ARCHITECTURE New York State | Q3 | Nov '19

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Net Zero & Passive House

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AIANYS PRESIDENT’S Letter..................................................................... 5

NET ZERO & PASSIVE HOUSE Perdita Flats........................................................................................ 6-8 Bringing Net Zero Buildings to Scale........................................10-12 NYSERDA BUILDINGS OF EXCELLENCE COMPETITION WINNERS.......................................................................12-14 Net Zero Energy (NZE) Ready in the North Country .............. 15-17 Designing and Building the World’s Largest & Tallest Passive House Building.............................. 20-29 Passive House: Lessons Learned on the Way to a Systematic Approach........................................30-37

2019 AIANYS Executive Committee

2019 AIANYS Staff

President | Mark V. Kruse, AIA

Executive Director | Georgi Ann Bailey, CAE, Hon. AIANYS

President-Elect | Joseph Aliotta, FAIA Past President | Kirk Narburgh, AIA Vice President Government Advocacy | Michael Spinelli, JD, AIA Vice President Public Advocacy | Pasquale Marchese, AIA

Director of Finance | David Hodgkinson Director of Government Affairs | Michael Burridge Director of Communications | Robin Styles-Lopez

Vice President Knowledge | John D. Fry, AIA

Associate Director of Member Services | Cara Longobardi

Vice President Emerging Professionals | Jeff Pawlowski, AIA

Knowledge Development Specialist | Barry Westfall

Treasurer | Stephanie Wright, AIA

Accounting Assistant | Kristen Rockmore

Secretary | Peter Wehner, AIA

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On October 29, AIA New York State was honored to be a part of NYSERDA’s announcement of $18 Million in Award Winning Projects in the First Round of Buildings of Excellence Competition, a competition that recognizes and rewards the design and implementation of low or zero carbon emitting multifamily buildings. The urban built environment is responsible for 75% of annual global Green House Gas emissions: buildings alone account for almost 40%. Minimizing and ultimately eliminating these emissions is key to impacting and addressing climate change. Through our members across New York State and across the country, the American Institute of Architects is leading the way in offering real-world solutions to design a resilient and sustainable built environment for future generations. As architects, our members work to engage communities by listening to their needs and applying their knowledge and expertise based on those needs, to promote solutions that include high-performance buildings. In 2006, Architecture 2030 issued the 2030 Challenge, a breakthrough vision that calls for all new buildings, developments, and major renovations to be carbon-neutral by 2030. The mission of The AIA 2030 Commitment is to transform the practice of architecture in a way that is holistic, firmwide, project-based and data-driven, so that the AIA and the participating firms can prioritize energy performance and carbon reductions. In June of this year, the AIA Board of Directors approved a landmark resolution that defines immediate and long-term efforts to engage the architectural profession in the fight against climate change. We’ve made progress but we’ve got more work to do. With 11 years to go until 2030, The Buildings of Excellence competition is a remarkable illustration of government partnering with communities to build a clean, more resilient and sustainable future. AIA New York State is proud to support the goals of this important program and assist in fulfilling its purpose. In addition to the list of round one winners found on pages 12-13, enjoy the articles that highlight some of the Buildings of Excellence Competition winners, describe projects of various scale that apply the principles of net zero and passive housing, provide lessons learned along the way in order to set up a systematic approach and feature the world’s largest & tallest passive house building.

Mark Vincent Kruse, AIA 2019 President | AIA New York State

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Matt Cooper, Associate AIA, is a Project Manager who works with clients, contractors, and municipalities to guide projects to successful completion. Matt has a Master of Architecture degree from the University of New Mexico, and over two decades of experience in carpentry, furniture design, contracting, and code enforcement. He has served on various committees related to energy efficiency and renewable energy. He and his wife moved from Portland, Oregon to West Danby, New York in 2004 and have been steadily rehabilitating their 19th century house ever since (and ever more). He has been a board member of the Ithaca Green Building Alliance, a volunteer firefighter, a fire commissioner in Danby, and an occasional disk jockey for the Nonesuch radio show on WVBR in Ithaca. His interests in architecture relate to climate resilience and sustainable construction, as well as refugee housing, and he is inspired by both modern and traditional Japanese architecture.


