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Green Building
Passive House

Passive House Design

by Mike Duclos • Last updated 04/2022

4.5/5 (view ratings)
51 students
6 modules
9:10 hours
68 assignments

Course description

Passive House is justifiably regarded to be the most energy efficient building standard in the world, as well as the most challenging to meet.

Spend seven weeks with Mike Duclos, Principal and Founder of DEAP Energy Group, learning how to meet the rigorous (and non-negotiable) Passive House design criteria and make Passive House happen in the real world.

During Passive House Design you will learn:

  • How to design a home that meets Passive House Space Heating and Primary Energy requirements. You will actually do this as your Capstone Project.
  • Products & Strategies for designing a passive house in the real world: thermal bridging, above-grade walls, windows and doors, roofs, mechanical systems, and more.
  • Building Science issues encountered in Passive House design and construction that you may not run into in conventional design and construction.
  • Solutions for very low energy home designs using a variety of calculators for feedback in exploring different aspects of the design space.

This course moves beyond theory into the realm of practical application and hands-on learning. At the end of the course, Mike challenges you to design a home using a simplified adaptation of the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) to meet the most challenging design criteria: Passive House Space Heating and Primary Energy requirements.

Mike Duclos takes a hands-on approach to teaching, and is committed to providing the tools required to help design Passive House in the real world. The material and exercises will challenge you theoretically and practically, but Mike will be there every step of the way to provide insights and direction through the course discussion board. Familiarity with spreadsheets is a prerequisite, and students must have access to the current version of the PHPP.

Students should be comfortable using Excel spreadsheets because it is an important part of the coursework.

Includes Software Add On PHPP Light
The PHPP Lite tool is based upon the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP).

In order to utilize Mike's PHPP Lite add-on the the PHPP, students will need to have access to the latest version of the PHPP. Since PHPP is intellectual property owned by Passive House Institute, you must demonstrate you have access to a licensed copy of PHPP via a valid purchase receipt.

The use of the PHPP Lite tool in Week 5 is strongly encouraged but is optional.

Prior to deciding if you want to use the PHPP Lite, you should view the PHPP Lite Week 5 videos to see what you can expect to learn from designing a Passive House using PHPP Lite.

More information on PHPP can be found here: https://foursevenfive.com/product/phpp/

Optional Textbook - Residential Energy: Cost Savings and Comfort for Existing Buildings (6th Edition)

There are optional readings in the course from the book "Residential Energy: Cost Savings and Comfort for Existing Buildings" by John Krigger. You are not required to purchase the book for this course, but some participants have found it to be helpful, older versions or used copies are also fine.

Ready To Sign Up Today? Click Here to Enroll

Continuing Education Units

Approved for: 6 PHIUS CPHC CEUs, 17.5 BPI CEUs.

Full course outline

Welcome - Orientation Materials

This course is self-paced, so you don’t need to be logged in at any specific time. You can get started immediately after you enroll and the course materials will remain in your account with minimum guaranteed access for 12 months (1 year) after enrollment.

  • Software for Week 5: Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) 8.5
  • Optional Resource: Residential Energy Cost Savings and Comfort for Existing Buildings
  • Set up email notifications and your student profile
  • Introduce yourself on the discussion board
Module 1 - Introduction to Energy Modeling and the Passive House Standard

This will be an informative week of videos, reading, and homework assignments to lay the groundwork for more in-depth topics. Plan to spend about five hours over the course of the week on this background material. We'll cover: History of Passive House, Introduce the Standard and certification strategies, Social & Environmental Context, Introduction to Energy Modeling and the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP), and some real-world examples building designed and constructed to the Passive House standard from New England, Germany, and Austria.

