BUILDER SPOTLIGHT: ROCHESTER PASSIVE HOUSE CONSULTING

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We recently caught up with Matt Bowers of Rochester Passive House Consulting who as the business name implies a Passive House Consultant that specializes in residential high performance housing. He helps clients from home design to renovation. Matt Bowers business is relatively new, but his knowledge runs deep. Read on to find out more about Rochester Passive House Consulting based out of New York.

What is some background information on your company?

Rochester Passive House Consulting incorporated in August of last year as a sole proprietor LLC. I specialize in High Performance Residential Consulting. I am a Certified Passive House Consultant, Certified Passive House Tradesman and HERS Rater. I have the ability to help clients from the design of their new home or substantial renovation all the way though completion. I frequently work with builders and architectural firms to identify potential leaks prior to breaking ground and offer site visit services to ensure the plans are being followed. I also have 2 courses certified though the Department of State for Code Enforcement in-service training (Course #49-6922 – Passive House, Course #49-6923 – Blower Door and Duct Leakage Testing). I am also working on my paperwork to be a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB).

Why is taking training and educated others important to you? 

 I spent 6 years as a Nuclear Engineer in the Navy. Every day I tried to follow the “Daily Top 5”:
     1) Learn something new
     2) Teach someone else something new
     3) Solve your bosses problems
     4) End every day with 10 fingers and 10 toes
     5) Go to bed tired
 If you are not learning something new and teaching someone else something new every day you cannot grow as a person. You also become reluctant to change by not furthering your understanding of different concepts.

How does your continued dedication to learning/taking training impact your business? 

 The more I know, the more I can speak intelligently to my clients which helps gain their trust. Also learning the same thing from different people also may give you a different perspective on something

How did you first get into energy efficiency home building?

After I got out of the Navy I went to RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) for Mechanical Engineering Technology looking to focus on HVAC Design. My interest in Thermodynamics and Fluid Mechanics from the Navy seemed like a natural fit. While at RIT I learned of these homes that were so efficient they didn’t need furnaces. I started rethinking my career path because why would I want to design systems that could be obsolete. I finished by Bachelors and started working for Airtight Services, and worked in the Insulation Trade doing energy audits and consulting with clients building new homes. While with Airtight, NYSERDA offered a free Passive House Tradesman course for Veterans in NYC. I went to NYC and after a week long training I was sold on Passive House. I continued my education on High Performance buildings by becoming certified as a HERS Rater and then getting certified as a Passive House Consultant.

What is your favorite recent project?

I am currently working with a client who is looking for a certified passive house in Wheatland, NY. I have been working with the architect on the design to optimize the heating and cooling demand. The sooner you get the Passive House Consultant and Architect together the better the final result will be – and the final cost will be lower.

Is the Rochester Passive House your first Passive House Construction? If not, when and where was your 1st passive house?

Rochester Passive House is my 1st Certified Project. I have worked on a 1/2 dozen homes in the Rochester area that are very high performance – but most were missing 1 or 2 of the passive house components (windows, high performance ventilation system, airtightness etc.) and were never modeled in PHPP so Passive House Verification wasn’t done. My wife and I saw an opportunity to build a new house and incorporate all of the Passive House aspects, and decided to seek certification. This allows us to offer tours at our discretion to show all of the other benefits of Passive House beyond the extremely low energy bills. Passive House is truly “Comfort achieved though Energy Efficiency”

blower-door-testWhat are your best and cost effective air sealing practices?

In general I like to refer to any section or detail of the architectural prints and have the architect or builder identify the air barrier. If you can identify the air barrier, you can work though the “how do we connect the air barriers” question. Most builders have learned how to build a tight wall, or build a tight ceiling, but the usually fail to connect them. The most cost effective way to air seal a house is to have a plan in place before you break ground. It is easier to erase a line than to tear down drywall to find the leak.
I also am a big fan of doing blower door testing early and often. The earlier you can test, the easier it is to find the leaks, especially when the air barrier is still exposed. I like to use the analogy: Is it easier to seal all the holes in the colander or turn off the faucet?

Will you tell us about the indoor air quality and ventilation systems used in your passive house?

We installed a Zehnder Comfoair 350 with the Comfofond ground loop pre-heater. It runs on roughly 40-100 watts depending on if the ground loop pump is running. It has only cost me $50 in electricity per year to run. It is designed to exchange and filter all of the air in the house once every 3 hours. It does have a boost mode for when we cook or take showers. I have both the Heat Recovery and Energy Recovery Cores. I have found that the Energy Recovery Core is a better option because it helps maintain the humidity during the winter months. The summer months are irrelevant because the unit is in bypass much of the summer. The ground loop pre-heater cools the air in the summer below the outgoing indoor air temperature.
I monitor the IAQ with a device called uHoo. It is only about $300. It constantly monitors Temperature, Humidity, CO, CO2, PM2.5 (dust and pollen) NO2, Total VOC, O3 and Air Pressure. It compares the EPA’s recommendations to what is going on in the house to alert you when something reaches the limits. So far we have stayed well below all of the limits nearly all the time. When working with clients who have a gas stove or a fireplace and want one in their next house I let them borrow the uHoo and challenge them to an IAQ match. I have never lost – and almost all of them convert to electric.

What one piece of advice would you give someone just starting down the road?

For someone starting to work in this field: Don’t be offended when someone doesn’t take your advice. All you can do is be honest and give them as much information as you think they need.
For someone looking to build a house: Passive House doesn’t have to be more expensive, your choice of finishes generally has a larger impact on your final cost – and finishes can be changed and upgrades later.

Any quotes you would like to share by you, your staff, or your customers?

A Wise Man – “You pay for insulation whether you have it or not”
Another Wise Man – “Building to code is the worst you can legally do.”
“Passive House is Comfort achieved though Energy Efficiency”

Just for fun, what is one unusual thing about you that not many people know?

I am a HUGE Strat-o-matic Baseball Fan!

 

Here are some links to other information about Matt Bowers and Rochester Passive House Consulting:
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