By Matt Cooper, Associate AIA, STREAM Collaborative


erdita Flats is one of those alltoo-rare projects where the client comes to the table with a philosophy about sustainability that is as mature and considered as our own. From the beginning, we were able to merge our shared goals for a zero-energy building into what we hope will be an example for what can be done with a small, multi-family development in Upstate New York. STREAM Collaborative has been working towards increasing environmental sensitivity since the firm’s inception in 2012, and we keep the issues of low energy use at the forefront of every design decision we make. Our preferred envelope details are regularly re-examined in the light of new building science and materials, and we have become known in our market as experts on zero-energy construction. The owners of Perdita Flats, Courtney Royal and Umit Sirt, both work at Taitem Engineering in Ithaca; she is a Senior Sustainability Consultant and he’s a Senior Energy Engineer. They are among the people we have used as consultants on other projects, so to have them and their expertise at hand during all phases of design meant that every aspect of the building was optimized for energy efficiency. PAGE 6 | Q3 | NOVEMBER 2019

The general goals for sustainability ranged from the experiential (the use of natural materials to promote tenant well-being; careful selection of finishes to improve air quality; grounds that included as much shared garden space as possible; and points of circulatory convergence for tenants to encourage serendipitous interaction) to the technical (advanced systems for space heating, domestic hot water, and ventilation; roof-mounted PV array with a prominently placed display showing building use vs. generation) to the social (a building in a walkable neighborhood, designed with sensitivity to its surroundings, and one that is likely to engender the ‘fondness’ necessary for any building to be maintained and preserved for the long term). The owners want also to create an exemplar for other builders and designers to refer to, one that shows how a building of this scale and with this program can be made in such a way as to be both economically viable as well as environmentally ethical. The architecture of the building, by keeping the look of a traditional home and by fitting in with the vernacular style of Ithaca’s housing stock, helps to normalize the use of advanced technical systems. Ithaca, like many cities, struggles with a lack of affordable housing stock. The

apartments at Perdita will be offered at market rents, but by creating such an efficient and well-insulated building, the problem of affordability is addressed through lowered utility costs, a significant part of one’s living expenses in a northern climate. Lastly, the need for climate resilience was kept in mind throughout the design process. Our region is likely to experience rain events of increased intensity, exacerbating the problems we already experience with flooding. Perdita sits in a flood plain, so our foundation design anticipates the real possibility of inundation here in the future by raising the finished floor a foot higher than required, and by not putting any mechanical systems in the crawl space.

OBJECTIVE DESCRIPTION OF BUILDING • Multi-family residential • 3,535 gross square feet over three stories, built on a 36 x 36 footprint • Four units (one 3BR on the ground floor, two 1BR on the second floor, and one 2BR on the third floor) • Market rate rent structure • Scheduled to break ground in spring of 2020


The City of Ithaca is in the process of adopting a Green Building Policy that uses a point system, with credit given for a variety of energy-saving measures and a minimum score of six points to achieve compliance; Perdita scores seventeen points and so will easily comply. It will also conform to every item in the Tompkins County Energy Recommendations for New Construction.

• 4,700 square foot corner lot in Ithaca’s Southside neighborhood; essentially flat • No parking included on site (variance received)


All exterior walls are double-frame construction, and the components (from the interior) are: • Gypsum wall board • 2x4 wood frame stud wall with mineral wool blankets • 3½” gap between frames, insulated with mineral wool blankets (thermal break) • 2x4 wood frame structural stud wall with mineral wool blankets, 16” o.c. • ½” Zip sheathing with taped seams (air and water barrier) • 1x3 furring installed vertically (rain screen) • Hemlock shiplap siding/metal panel siding (both are used) The roof is constructed with raised-heel trusses, and a deep layer of cellulose is blown in to achieve a nominal R-63 rating. The underside of the trusses is sheathed with Zip sheathing, creating

the air barrier at the ceiling plane. A 2x service channel for electrical wiring and boxes is applied to this sheathing and the gypsum board is attached to that. The design uses windows judiciously, with goals for a low window-to-wall ratio balanced against the human need for views and the goals of natural daylighting to offset the demand for artificial lighting. The window units themselves are triple-glazed fiberglass frames, Low-E coating, with a SHGC rating coordinated with the insulation potential of each building face.


