2019 New Gravity Housing Conference Sessions

Learn more about this year's New Gravity Housing Conference, happening August 1st and 2nd at Temple University. 


Affordable Housing through Mass Timber

Mass timber building provides a faster, safer, more thermal, durable, healthier, sustainable, natural, and cost effective building system for affordable housing. By way of examples in European social housing and comparison of the process of building multi-family with different building systems, the merits of building with mass timber will be detailed. A real world example of a mass timber passive house affordable housing project in design in New Haven, Connecticut will be examined by way of example

Level 300: Application/Implementation


Jeff Spiritos, Spiritos Properties LLC


Case Study: Overheating in a multi-unit passive house seniors residence 

This case study will examine a 19-unit seniors’ housing project in northern Canada that is certified to the Passive House standard. Attendees will learn which passive and active cooling strategies are most effective in affordable multi-unit buildings, how Passive House projects assess whole-building overheating risks, how dynamic (hourly) modelling can be used to address overheating risk of individual apartments in multi-unit buildings, and how to incorporate future climate predictions into either monthly or hourly energy models. 

This session will: 

  • Present unit-by-unit monitoring data of an overheating event 
  • Review design and construction decisions that led to overheating 
  • Present methodology and results of an hourly modelling exercise that analyzed remediation options
  • Conclude with lessons applicable to all affordable multi-unit projects


Level 400: Mastery


Monte Paulsen, RDH Building Science

Marine Sanchez, RDH Building Science


Creating and maintaining resource efficient healthy homes: An overview of federal programs 

The EPA will provide an update on the built environment aspect of its Sustainable Material Management (SMM) program. The application of SMM in the built environment includes best practices for reducing, reusing, and recycling construction-site generated waste in a cost-effective manner. The EPA Indoor Air Quality Plus Energy Efficiency program seeks to provide optimal health and energy efficiency in its projects. MaGrann Associates will describe the challenges and successes of a Passive House senior housing project which used the Air Quality Plus Energy Efficiency program as its goal. 

The HUD Healthy Homes Program takes a comprehensive approach to addressing resident health and injury prevention at home by focusing on housing-related hazards in a coordinated fashion. Working through local governments and nonprofits, Healthy Homes reaches home owners and renters regarding prevention of environmental health and safety concerns including mold, lead, allergens, asthma, carbon monoxide, home safety, pesticides, and radon. 

Level 100: Awareness


David Iacono, U.S. EPA Mid Atlantic

Jon Jensen, MaGrann Associates

Edward Thomas, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development - Region 3

Moderator | Lorna Rosenberg , U.S. EPA 


Engaging the Climate Spectrum: Passive House for all

Americans perceive climate change along a diverse spectrum of beliefs beyond the binary of denial and alarm. Although connections are being forged in the public mind about the egregious effects the built environment has on climate, cultural polarization keeps us conveniently divided along political lines. As design professionals, we are primarily responsible for cultivating both an inclusive and truth-telling atmosphere on a project team so the full spectrum of climate beliefs can be explored without sacrificing the rigorous goals of low-embodied-carbon construction. But is everyone truly welcome to the table the environmentalists set? Do developers have to be eco-conscious before they can de-carbonize planet earth, or are they gracefully invited on the journey with us? 

Instead of constructing defense mechanisms against the realities of climate change, our panelists constructed climate change resilient housing. This panel will explore what they faced, why they did it, and how their lives have changed forever. 

Level 200: Understanding/Comprehension 


David Ross, Partner, Argo Property Group

Erin Murray, Passive House Owner

Ginny Flickinger, Passive House Owner

Co-Moderator | Jeremy Avellino, Bright Common  

Co-Moderator | Rachael Kerns-Wetherington, Independent Psychology Practice


Exterior Deep Energy Retrofit Solutions: The REALIZE Project

This session will provide an overview of the REALIZE project, which is bringing an exterior retrofit solution for deep energy conservation in multi-family buildings to market. The goal of the project is a complete, panelized exterior retrofit and mechanical upgrade with minimal disruption to tenants. REALIZE is funded by the Department of Energy and led by Rocky Mountain Institute and PHIUS, with design and technical support from Re:Vision Architecture and Staengl Engineering.

 The presenters from Re:Vision and Staengl will share a range of precedents for exterior retrofits and how these inform the next wave of thinking. Appropriate building typologies for these emerging panel and systems techologies will be shared.

