Supercharge your designPH skills A live, online class for Passive House designers and consultants

18 March 2024

Supercharge your designPH skills for faster, more accurate PHPP models! Our designPH course is taught online via live lectures over a three week period. The course is being offered in June 2024.

Overall course outcome

After successfully completing this course, participants will be able to confidently

  • model a thermal envelope from 2D drawings
  • model self shading from drawings or 3D model
  • model topography and other site shading
  • use designPH and PHPP efficiently to get the fastest result
  • make changes in designPH and/or PHPP as your project design iterates

Once you master designPH, you are certain to save hours of time (perhaps days of work) on every single project you design. You’ll also create better designs because mastering designPH makes it efficient to test more iterations. It’s also the only way to accurately model shading and predict summer overheating, an increasingly significant issue for all types of construction.

Course structure

Sustainable Engineering’s designPH course is designed to make it as accessible as possible for busy professionals and to remove the costs and logistics associated with travel, accommodation and a block of time off work.

The course is made up of live lectures, homework review and Q&A sessions. There are six live sessions of 1.5 hours over three weeks. This concentrates and reinforces the learning in a way that provides the most benefit, while still allowing time for reflection and integration.

Course dates are 4, 6, 11, 13, 18 and 20 June (Tuesdays and Thursdays), 12.30-2.00pm.

The lectures will guide you through a case study building so you learn how to:

  • import drawings into designPH
  • model a designPH model in Sketchup
  • import results into a PHPP file and
  • finalise your energy model.

Each module contains quizzes, homework and bonus material. The lecture will introduce you to the tools and workflows, which you’ll then use to work through an actual design in between classes. Students can bring their own simple project to model or will be assigned one to work on.

Who this class is for

The designPH course is designed for Passive House designers and energy modellers who are already competent with PHPP and ideally already using designPH to some extent. This course takes the theoretical groundwork taught in the CEPH class and builds on it by teaching practical, hands-on designPH skills. You’ll learn fast, accurate workflows and develop confidence in energy modelling within designPH itself. Previous students have told us the checklists we provide are extremely valuable. No matter what your existing competence in designPH, this course will dramatically improve it.

Accurately predicting summer overheating is one of the biggest advantages to using designPH and the course will teach you how, in detail. PHPP over-predicts summer shading in New Zealand climates and doesn’t allow for nuanced modelling.

In general it is expected that students will have completed the CEPH course. A demonstration of sufficient Passive House and/or building science knowledge would be required in the absence of this formal learning. The course will only briefly skim Passive House theory and its associated building science; its focus is on the practical tasks in PHPP and designPH. CEPH classes are the quickest way to acquire relevant building science knowledge.

Course leaders

Sustainable Engineering Ltd principal Jason Quinn will lead the training, with support from Jessica Eyers and Sara Wareing. Jason is a very experienced building scientist and Passive House designer and certifier. He is very well placed to teach designPH skills because of his understanding of the physics behind the tool and in-depth knowledge of the software. Jason knows the designPH developer and is a beta reviewer who’s been exploring the software since before it was released. He’s also open to feedback and is always learning new designPH tricks from colleagues around the world. (Company biographies here.)

Detailed outline

Class Name Outcomes
1 What we’ll be learning Understand the overall structure of the class and the workflow from drawings to a good model. Demonstration of the workflow and why. Check tool are ready and select a practice project.
2 Sketchup skills for designPH 1 – start Start with the thermal envelope. Sketchup basics and easy DXF/DWG importing flow. Modeling TFA and volumes. Handout Ultimate Guide to TFA residential. Plugin installation.
3 Sketchup skills for designPH 2 – model done Sketchup orientation and construction of thermal envelope tags, ground, surface assignation. Plugin use for QA – know it’s right.
4 Shading – complete process and designPH tricks Shading in designPH -tricks and required settings for Certification. Handout guide; Know how to add windows, including correctly setting window reveal depth and basic familiarity with shading fundamentals; Winter-Summer trick; Transparency trick; Quick shading change trick.
5 Back to PHPP designPH export and PHPP import – QA your model; PHPP tools use in general (the swiss army knife of Passive House design). Design loop back and forth; How to manage multiple buildings in one file. Common mistakes.
6 Designing in designPH Components and usage of a default file. Tracking design iterations in designPH. Limitations of the thermal model in designPH. Limitations of designPH for Thermal Bridges.

Investment in your designPH skills

The course fee of $860 (+GST) is due seven days prior to the course starting. PHINZ member discount applies. Participants should allocate a minimum of two hours per week of homework in addition to live class time. Participants can potentially work through an entire simple house design, whether an actual client project or the example project the trainers will provide. All up, we expect it would take a typical student a total minimum of 15 hours.

Required resources and knowledge

In order to participate fully in this course and receive the greatest benefit,  participants must meet the following prerequisites:

  1. Sketchup Pro or Sketchup Pro Trial that will last the length of the class, designPH2, as well as a solid beginner level of skill in Sketchup or better. Specifically this means you can draw and group items, tag and hide items, draw on the default layer, group and then edit the group’s tag, install a plugin and such. If you have never used Sketchup, it is essential that you work through the beginner and intermediate videos before starting this course.
  2. PHPP v10 and proficiency in using this software. This class is not an introduction to PHPP.
  3. Sufficient time to complete the exercises.

A note on software versions

The class will be taught in Sketchup Pro 2023. If you have an older version of Pro (back to 2017) you should be able to complete the tasks required by this course. However, be aware not everything will look exactly the same. Layers are now called tags, for example.

How to apply

Limitations, liability and copyright

There will be no refunds once the course has been accessed so it is important that students understand the prerequisites and what is expected of them. This course involves mathematics and physics and assumes participants are familiar with PHPP, Passive House design and the basics of using a spreadsheet or SketchUp; these programmes will not be taught in class.

The course materials including videos represent a significant investment in intellectual property. They are copyright and may not be shared with anyone including your colleagues etc.

In general, this course material is provided under our website terms and conditions, and we wish to highlight two points in particular:

The authors of the information in this course have used their best efforts to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. While reasonable care has been taken to provide accurate information, the author(s) and Sustainable Engineering Ltd make no warranty of any kind, expressed or implied, with regard to the information provided being suitable for any particular purpose. The information presented must be used with care by professionals who understand the implications of what they are doing. The author(s) and Sustainable Engineering Ltd shall not be liable in the event of incidental or consequential damages in connection with, or arising from, the use of the information contained in this course.

This online course(s) are delivered to you under a limited, non-transferable, single-user license to access such course(s) for your own use only in accordance with our Terms and Conditions as posted on our website. You are permitted to display, download, and print the files provided under the condition that such activity is for your personal or internal business purposes. You may not modify or prepare derivative works or otherwise re-distribute or publicly display the content.