Space heating and domestic hot water are generated using a Sanden CO2 refrigerant air-source heat pump split system, possibly supplemented with a multi-head air-source heat pump system. The air for the Sanden will be pulled from a groundto-air filtered pipe installed underground around the perimeter of the building, providing a more thermally stable air temperature and lessening the energy demand in the winter for heating loads. The east-west orientation of the roof gable and the stepped back third story provides enough south-facing roof surface to install a 14kW photovoltaic array that is expected to meet the operational demands of the building.

The owners submitted the project to the NYSERDA Buildings of Excellence competition which recognizes and rewards the design and implementation of low or zero carbon emitting multifamily buildings. We were excited to learn, on October 29th, that the project was one of 13 award recipients to receive funding towards the project under the “Early Design Winners” category. Additionally, the project is pursuing multiple performance testing and verification from other third-party programs, including: • EPA Energy Star for Homes v3.1 • EPA Indoor Air PLUS • Zero Carbon or Zero Energy Living Building Challenge


Perdita Flats is in the late stages of design and STREAM Collaborative is nearing completion of the construction documents. The engineering consultants have provided their input, and the construction manager is lining up the various trades. We expect to apply for a building permit in September of 2019, and to break ground later this fall. STREAM has been fortunate to be able to work on Perdita Flats, and with such environmentally concerned clients. Our own institutional knowledge has been expanded by their professional expertise in energy-efficient mechanical systems. We are looking forward to seeing the building come to life, and to see how such an ambitious project performs over time. Q3 | NOVEMBER 2019 | PAGE 7

continued from page 7

STREAM Collaborative Architecture + Landscape Architecture DPC is a local first firm in Ithaca, NY founded by Noah Demarest AIA, ASLA, LEED AP, CNU. STREAM offers a wide array of services related to community design, architecture, landscape architecture and new media as it relates to environmental graphics and the built environment. Collaboration is at the heart of our process and we enjoy teaming with other architects, landscape architects, urban planners, engineers, interior designers, product designers and new media programmers to tackle design problems from the smallest household object to an entire new urban community. Noah Demarest, founder of STREAM Collaborative, is a licensed and registered Architect and Landscape Architect as well

as a LEED Accredited Professional. Noah grew up in the Ithaca, NY area since the age of two. He attended Cornell University’s School of Human Ecology where he earned a Bachelors degree in Design and Environmental Analysis with a focus on human factors, interior design and facility planning. Noah continued at Cornell to earn a Masters degree in Landscape Architecture with a focus on recreational facility design, the use of digital media in the design process and sustainable design.

duction of drawings from schematic design through construction documents for dozens of housing units in urban infill and new mixed-use neighborhood plans.

After running his own design company for seven years, Noah relocated to Providence, RI in 2005 to join Union Studio Architects (formerly Donald Powers Architects) where he focused his talents on traditional neighborhood design and affordable housing projects in New England. In two years at Union Studio, Noah worked as a project manager and job captain leading the pro-

Today, Noah is the principal in charge of STREAM Collaborative and leads a growing staff of employees and various consultants in the practice of community planning and design. Noah is also an adjunct lecturer at Cornell University and is active in local planning initiatives. n

Creating Artistry in Grilles & Metal • • 516-488-0628

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In 2007, Noah returned to Ithaca to join Trowbridge Wolf Michaels Landscape Architects LLP, one of central New York’s premier landscape architecture and campus planning firms. From 2007 to 2012, Noah played a key role in over one hundred campus, park, trail, and urban design projects from Buffalo to Albany.

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Janet Joseph is the Senior Vice President for Strategy and Market Development at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). She leads NYSERDA’s work in building decarbonization, advancing programs and policies to deliver a carbon-neutral building stock. Ms. Joseph has more than 28 years of experience in clean energy. She has held technical, policy, and leadership positions at NYSERDA, where she has spearheaded initiatives to develop solar and renewable power, build a cleantech startup industry, launch energy storage collaboratives, and identify greenhouse gas reduction strategies that provide benefits for New Yorkers. Prior to joining NYSERDA, Janet was a research scientist at Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratory and a consultant for Booz-Allen and Hamilton in Washington, D.C. Ms. Joseph serves on the Boards of the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, Urban Green Council, New York State Center for Future Energy Systems, and the Urban Futures Lab. Janet received the 2015 Public Service Excellence Award from the State Academy for Public Administration and was voted as one of the top ten Clean Tech leaders in New York. Ms. Joseph has a Master’s degree in Environmental Chemistry from the University of Maryland.