Level 100: Awareness


Justin Weisser, Re:Vision Architecture
Galen Staengl, Staengl Engineering
Moderator | Kristen Suzda, Re:Vision Architecture


Getting to Zero through Advanced Energy Codes 

Passive House and LEED are the stars of low-carbon emissions new construction, but the humble building code has proven to be one of the most effective policy tools to advance efficiency in the broader market. Between 2006 and 2012, model energy codes had driven an efficiency improvement of 30 percent in both states and municipalities upon prompt adoption. Since then, the model codes have plateaued in the face of increasing payback periods and pushback from the building industry. Many are now wondering how to get energy codes back on track to achieve zero-carbon emissions buildings and meet climate imperatives.

Attend this session for an update on the International Code Council’s 2021 IECC development process and learn how organizations are pushing for meaningful efficiency improvements. Also, learn how states and municipalities are meeting their climate goals by developing and implementing unique energy codes, modifying the model codes, or encouraging adoption of “stretch” codes. 

Level 100: Awareness


Mike Turns, Performance Systems Development 

Michelle Britt, International Code Council 

Lauren Urbanek, NRDC


How Can We Leverage Public Policy to Promote Passive House and Net Zero Buildings?

Following Tim McDonald’s lead, in December 2017 Passive House Massachusetts (PHMA) began advocating for the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to add QAP bonus points for affordable multifamily passive house (PH) projects. That effort is ongoing, but it lead to two realizations: First, all QAPs that mention PH do not necessarily produce PH projects; Second, there several other State agencies that can be asked to promote PH buildings. These include the office of the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER), Mass Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council (EEAC) advising the utility companies rebate programs, and the Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS).  

In addition, it became clear that PH advocacy could become more effective when combined with a host of regional groups advocating for Net Zero standards in communities across the State. The results have been impressive and should provide replicable models for other states.  

Level 200: Understanding/Comprehension


Hank Keating, Passive House Massachusetts

Brendan Giza-Sisson, Eversource

Emily Powers, Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources

Brooks Winner, Metropolitan Area Planning Council   


Lessons Learned: First generation of affordable multi-unit passive house buildings in British Columbia

This session will present case studies of four multi-unit Passive House buildings, all constructed to meet affordable housing criteria. These case studies will include enclosure and mechanical details that illustrate how wood-frame affordable housing can be affordably constructed. These completed buildings will be followed by details of projects in progress that show how Passive House is evolving in British Columbia. The session will also include an overview of policies the City of Vancouver and the province of British Columbia have implemented to incentivize the development of more than four million square feet of Passive House. 

Level 200: Understanding/Comprehension


Monte Paulsen, RDH Building Science

Marine Sanchez, RDH Building Science


Living Building Challenge and Affordable Housing

In this session, Living Building Challenge will be presented with a focus on affordable housing solutions.  With the rollout of LBC 4.0, barriers to success and entry for previous projects are being addressed to align effort with results. Pathways will be explored to achieving net-positive carbon and net-positive water for dense project sites with competing resource needs. LBC’s framework for healthy interior environments will also be presented.   

Following the LBC introduction, leaders from the Living Future Community of Green Building United will present an innovative, volunteer-led, Demonstration Project as a prototype LBC affordable infill housing solution in Philadelphia.  The collaborative community-driven process will be reviewed and the solutions and barriers to LBC will be discussed. 

Community Ventures, the client for the Demonstration Project, will then discuss their interest in LBC and how it has changed their organization’s approach to housing development. The session will conclude with a moderated panel discussion. 

Level 200: Understanding/Comprehension


Shawn Hesse, International Living Future Institute

Wolfram Arendt, LAYER Architecture

Patrick Isaac, Community Ventures

Moderator | Drew Lavine, Re:Vision Architecture


Planning, Prediction, and Performance: A survey of built PHFA Passive House Projects

Learn how post-occupancy PFHA multifamily passive houses are performing compared to the pre-certified predictive models.  This session will present a cross section of passive houses that attempted hitting their model’s targets upon construction completion. Not all that made the attempt achieved that goal and their results will be included here.

Presenters will cover: 

  • Best practices that helped their projects achieve performance goals
  • Common problems that caused their projects to not meet performance goals
  • Why projects that fail to achieve the Passive House benchmarks can still be called high performance buildings
  • How well the current built Passive House projects are achieving the PHFA’s goal, which is to reduce the impact of uncontrollable utility costs


Level 100: Awareness


John Semmelhack, Think Little
Lou Markovic, Rothschild Doyno Collaborative
Wade Romberger, Pennsylvania Housing and Finance Agency


Solving the Wooden Building Puzzle - Combining Passive House + Wood Fiber + Pre-Fab

Architect, builders, and owners face multiple challenges when considering which choices will allow their construction projects to have the most significant positive impact towards combatting climate change.

