cushman said the Monterey Bay Regional Climate Action Compact will have six group sessions over the next six months to identify steps in the market to spread the word about Passive House and help spur policy changes, identify training opportunities and resources, and leverage programs not yet tapped into.
The presenters stressed the importance of education beginning with the individual, then city and county planning and building departments, professionals in design, engineering and energy modeling, and the trades — contractors, heating ventilation air conditioning installers, and electricians.
Monterey County and its cities can work to remove barriers to Passive House design, add incentives to increase Passive House uptake and develop their own Passive House pilot projects.
The city of Seaside is currently pushing accessory dwelling unit production with a project to build at least four different accessory dwelling unit prototypes on city-owned properties and Habitat for Humanity Monterey Bay has proposed its own pilot project to help Seaside residents build additional accessory dwelling units.
According to Passive House experts, those concepts can be used in any type of dwelling.
According to Jay Gentry, Passive House California Board member, as California grapples with its housing shortage,180,000 living units will need to built every year for the next five years to provide enough housing for its inhabitants.
The operational energy required for each unit built to current code would exceed a unit built to Passive House standard by 70%. And the infiltration of airborne pollutants and allergens in a code-compliant unit is 95% higher than in a Passive House unit. The investment needed to design and build to Passive House standards is about 5% less now, said Gentry.