By Janet Joseph, Senior Vice President, Strategy and Market Development at The New York State Energy Research Development Authority (NYSERDA)


ew York State’s ambitious and comprehensive climate and energy agenda under Governor Cuomo’s Green New Deal envisions a carbon neutral building stock by mid-century − setting the stage for architects to pioneer a new future for New York State’s built environment. Designing buildings to net zero, along with public-private partnerships to help bring the market to scale, will help drive the change needed to achieve the State’s goals of a carbon neutral economy and lower greenhouse gas emissions 85 percent by 2050. New York State currently has the lowest per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of any state and has seen a 13 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since 1990 which is in stark contrast to the two percent increase seen nationally. While this data is promising, we know there is more work to do. In New York State, we are committed to offering programs and assistance, through NYSERDA and the utilities, to accelerate the transition to a clean energy future.

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Buildings are responsible for 45 percent of the carbon emissions in New York State. Approximately 100 million square feet of new construction is built per year in New York State. Typically, once a building is constructed, it is in operation for about 50 to 100 years. It is much more expensive to deliver significant energy and carbon reductions after construction is complete and a building is occupied. This is why visionary architects are needed now to transform what our buildings look like and how they function. This is not optional − this is necessary for the survival of our planet, our environment, and our communities. Our built environment needs to change. This is one of the many reasons NYSERDA partnered with AIA to spur net-zero multifamily development and advance the shift to carbon neutrality through the $40 million Buildings of Excellence Competition that launched earlier this year. Multifamily housing development represents 40 percent of projected new building construction in New York (by

square footage) and through this competition, developers and architects, working together are helping shape the future of our built environment. The inaugural awards ceremony was held in October, with 28 projects being awarded more than $18 million under the first round of funding. We are extremely encouraged by the interest in this competition. The preliminary results so far confirm that low carbon buildings can be profitable, affordable, beautiful, and great places to build communities. Statewide, New Yorkers pay about $31 billion annually for electricity and heating fuels. Projects awarded through the Buildings of Excellence Competition demonstrate how the market is meeting consumers’ growing interest for highly efficient and affordable low-carbon living spaces. Each project awarded reveals innovative low-carbon design and development features – critical to transitioning New York’s building stock to carbon neutrality by mid-century. For example, the Seventy-Six complex, currently under development in down-

A rendering of Sendero Verde, a Buildings of Excellence Award winner in Manhattan. Photo credit: Handel Architects

A rendering of the roof at Engine 16, a Buildings of Excellence Award winner in Manhattan. Photo credit: Baxt Ingui

town Albany, was awarded $658,020 through the Competition to support low-to-moderate income housing and will be built to triple net zero performance levels – net zero energy, water and waste. Developer Corey Jones of South End Development and designer Carly Coulson of the architecture firm Coulson’s design and development highlight reaching new heights for net zero structures with its ambitious triple net zero goal. The all electric building will feature 26 units, be built to Passive House standards, and will complete the Living Building Challenge which is the world’s most rigorous proven performance standard for buildings. Features include numerous energy efficiency measures (air source heat pumps, heat recovery ventilation, lighting and appliances), onsite renewables (solar and solar thermal for domestic hot water), residential and commercial spaces. Another example of how the awarded projects are pushing change while working within the context of an existing community is Engine 16, located in Manhattan. Developed and designed by Michael Ingui of Baxt Ingui, it was awarded $197,010 and is one of two gut rehab projects recognized through the Competition. The project preserves the architectural history of the old Engine 16 building while converting it into a multifamily building with community space. Once complete, it will be fully electric, with a small onsite solar panel system linked to battery storage that can support minimal loads during power outages, thereby improving the building’s resiliency. The four-unit building will achieve passive house performance and have spaces that make significant use of daylight. Gut rehab projects are a necessary part of our clean energy transition, given the scale and scope of existing buildings in New York State. This project will help us understand more about improving both profitability and performance when rehabilitating existing buildings to all-electric, highly efficient performance as well provide a deeper

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AIA New York State President Mark Vincent Kruse, AIA at the Buildings of Excellence Award Ceremony at the Building Energy Exchange in the Surrogate’s Courthouse in New York City.