  • Substantially reducing carbon emissions through building requires addressing both embodied + operational energy.
  • New challenges of health, indoor air quality, and building durability stemming from the new normal of tight building construction require a sharper focus on the design and execution of moisture management and vapor resilient assemblies.
  • Implementing good building science and ultra-low carbon assemblies can be complicated and cost prohibitive for many architects, builders, and building owners.


In this session, a passive house architect, builder, and fully integrated off-site manufacturing  company describe how combining repeatable passive house construction details, a multiple perspective design approach, carbon storing + vapor-open building materials, and efficient offsite manufacturing offer an affordable and predictable alternative to common passive house construction methods. Their case study of a 4800-square-foot single family Passive home describes how the resulting benefits and efficiencies of combining new cutting edge materials, integrated design strategies,  and offsite construction processes led them to further explore the potential of this collaboration. The team will share their findings on the hygrothermal performance and embodied energy of these assemblies and fabrication methods and preview how they are developing the process to include vapor-open multi-family passive housing, including factory installed MEP to further leverage efficiency in the pursuit of affordability.

Level 200: Understanding/Comprehension


Ilka Cassidy, Holzraum System llc; C2 Architecture
Steve Hessler, Holzraum System llc; Hugh Lofting Timber Framing & High Performance Building 
Marlee Beres, Blueprint Robotics
Martin Lettenmeier, Blueprint Robotics


The High-Performance Affordable Housing Design MANUAL

One of the most significant challenges the design and construction industries face in the next 12 years is normalizing the design of net-zero energy (NZE) housing for everyday developers, architects, engineers, and builders. Simplified, demystified, and comprehensive straight-forward strategies for approaching any-sized NZE multifamily building will be necessary in order to effectively and quickly train industry professionals. While there is an ever-increasing array of products and systems currently flooding the sustainable building market, how does one begin to ask the right questions? 

Informed by 20 years of designing multi-family high-performance buildings and more recently, five years of working on multifamily Affordable Passive House projects, this lecture is designed to provide design, development, and building professionals with a step-by-step guide to cost-effective strategies for approaching multi-family, Affordable Passive House buildings.

This MANUAL is delivered in the form of a "decision tree" with pros and cons associated with the two or three most cost-effective and energy efficient strategies for managing all aspects of designing a multi-family Passive House building, including metering, monitoring, heating, cooling, ventilation, hot water, site-built and prefabricated envelopes, foundations, and airtightness. Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) provides a strategic backbone to the MANUAL and is demonstrated through several case study projects.

Level 300: Application/Implementation


David Salamon, Re:Vision Architecture

Tim McDonald, Onion Flats 


The Regenerative Design Imperative

The effects of climate change have been coming faster and stronger than scientists predicted.  

Passive House is not enough! Can we extend the building-as-a-system logic of Passive House into other sectors or do these systemic solutions already exist in other schools of thought?  Holistic, regenerative community design is that mindset, and is fundamental to a living future.

Buildings should be crafted to be resilient, regenerative, and fit seamlessly into the life of the community and the natural world.We seem to believe we can use the same building forms and just use less energy. In fact, the problem is more fundamental.  The “forms” of contemporary buildings and communities have evolved around systemic dependence on massive inputs of fossil fuels. Much will have to change to achieve a future in which humans meet their needs without destroying the potential of future generations to do the same.

The ultimate manifestation of regenerative design would be communities that reverse climate change and foster localized regenerative systems, networks and economies.  Luckily for us, past civilizations have more than a few blueprints for how to create vibrant, resilient, regenerative, and community-centered places. Cohousing, pocket neighborhoods, and live/work downtowns are traditional forms that encourage interaction and engagement. This scale community typically has ample opportunity for systems of self-reliance such as localized agriculture, cottage industries, self-governance, responsive markets, and biophilic environments.  

Chris Fuller and Michael Hindle will present general principles of regenerative design and show examples of several projects of various scales that seek to realize these goals.

Level 100: Awareness


Michael Hindle, Passive to Positive 

Chris Fuller, Staengl Engineering


The Story of the New Hughson Street Baptist Church with Affordable Housing: How we got to Passive House

This session will discuss Passive House lessons learned for a growing downtown Baptist church in the planning phases for a new building who decided to go Passive House and add affordable housing to the mix. Starting with the initial conversations through design and construction of this 60,000 square-foot mixed use building in an urban setting, the presentation will share how the project got from an idea to reality. In 2016, Hughson Street Baptist Church partnered with Indwell, a leading developer of affordable housing in Ontario who had recently committed to Passive House. Leading the design team is Invizij Architects, one of Canada’s leading Passive House designers, with clients ranging from non-profits to institutional projects. This workshop is ideal for builders, developers, civic institutions, and others interested in building mixed use low-carbon buildings.

