Pennsylvania is the first state to offer tax credits for low income Passive House building.

Applications submitted under the PennHOMES and low income housing tax credit program are scored and ranked in accordance with a numerical criteria. By way of example, up to 30 points are awarded to developments located in areas with high poverty rates or large numbers of senior citizens eligible for affordable housing.  

Up to 25 points are awarded for green building, including up to 5 points for redevelopment of a brownfield site, and up to 10 points for an adaptive reuse of a vacant building.

What is unique in the applications due by January 30, 2015 is that up to 10 points may be awarded to those developments which meet Passive House certification requirements (national or international). Actual Passive House “certification” from PHIUS or the Passive House Academy is not required. At construction completion, all third party test results and verifications required by Passive House, including blower door testing and commissioning reports, are submitted to the state and the project must be Passive House “certifiable.”  

For the uninitiated, the Passive House green building rating system uses a set of design principles to attain a rigorous level of energy efficiency. “Maximize your gains, minimize your losses” summarize the approach. A Passive building is designed to employ continuous insulation through its entire envelope without any thermal bridging and that building envelope is ‘extremely airtight’ preventing infiltration of outside air and loss of conditioned air. It employs the use of high performance windows (typically triple-paned) and doors.

An issue may be that while worldwide Passive House reports more than 40,000 buildings meet the standard, today there are only 130 Passive buildings in the United States, and only 11 of those are multi-family or commercial.

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency reports that it is aware of at least one eligible building. “We may get 130 applications and we are going to fund about 40,” said Brian Hudson, executive director of the Agency, so the points available for Passive building would be key in the highly competitive tax credit process.

No points are available for LEED projects.

But, recognizing the limited efficacy of a program tied only to the very little used Passive House, Pennsylvania will also incentivize low income green housing with the $1 Million in tax credits when 10 points may be awarded for green building to projects achieving Enterprise Green Communities Criteria optional 25 points for new construction and 20 points for substantial or moderate rehabilitation properties. At construction completion, written certification must be submitted describing which Green Communities criteria were achieved.

An architect working on a housing retrofit in Pittsburgh observed, the State of Pennsylvania may have singlehandedly moved Passive House from the radical fringe to mainstream green building.

© picture-alliance/ dpa Passive Hose building in Darmstadt-Kranichstein, Germany