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Beyond Passive House - Operational & Embodied Carbon

April 6, 10:00 to 11:00 am


Approved for 1.0 general GBCI CE & 1.0 AIA LU



Michael Hindle, Principal, Passive to Positive

Christina Aßmann, Associate, Passive to Positive




The building science community has shifted their focus from primarily looking at the reduction of operational carbon to also considering embodied carbon and the environmental impact the material selection of energy efficient building materials has on human health and the environment. This includes the investigation of insulation materials, the make-up of high-efficiency windows and structural materials and the emissions generated for their extraction, manufacturing and transportation.


As a collective of holistic-thinking Passive House Consultants, Passive to Positive has incorporated embodied carbon awareness into our work as we advise clients on a multitude of Passive House projects of various scales and building types. The current materials shortage has encouraged a more critical look at reclaimed materials and the viability for integration in high-performance projects.


Our range of projects includes deep energy retrofits as well as new construction.  Achieving foam-fee strategies and Declare Red List free products is not always possible, but advocacy for those considerations is important and an integral part of our mission and practice.


Project examples and strategies:

  1. 11 E Lenox St. in Roxbury, MA is a 7-story apartment tower built of Cross Laminated Timber post and beam structure and floor slabs with FRT wood-frame exterior walls.

  2. 327 N. Negley Avenue is a 45 unit Passive House retrofit of a historic mid-century Hebrew School in Pittsburgh, PA.  The decision was made to save the existing structure rather than demolish it and build new. Two additional floors are being added to the existing two-story building.  The combination of retrofit and new construction offers a panoply of challenges in terms of control layer continuity and thermal bridging. The Hebrew School is itself and addition to a 1923 Synagogue which will be renovated during a second phase into a community owned and operated space including renovated space for worship, community events, performance and fine arts as well as supporting functions for an on-site regenerative farm. 

  3. 1600 W North Ave. is a combination of Passive House retrofit and reconstruction of 7 row homes in Baltimore, MD. It is a design collaboration of Onion Flats Architects, Staengl Engineering and Passive to Positive.  At the time of this writing, numerous decisions about assemblies and materials are under evaluation. This investigation includes the embodied carbon and toxicity of 2x8 walls with no continuous insulation versus 2x6 walls with reclaimed poly-iso.

  4. 88 NoWA in Boston, MA is a 12-story hotel built of CLT.

Learning Objectives

  1. Identify strategies to reduce operational and embodied carbon.

  2. Learn about various embodied carbon calculators.

  3. Demonstrate retrofit low-carbon thermal bridge mitigation strategies.

  4. Implement lessons learned in future project challenges.


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