‘Passive house’ buildings have climate and health advantages. Why aren’t there more of them?

New York has 123 homes built under the environmentally friendly “passive house” construction standard. But architects and environmental experts say it should become the norm, especially for affordable projects in New York City.

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425 Grand Concourse, in the Bronx, an affordable project by Dattner Architects and Trinity Financial, considered the largest certified passive house project in North America.

Covered in shiny metal panels and tall windows, anyone passing 425 Grand Concourse in the Bronx might mistake it for a luxury apartment complex. But the 26-story facility is actually an affordable housing project built for low-to-middle-income families.

Opened in June of last year, the project was commissioned by the city’s Housing Preservation Department (HPD) and developed by Trinity Financial and Dattner Architects. It features amenities like a rooftop garden, fitness center, event space, and laundry rooms on each floor.

But its most notable quality: it holds the title of North America’s largest certified passive house project.

The Passive House is an international eco-friendly building standard that uses design elements such as insulation, airtightness, and heat recovery to consume less energy. By saving energy, buildings emit fewer greenhouse gases and generate lower utility bills. These constructions also They have superior air quality. creating a healthier environment for residents.

“People who live in affordable housing need to be able to take advantage of those benefits,” said Shefali Sanghvi, director of sustainability at Dattner Architects.

But most developers, he said, still view passive house standards as a “boutique” concept, reserved for upper-class residences like the coexistence at East 86th Street and chelsea flow on West 29th Street.

There are 123 certified passive house projects in New York state and 50 affordable projects in the city that have been funded or are in development, according to HPD.

Architects who spoke to City Limits said the passive house is starting to catch on in New York, but it’s still far from being the quintessential building model. The construction industry is skeptical when it comes to investing in this type of project, for which it is also difficult to obtain financing.

but with him Climate Law Seeking to reduce New York’s greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent by 2050, the passive housing development can benefit renters and help the state meet its climate goals, according to John Woelfling, principal architect of 425 Grand Concourse. .

The buildings’ 276 rent-controlled apartments are considered affordable under city law. rules for households making between $30,000 and a little more than $130,000 a year, including 28 units set aside for people who were previously homeless.

“I see the passive house as a way to address the twin crises we face: affordable housing and the climate crisis,” Woelfling said.

Why be passive?

The passive house standard was originally developed in 1990 by the Passive House Institute (PHI) in Germany. The Passive House Institute US (PHIUS), founded in 2007, later became the national certification system for the standard in the United States.

Currently there are 840 certificate Passive house projects in the country. There could be many more, but the architects say most developers prefer a different model.

“Today’s buildings hide their mistakes by using oversized mechanical systems. And as a result, they use more energy than they should,” Ken Levenson, executive director of the nonprofit organization passive house networkhe told City Limits.

Instead of going with these “active systems,” Levenson explains, the Passive House standard uses a “passive” approach that seeks to “get away from devices and have the building’s fabric drive the building’s performance.”

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