Tag Archives: PHIUS

I’ve been in Seattle the last few days to attend the Passive House Northwest Conference.  The German Passive House energy efficiency standard is alive and well here in the Pacific Northwest, perhaps moreso than almost anywhere else in the country.  Beyond lectures on  earthquake stabilized R-35 foundation details and vapor open assembly design, I’ve been here to represent Zola Windows– high performance European built windows.  Energetechs represents Zola because there are no windows made in the United States that absorb more radiant energy than they release in conductive heat loss (standby for an explanation) in the Missoula climate.  Only the Europeans make these things, and surprisingly, it makes sense to bring them here.

That, is a great place to put a Zola Window.

That, is a great place to put a Zola Window.

Zola is a young company run by a brilliant Swiss Architect out of Colorado who started the company at age 26. Like many of the other awesome people I’ve met through the Passive House movement, his core motivation was to maximize the sustainability of buildings and knew that high performance windows are a key part of the equation. He saw the niche, and had the guts to fill it.

I admire him for the fact that he runs a very successful company that he built, from the ground up, and still finishes his day in time to pick up his young child from day care. He figured out that selling hours as an architect limited his impact, when he could have both more personal time, and more impact by selling what he knew was really part of the problem.  I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking- “I’m in the wrong game.”  I am unimpressed with what I have accomplished in my life, and that frustrates me. This post had previously slammed my friend because I was, on a deep level, jealous of his success- and in a way, knowing him makes me question some of the hard choices I’ve made.

There are many parts to be played in fixing our buildings.  Zola fills an essential need.  Skilled and talented contractors are clutch.  An engaged populace is the foundation.  Manufacturer, builder, consumer- what part are you going to play to maximize your impact on the problem at hand?

The first Zola uPVC windows installed in the US, as of Thursday...

The first Zola uPVC windows installed in the US, as of Thursday…

Boulder, Colorado

My mind is not on getting this posted tonight, but more on that towards the bottom.  Participating in the PassiveHouse conference last week left no time for writing.  My trip was sponsored by the fine folks at Zola European Windows, and I had a very good time both at the conference (in downtown Denver), and romping around more colorful places, like Boulder.

Zola- the only folks I know that can make a R-10, triple pane, 19′ wide sliding glass door (thanks to my boss for modeling).

Surprisingly, I’ve never spent much time there, but Boulder is kinda hilarious.  The outskirts feel more like most little western mountain towns- copious outdoor recreation, lots of very fit people and fancy bicycles, and a Walmart here and there.   But downtown is more unique- trust fund hippies play guitar next to the Gucci storefront, and the smell of gourmet, organic, fresh ground coffee is overwhelming.  There is public bike sharing, and an amazing vintage theater.  Half of me wants to move there, and the rest of me knows to stay away- but probably just because I wouldn’t feel unique anymore.

Classic (damn street lamp ruins my photo).

The theater architecture was nice, but the line-up was unbelievable…

There is something about being in an unfamiliar place that allows me to step away from myself.  My view of things around me becomes more detached, and more objective- my normal introspective investments drop away in pursuit of new-ness.  Seeing new people in new places, reminds me that we are just people- doing whatever it is that we do.  Our individual heartbreak or triumph becomes far less important in a crowd of strangers.  Part of this blog is about the search for the most authentic version of ourselves, and when no one around you knows (or particularly cares) who you are- its fun to take the opportunity to be exactly who you want.

In between professional responsibilities, I enjoyed a session with some like minded outdoor folk at the Alpine Training Center, and caught dinner with my friend Jen, who drove all the way from Greeley just to make it happen.

Home away from home.

The conference was certainly valuable- lots of practice talking about what I do, seeing some really cool projects (the Marshall project), learning new stuff, and making new connections.  It was also hilarious to realize my own cousin was also presenting- we had a very good time catching up on the past 5 or 6 years since I’ve seen him, and I really appreciated his presentation on the Thousand Homes Challenge.  It always takes a while to see what shakes out of these sort of things, but the vibes were good, and some of the interactions were… unique.

5 people debating the merits of a window detail. Only at a PassiveHouse conference.

Stand and deliver. My cousin gets it done.

By Sunday afternoon I had as much PassiveHouse as I could actively take-on and was grateful to meet a good friend and former co-worker from Portland for dinner and a local jazz jam.  It’s been a while since I put my name on a list and sat in on bebop tunes, but it’s amazing how the changes still come back.

The previous commentary about feeling detached is at odds with my mood tonight.  I went to invite some friends together for this weekend on facebook, only to notice that one of them seemed to evaporate.  Just like anything else, the social utility is just as good at taking people apart as putting them back together.  With all the traveling and dedication to task at hand, it’s pretty obvious I’ve got a fair amount of work to do at home as well.


(the next few posts are going to be a bit out of order, wrote this on the plane and wanted to get it posted)

The flight from Salt Lake to Denver was full of a high school girls soccer team from Australia.  They had been traveling for 27 hours, and Denver was their final destination.  Listening to their accents I started to think about all of the planes I’ve been on since I quit my job in Portland.  I’m traveling for work this week, but my work at Energetechs has never had the same rote tedium that working at Glumac did.  I still feel like I’m on the journey.  I remember sitting on the plane on Monday morning, November 15, 2010 on my way to the GreenBuild conference to represent Glumac.  That was when I decided to quit the job and see what else the world had to offer- it’s fun to think that the journey that has been my life since then has pretty much been perfect, with just enough low points to make it real.

En route, via SLC.

I’m in Denver to give a presentation to the Passive House Institute US National Conference.  I’m a little scared that being the nerdiest construction company in Montana isn’t quite enough to hang with the other folks here, but we’ll give it our best.  We’ve got an authentic story to tell, and I think we tell it well- the success is going to lie in owning that.

It is said that the world is like a book, and that those who don’t travel only read one page.  I’ll be here until Monday and expect to work my tail off, learning, networking, training, and growing- and I’m really looking forward to it.  I’m curious to see what coming back to Missoula feels like, particularly in comparison to returning there after Yosemite a few weeks ago.  Stay tuned.