  • Introduction to Passive House criteria (50:25 minutes)
  • Optional Reading: Residential Energy Cost Savings and Comfort for Existing Buildings
  • READING: Review the Passive House Wikipedia Page
  • Introduction to energy modeling (33:42 minutes)
  • Architectural examples of Passive House (29:41 minutes)
  • RESOURCE: Insulation Comparison Chart (.pdf) (.pdf)
  • List of 100+ Passive House Resources
  • Week 1 Assessment
  • Week 1 Assessment - Part II
  • Week 1 homework - Energy Language Week_1_Language_Rev_1.1.xls (.xls)
  • Week 1 homework - Energy Language - Solution Week_1_Language_Rev_1.1_Solution.xls (.xls)
  • Week 1 homework - Simple House Week_1_SimpleHouse_Rev6.xls (.xls)
  • Week 1 homework - Simple House Solution Week_1_SimpleHouse_Rev6_Solution.xls (.xls)
Module 2 - Passive House Details and Products - Part 1

We'll go into detail about Thermal Bridging, Foundations & Slabs, Above-grade walls, Windows and doors, Roofs, Mechanical Systems, Solar Thermal, and others.

  • Thermal Bridging (22:41 minutes)
  • Thermal Bridging Quiz
  • Foundations and Slab (18:08 minutes)
  • Foundations and Slab Quiz
  • Above-grade walls, windows and doors, roofs (24:39 minutes)
  • Walls, Windows, Doors, and Roofs Quiz
  • READING: Review the thermal bridging Wikipedia page
  • READING: Review the Green Building Advisor page on thermal bridging
  • READING: Review the Fine Home Building page on thermal bridging
  • RESOURCE: Review this presentation on Insulation GWP Impacts (.pdf)
  • Week #2 homework - Thermal Bridging Week_2_ThermalBridging_Rev5.xls (.xls)
  • Week #2 homework - Thermal Bridging - Solution Week_2_ThermalBridging_Rev5_Solution.xls (.xls)
  • Week #2 homework - Infrared image interpretation Week_2_IR.docx (.docx)
  • Week #2 homework - Infrared image interpretation Week_2_IR.pdf (.pdf)
  • Week #2 homework - Infrared image interpretation - Solution Week_2_IR_Solution_Rev_2.pdf (.pdf)
  • Resource: Foundations for Passive House Notes on basement foundations for Passive House (.pdf)
Module 3 - Passive House Details and Products - Part 2

More details: Mechanical Systems, including schematic design and details. Also, Building Science issues encountered in Passive House design and construction that you may not run into in conventional design and construction.

  • Mechanical Systems: Concepts (22:08 minutes)
  • Optional Reading: Residential Energy Cost Savings and Comfort for Existing Buildings
  • Mechanical Systems: Details (28:00 minutes)
  • Mechanical Systems
  • General Building Science Issues (48:04 minutes)
  • General Building Science
  • Review: Insulation Comparison Chart (PDF) (.pdf)
  • Benchmarking and Monitoring Residential Building Performance (55:29 minutes)
  • Week #3 homework - Mechanicals Week_3_Mechanicals_Rev_1.2.xls (.xls)
  • Week #3 homework - Mechanicals - Solution Week_3_Mechanicals_Rev_1.2_Solution.xls (.xls)
  • Here's the THERM illustration of slab temperature isotherms Just FYI and to answer Steve's question (.jpg)
Module 4 - Case studies and Passive House as a retrofit strategy

Mike has learned a few lessons working his own Passive House projects as well as observing others. This week he'll share all of these lessons to get you up the learning curve quickly. Moving beyond theory and completely into the realm of practical reality, this week's video lessons and discussion are about how to make Passive House happen in the real world. We'll build on this to discuss the limitations of Passive House, asking the question: "Is the Passive House Standard too Rigorous for the US?"

  • Case Study: Falmouth House (24:50 minutes)
  • Case Study: Belmont retrofit, Preliminary Opinions (35:05 minutes)
  • Assessment of Case Study Lessons
  • Reading: "Cold Climate: National Grid Deep Energy Retrofit Pilot Program—Two-Family Belmont Residence"
  • Resource: Watch this 2-minute Hairdryer Test video before completing the Hairdryer Test Homework
  • Assignment #1: Hairdryer Test (Excel) (.xls)
  • Assignment #1: Solutions (Excel) (.xls)
  • Assignment #2: Retrofit Review and Questions (.doc)
  • Assignment #2: Solutions (.pdf)
Module 5 - PHPP Lite - A simplified interface to the Passive House Planning Package

The full PHPP is a 40-tab spreadsheet with literally hundreds of inputs. PHPP Lite is a ‘wrapper’ around the PHPP which presents a much more limited interface, intended for ease of learning and understanding. We will go through a set of simple exercises to become familiar with how it is used, how user feedback is presented and the sensitivity of Space Heat Demand and Primary Energy to different inputs. Homework will reinforce and expand the use of this tool. We will describe the goals of the capstone project: to design a home that will meet the Passive House Space Heat Demand and Primary Energy goals and get everyone started.

