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This fall Jersey City office of sustainability reached out to a broad arch of stakeholders and sustainability specialists to form a working group focused on advising the JC council on the short and long term objectives address climate change. The Jersey City Climate Action Plan working group (JCCAP) is scheduled to provide initial recommendations in spring 2020. NJPH has been asked and gladly accepted the offer to participate. Beyond the fact that Passive House is one of the strongest energy reduction solution at the single building level, it also highly compatible with parallel climate initiatives, supporting resiliency: Passive Houses can be powered by a fraction of renewables a code-compliant buildings would, electrification: Passive Houses super-insulation and airtightness dramatically reduces the size of electrical heat pump systems needed to condition them, reducing upfront cost AND mutes the added cost of electrical consumption at current rates. For NJPH this is a platform for us to get more climate action decision-makers to know and better understand Passive House. It is also an opportunity for us to listen to the market and stakeholder needs and adjust our own activity to better serve those needs.


The JCCAP Energy subcommittee that NJPH participates in started working along other participants on the actions that Jersey City would develop as a municipality, the state or nation-wide initiatives it would advocate and support and the communication platform it would put together to keep the public, real estate, transportation, and planning professionals informed on the plan and its gradual implementation. Some ideas that are more relevant to Passive House.

  • Accelerate adoption of energy benchmarking and enforce energy upgrades based on them (develop)- finally, we will find out how much better PH really is…

  • Stronger enforcement of energy efficiency code requirement (develop) –

  • Incentivizing transition to fully electrified building sector

  • Development of mechanisms and regulations to support net-zero carbon for new construction (Advocate)

  • Online portal aggregating financing and incentive opportunities (communicate)- for sure that would be useful to mobilize PH implementation…


These actions and many more are under discussion by the Energy subcommittee and in parallel by the Equity subcommittee to ensure the changes support those who most need it!


One thing that was particularly interesting for me was to think of Passive House from the Urban planning perspective. PassiveHousing at that scale requires addressing every single building type including multifamily, commercial institutional and even light industrial. While Passive House is technically applicable to all of these and projects like that have been applied worldwide, local hands-on experience is still scarce, and not well known- NJPH should definitely chart PH expertise across the state especially in complex renovations and alternate building types. If you are someone with experience in that – let us know!


More info on the JCCAP:

https://jcmakeitgreen.org/climate-action/

https://jcmakeitgreen.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Final-Jersey-City-2016-GHG-Inventory-Report_8.20.19-FOR-PRINT.pdf

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The New Jersey Government has ramped up its activity on setting in motion policies targeted at reducing the state’s carbon footprint. This has always been important but now is crucial since research has shown climate change is affecting NJ more than most other states!


On September 16th New Jersey Passive House submitted our detailed comments on the NJ Energy Master Plan Draft iterating how Passive House building methodology is one of the strongest tools currently available in the market to fight climate change:

  1. It leads to building energy use reduction of between 50%-80%, currently unchallenged by any other methodology.

  2. It is 'net-zero ready', improving the economics and resiliency potential of such measures. Each solar panel goes a much longer way at fulfilling the energy needs of Passive House buildings due to their extremely low loads.

  3. It’s unprecedented performance is coupled with strict occupant wellness requirements ensuring long term health and comfort.   

  4. It’s qualities rely heavily on quality of design, workmanship and field verification, driving the development of the State's skilled energy efficiency workforce.

We audibly applauded the NJ Government for committing to an energy master plan and encouraged the further development of elements that can support Passive House and Sustainable buildings in general, including green finance, building with materials with lower inherent carbon and facilitating access to high quality low energy use homes for low and moderate income New Jersey residents.     


This week another important milestone in the outreach to New Jersey residents and stakeholders was reached as the State government opened public commenting on the Energy Efficiency Transition. This 5-page document outlines implementation targets following Governor Phil Murphy's signing of P.L. 2018, c. 16 (C.48:3-87.3-87.7)  into a law, requiring  public utilities to reduce their energy use by 2% every year.


This is great, but we can do better - by reducing energy at a rate of 2% a year, we would reduce less than 20% in 10 years, still light years away from our 80%-100% targets.  If we don't tackle the energy use of buildings also, it is going to get harder and harder to meet these targets. We now have windows of opportunity with every single new and renovated building to reduce so much more! We encourage you to submit your own comments to this plan at the NJ Clean Energy Portal. Hurry, as comments are due this Friday, October 4th!!!


Some sample points and ideas:

  1. Utilities should, in addition to meeting their 2% quota, participate in supporting pilot projects aiming at ultra-energy efficiency and net zero, such as Passive House projects. A starting quota of 50 pilots a year, or 1,000,000 square feet, gradually ramping up for each utility territory is an achievable target!

  2. Encourage utilities to implement a considerable portion – 50% at least - of their annual energy reduction in low and moderate income communities.

  3. Mandate an energy analysis of buildings with easy to understand metrics when there is a change of ownership. This will help consumers to understand how their building performs and what they are buying.

  4. Provide a mechanism to encourage heating electrification via the electrical rate structure.

  5. Incentivize training of design and construction professionals to help rebuild New Jersey, which would be a great way to implement Gov. Murphy’s slogan of “The State of Innovation” right from the ground up.

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On March 19th, the NJPH team presented Passive House principles at Thomas M.D. Payne School of Technology in Newark, NJ. The school is housed in a new state-of the art building (even if it isn’t a Passive House just yet) featuring professional path curriculums including building trades (such as masons, electric and plumbing) - students from all were invited to get a taste of Passive House.



Getting the attention of high school students just after lunch break is no small feat, but by the time we got them hooked on the underlying basics, and an inspiring Newark developer came up on stage to tell of a row of Passive Houses he is developing around the corner, the indifference transformed into active interest and engagement.

Quite a few members of the Payne faculty were present as well and posed some challenging questions about PH to our team: How sanitary and safe it is to dehumidify water via the ERV system; What kind of financial edge would Certified Passive House Tradesperson in the growing yet competitive tri-state construction market, etc.

The hands-on facility at Payne Tech was the most impressive I have seen in the area, and the idea of providing the students with Passive House training as part of the program came up – I see that meeting not as a one-off, but as the beginning of a long-term relationship. As we told the students - Passive House answers many questions on the path to battle climate change, but many unanswered questions are up to them to define, resolve and execute.




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