understanding of preserving historic architecture and beauty while improving resiliency and providing healthier places for residents to live. Ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to the benefits of clean energy and low to zero carbon housing is a priority for NYSERDA and New York State. In fact, $14 million of the $18 million awarded under the Competition supports low to moderate income housing. One notable project, located in New York City, is Sendero Verde, developed by Jonathan Rose Companies and designed by Handel Architects. Buildings of Excellence recognized one of the 36-story newer buildings in the larger multi-building project that features a 100 percent affordable, mixed-use development in East Harlem. Once completed the entire project will include approximately 700 units as well as community services, a large plaza, and community gardens, truly embracing energy efficient, green and sustainable living. While there are many design competitions statewide and nationally, this is the only competition of its kind, with the awarded projects becoming part of a comprehensive data collection and learning effort. Building and equipment level performance, detailed cost information, and occupant and owner feedback will be analyzed to solve how to cost-effectively deliver superior performing buildings that drive down costs for consumers, use clean energy and create better spaces to benefit all New Yorkers.

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Building on the successful first round of the Competition, NYSERDA launched the second round of Buildings of Excellence offering a total of $10 million. The second round will continue to advance the State’s net zero journey along with the development of a Net Zero Carbon Buildings Roadmap. NYSERDA is engaging with industry stakeholders to create the dialogue needed to drive solutions and market changes to bring net zero buildings scale through highly replicable projects. The Roadmap, which is expected to be completed next year, will chart a course for long-term change. Bringing net zero buildings to scale involves many factors including collaboration in a project’s early stages. This is the only way to maximize energy efficiency, lower emissions, and incorporate passive design features at competitive costs. Integrated teams of architects, engineers, and developers bring great design, construction and cost compression to the forefront, creating a better value to foster market change and encompass the qualities of how our buildings need to evolve.

Buildings of Excellence Competition Winners On October 29, the following projects were awarded through the Buildings of Excellence Competition, administered by The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) for the design, construction and operation of highly replicable and adoptable low or zero carbon emitting multifamily buildings across New York State. For more information on the winning projects and the second round of the Competition, visit:

Early Design Project: Affordable and Sustainable Multifamily Housing for City of Hudson, NY Award: $1 million Developed by: Galvan Initiatives Foundation, Inc. Designed by: River Architects, PLLC Project: Creekview Apartments Phase II, Canandaigua, NY Award: $1 million

AIA, and its members, have been leading on sustainable design and carbon neutrality nationally for many years through the AIA 2030 Commitment. With the goal of transforming architecture in a way that is holistic, firm-wide, project-based and data-driven, AIA members prioritize energy performance and carbon reductions in the design of buildings, developments and major renovations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and be carbon neutral by 2030.

Developed by: Baldwin Real Estate Development Corp.

Designing and developing to net zero requires commitment to chart a new path to a better future, one that will drive economic growth, increase affordability for consumers, and safeguard our environment for generations to come. By working together, we will design and build this future. n

Award: $1 million

Learn more at NYSERDA’s website:

Designed by: Sustainable Comfort, Inc. Project: Solar Pods @ Carter Rd, Geneva, NY Award: $1 million Developed by: The Solar Village Company Designed by: Sustainable Comfort, Inc. Project: Westgate Apartments, Rochester, NY Developed by: Providence Housing Development Corporation Designed by: SWBR Architecture, Engineering & Landscape Architecture, D.P.C. Project: La Central Building C, Bronx, NY Award: $1 million Developed by: Hudson Companies, BRP Companies, ELH-TKC LLC, Breaking Ground and Comunilife Designed by: Hudson Companies

Early Design, continued Project: Help One, Brooklyn, NY Award: $1 million Developed by: HELP USA Designed by: Curtis + Ginsberg Architects Project: Linden Boulevard Phase II, Brooklyn, NY Award: $1 million Developed by: Real Buildings, Inc./ Radson Development Designed by: Magnusson Architecture and Planning PC Project: Linden Grove, Brooklyn, NY

Award: $932,280

Buildings of Excellence Award winners pictured with (left to right, front row) - ASHRAE Representative Brendan Hall, PE; AIA New York State President Mark Vincent Kruse, AIA; New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) President and CEO Alicia Barton; New York State Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul; New York State Senator Brian Kavanagh; NYSERDA Sr. Vice President of Strategy and Market Development Janet Joseph; Building Energy Exchange Executive Director Richard Yancey, FAIA at the Buildings of Excellence Award Ceremony at the Building Energy Exchange in the Surrogate's Courthouse in New York City.