  • Review: Montague Plans - Annotated (PDF) (.pdf)
  • Review: Montague Urban Homestead Comprehensive Description (PDF) (.pdf)
  • Excel Basics for PHPP Lite (35:16 minutes)
  • Input Preparation for PHPP Lite (22:23 minutes)
  • Data Entry to PHPP Lite (37:18 minutes)
  • Optimization with PHPP Lite (01:02:55 hours)
Module 6 - Everything You Need to Become a Passive House Expert

Here we have created a list of resources for you, books, websites, conferences, advanced training, industry Contacts and more. All students will have the tools to be a contributing member in the growing, global Passive House community. We'll continue this conversation at the Building Energy Conference! This course is accredited through the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA). Upon the completion of your course, after you have submitted your capstone project, please fill out the form below to receive CEUs and a certificate of participation. You will receive your certificate within a few weeks via email. If you have any questions, please contact Miriam Aylward at maylward@nesea.org.

  • Fill out this form if you'd like a certificate of completion and/or continuing education credits (CEUs): Certificate of Completion and CEU form
  • RESOURCE: DEAP Technical Resources: An amazing list of all things Passive House
  • RESOURCE: Download this document with links to Passive House videos (.doc)
  • RESOURCE: We recommend this book: Homes for a Changing Climate: Adapting Our Homes and Communities to Cope with the Climate of the 21st Century
  • NESEA's BuildingEnergy Conference
Conclusion - Feedback and Additional Resources

This is our last module but you still have access to the all of course materials for 12 months (1 year), so keep working and you'll be able to complete the course at your own pace. After your year of access expires you can optionally extend access with a HeatSpring Membership. Enjoy the course and keep in touch!

  • 1 Year of Access to Course Materials
  • Feedback: 2-minute Exit Survey
  • Consider Joining as a HeatSpring Member
  • Certificate of Completion: Request a Certificate


Mike Duclos

Principal, DEAP Energy Group, LLC

Mike Duclos is a principal and founder of The DEAP Energy Group, LLC, a consultancy providing a wide variety of Deep Energy Retrofit, Zero Net Energy and Passive House related consulting services. Mike was an energy consultant on the Transformations, Inc. Zero Energy Challenge entry, and has worked on a variety of Zero Net Energy, DER and Passive House projects,... Learn more


4 reviews

51 students have taken this course

by Nicholas Broussard, Owner, Home Energy Remedy 08/28/2015

This course is a great first intro to the Passive House Design world.

by Juana G 10/04/2016

by Steve S 08/20/2015

by michelle a 07/27/2015

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Frequently asked questions

How does this course work?

You can begin this online course instantly upon enrollment. This 6 module course is delivered entirely online. This course is self-paced and you can set your own schedule to complete the materials. You can begin the lecture videos and other course materials as soon as you enroll. During your year of access the instructor will be in the course answering questions on the discussion board. After successfully completing the course, you will be able to generate a certificate of completion.

How long do I have access to the materials?

Students get unlimited access to the course materials as soon as they enroll and for one year (365 days) after enrollment. Rewatch videos and review assignments as many times as you want. View updates the instructor makes to the course as the industry advances. Return to your course anytime with online access from anywhere in the world. After the one year of access expires, access can be extended by joining as a HeatSpring member. A single membership extends access to course materials for all past enrollments.

Is there a certificate of completion?

Yes, when you complete this course you are eligible for a certificate of completion from HeatSpring. You can download your certificate as soon as you have completed all of the course requirements. Students can easily share their verified certificates on their LinkedIn profiles using our LinkedIn integration.

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