Letter to the City of Minneapolis

Proposed Minneapolis Homes Policy

November 11, 2020

Minneapolis City Council and Staff,

We would like to commend the City of Minneapolis’ stated desire for all new buildings to be net zero energy and achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, and for the desire to put real money behind these goals.

But we are compelled today to notify you, as your local building professionals, leaders and experts, that the city of Minneapolis is moving forward with a sustainability plan that does not scientifically add up to meeting their own Climate Action Plan.

We are concerned that much city money will be spent on incentives that will achieve minimal results. The ZERH program for home construction will only incrementally improve energy efficiency [per Passive House energy modeling analysis], but nowhere near the level necessary to fight Climate Change and enable a climate-neutral energy infrastructure. Therefore, we feel that now is the time to raise our voices and ask for our representatives to do better.

Instead of the proposed policy as written, we would propose the following:

  • Raise the minimum bar and make the US Department of Energy Zero Ready Homes Standard (ZERH) the minimum (not reach-goal) for all new affordable residential construction projects that receive funds from the Minneapolis Homes Program. As the ZERH standard is only 10-30% better than current code, only small amounts, such as $5,000 for a 1-3-unit building, should be used to assist developing this level of construction for its incremental improvement over the status quo. 
  • Use the proposed up to $90,000 incentive specifically for best-in-class standards such as Passive House that require third party review and certification to prove 80+% over code improvements.

Why Passive House?

  • Passive House is the only standard considered by the City of Minneapolis that has a globally proven 30-year track record of delivering results in the real world. Therefore, the United Nations endorsed the Passive House building energy standard to fight climate change. Only this level of improvement delivers returns that will meet the City, and our World’s, climate action goals. 
  • Passive House lowers energy bills drastically for residents and improves air quality, which addresses important equity and human rights issues in affordable housing.
  • With the scale of its supported housing units, Minneapolis’ Passive House projects will have a transformative impact on the entire community and region.
  • The City of Minneapolis’ Homes program can bring Passive House in the Twin Cities market to the mainstream, and make it a ready-to-implement solution for all owners and developers.
  • Passive House for affordable housing elevates the City of Minneapolis and its constituents’ profile within the local and national community, and serves as a beacon for the sustainable transformation of an industry, which is plagued with obsolescence, deferred maintenance and stigma. It demonstrates leadership and vision—benefits, which transcend any paybacks and life cycle cost advantages.

Once a city like Minneapolis incentivizes a standard like Passive House, they will transform the market for the sustainable future we seek. As more buildings are built, costs drop and familiarity rises. Cities around the US and the world are adopting Passive House and seeing these results. Passive House Minnesota and the NAPHN [North American Passive House Network] community will be providing the City Council with connections to these resources and people, so that they know a global community is out there, ready and willing to assist them in leading the way.

Thank you.

Passive House Minnesota, a chapter of NAPHN


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