Concrete Is Well Suited to Passive House Construction

In late September, Philadelphia hosted the 11th Annual Passive House Conference September. Why should NRMCA members care about this relatively small group of building science experts and forward-thinking green building proponents? The answer is simple: Concrete offers a foolproof path to Passive House certification when compared to wood frame construction. For two days, the conference presenters went to extraordinary lengths to explain the complicated and costly steps necessary to achieve this gold standard energy performance certification when building with wood. The takeaway had to be: If you want a high performance building constructed of wood, you’ll need a healthy budget and your liability insurance premiums had better be paid up.

The remarkable knowledge and intelligence of the conferees notwithstanding, they could not have been more clear about the risks and expense of handing a contractor a set of construction drawings asking them to build a Passive House certified structure with sticks. There were two notable exceptions to this high stakes gamble. Arnold Development Group and The Bluestone Companies both presented concrete multi-family projects to the attendees in Philly.

Steve Bluestone explained how he easily achieved Passive House energy performance standards simply by using Insulated Concrete Forms on his recent buildings in New York. When he tried to "beef up" the standard ICF wall by adding thicker foam and triple glazed windows, his Passive House consultant told him none of those extra efforts were necessary. The typical ICF wall with poured concrete allowed him to meet the rigorous standard without additional and costly bells and whistles.

Mechanical engineer Galen Staengl, PE of Staengl Engineering and Arnold Development’s Passive House consultant Prudence Feirrara took turns explaining how ADG’s Second + Delaware project in Kansas City exceeded the standard due in large part to its reliance on concrete. These green building gurus noted that not only would the concrete and foam building envelope easily exceed the required minimums, it was designed to last more than 200 years.

NRMCA members are well aware that concrete provides a path to LEED Certification; now they can take advantage of its role in shaping the next generation of high performance low- to mid-rise buildings across the country. NRMCA has a Concrete Design Center that can work with developers to provide concrete solutions to building projects, including those targeting Passive House Certification.
To learn more, visit or contact Gregg Lewis at or 540-529-3893.

National Ready Mixed Concrete Association