Level 300: Application/Implementation


Graham Cubitt, Indwell
Emma Cubitt, Invizij Architects


The Tricky Business of Financing Solar on Affordable Housing

Climate action requires a steep reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and utilizing all tools in the clean energy toolbox. If affordable housing projects are to reach net zero energy usage and contribute to GHG emission reductions in meaningful ways, viable financing options to incorporate renewable energy systems into projects are critical. Multifamily buildings have great real estate for rooftop solar, yet solar installations are especially difficult to finance on affordable housing. Over the past five years, the National Housing Trust (NHT) and its partners have become experts in deploying different financing options to get solar installed on affordable housing. NHT’s portfolio financing model aligns solar incentives for property owners, investors, and lenders. This session elaborates on how to think through the different financing options available for solar on affordable housing, how to evaluate the best option for a project, and shares an affordable housing solar installation success story. 

Level 300: Application/Implementation


Jared Lang, National Housing Trust

Lauren Zullo, Jonathan Rose Companies

Moderator | Bahareh van Boekhold, Applied Energy Group


Three Passive House Projects: A builder’s and MEP engineer's perspective batting .666 

Three different multifamily Passive House projects, one renovation with a new addition and two new construction,  will be discussed from the builder’s perspective. Details and execution of the thermal envelope as well as construction sequencing will be discussed along with cost effectiveness lessons learned and experience with Aerobarrier for air sealing. MEP engineering approaches for Passive House will also be discussed by the design professional for one of the projects. 

Two passed but one did not meet the final infiltration requirements – come to the session and find out which passed!

Level 200: Understanding/Comprehension


Ernest Sota, Sota Construction Services Inc.

Alexander Radkoff, Iams Consulting, LLC


Using Smart Technology to Deliver Energy Retrofits for Multifamily Buildings 

In the City of Philadelphia, there are 425 buildings considered as “income qualified” housing (NHPD). Utilities are a significant factor for the building owners, residents, and federal assistance programs that contribute to these buildings’ expenses.

In November 2017, BlocPower, a New York-based company that uses data to make buildings greener, healthier, and smarter, completed an ECM feasibility study for four income-qualified multifamily properties in Philadelphia. BlocPower’s study recommended installing smart thermostats with indoor sensors (x15) and providing Resident training. The Pilot Scope included smart thermostat installations in four properties owned by Mission First Housing Group and Friends’ Rehabilitation Program. 

Panelists will review the scope of the pilot and review the following questions: 

  • What are the opportunities and challenges associated with the intersection of human behavior and smart devices?
  • What is the role of internet-connected networks in smart device development?
  • How can energy conservation organizations partner with utilities for pilot programs? 


Level 200: Understanding/Comprehension


Alon Abramson, Philadelphia Energy Authority

Ian Harris, BlocPower

Charlie Hill, STRATIS IoT

Moderator | Emily Schapira , Philadelphia Energy Authority


The Vertical Urban Village: Crosstown Concourse

Originally constructed in 1927, the Sears Distribution Center in Memphis’ Crosstown neighborhood grew into a major economic engine for the city; however, by 1983 the building sat abandoned, indicative of the modern trend of disposability and urban disinvestment. By the turn of the 21st century, this massive, deteriorating building was considered too expensive to demolish, let alone renovate. Unwilling to accept these limitations, the founders of Crosstown Arts envisioned the building as a home for their small start-up organization, with plans to organically revive the structure. With local backing and federal Historic Tax Credits, the project evolved into a “vertical urban village” blending retail, restaurants, fitness, health, education, arts, and professional spaces with market-rate and subsidized housing to create a new, equity-focused community paradigm meeting rigorous sustainability and energy use goals. Crosstown Concourse has been the recipient of more than 15 national and international awards since its opening in August 2017, including the Grand Prize from the Congress for the New Urbanism,  the AIA Honor Award for Architecture, and the designation as the largest historic adaptive-reuse LEED Platinum project in the world. 

Level 300: Application/Implementation


Krissy Buck Flickinger, LRK

Jim Prillaman, OGCB

Brad Teplicky, Trane Commercial Systems & Services 

Legacy Partners

Platinum Partners

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