Developed by: Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services

Late Design

Award: $1 million Developed and Designed by: Blue Sea Development Company, LLC & Gilbane Development Company Project: Village Grove, Trumansburg, NY

Designed by: Sustainable Comfort, Inc. Project: The Seventy-Six Phase 1, Albany, NY Award: $658,020 Developed by: South End Development Designed by: Coulson Project: Bushwick Alliance, Brooklyn, NY Award: $401,180 Developed by: RiseBoro Community Partnership, Inc.

Project: Solara Phase 2, Rotterdam, NY Award: $750,000 Developed by: Bruns Realty Group LLC Designed by: Black Mountain Architecture Project: Zero Place, New Paltz, NY Award: $750,000 Developed by: Net-Zero Development LLC Designed by: BOLDER Architecture, PLLC

Designed by: STAT Architecture

Project: 425 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY

Project: Street Smart, 369 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY

Award: $750,000

Project: Park Haven, Bronx, NY Award: $750,000 Developed by: The Community Builders, Inc. Designed by: SLCE Architects, LLP Project: Rheingold Senior Housing, Brooklyn, NY Award: $750,000 Developed by: Southside United HDFC - Los Sures Designed by: Magnusson Architecture and Planning PC Project: Sendero Verde Building A, New York, NY Award: $750,000

Developed by: Trinity Financial, Inc.

Developed by: Jonathan Rose Companies

Designed by: Dattner Architects D.C.P

Designed by: Handel Architects

Designed by: ZH Architects

Project: 2050 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY

Project: Perdita Flats, Ithaca, NY

Project: St. Marks Passive House, Brooklyn, NY

Award: $750,000

Award: $70,560

Awarded: $238,920

Developed by: Unique People Services, Inc.

Developed by: Masmark, LLC

Award: $89,260 Developed by: 369 Manhattan

Developed by: Perdita Flats Development, LLC Designed by: STREAM Collaborative

Designed by: Magnusson Architecture and Planning PC

Designed by: Cycle Architecture + Planning

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Late Design, continued Project: Engine 16, New York, NY Award: $197,010 Developed and designed by: Baxt Ingui Architects

Under Construction Project: 511 East 86th Street, New York, NY Award: $500,000 Developed by: Carrera RS, LLC Designed by: Arquitectonica New York P.C. Project: Flow Chelsea 211 West 29th Street, New York, NY Award: $500,000 Developed by: Bernstein Real Estate Designed by: ZH Architects Project: Tree of Life, Queens, NY Award: $500,000 Developed by: Bluestone Organization Designed by: GF55 Architects LLC Project: 1182 Woodycrest Development, Bronx, NY Award: $412,860 Developed by: The Bluestone Organization Top: A rendering of Rheingold Senior Housing, a Buildings of Excellence Award winner in Brooklyn. Photo credit: Magnusson Architecture and Planning Middle: A rendering of The Seventy-Six, a Buildings of Excellence Award winner in Albany. Photo credit: Coulson Bottom: A rendering of 425 Grand Concourse, a Buildings of Excellence Award winner in the Bronx. Photo credit: Dattner Architects

Designed by: Altanova Energy + Sustainability Project: North Miller Passive Multifamily, Newburgh, NY Award: $39,720 Developed by: Steven Taya Property Management Designed by: Northeast Projects, LLC

Post-Completion Performance Optimization Project: Park Avenue Green, Bronx, NY Award: $250,000 Developed by: Omni New York, LLC Designed by: Curtis + Ginsberg Architects

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With over 32 years of professional experience, Barry Halperin calls from an extensive history of varying project scopes with similar projects. Barry’s experience in Northern and Central New York has equipped him with an extensive understanding of the complex environmental and geographic conditions his projects often face. With an emphasis on contextual design, his housing experience includes commercial, institutional, affordable, senior, high-end residential and great camp design projects. Barry is an active member of the American Institute of Architects and has extensive experience in all phases of the architectural process from project inception through construction administration.

Bringing Sustainable Design to Low-Income Affordable Senior & Veterans Housing

Net Zero Energy (NZE) Ready in the North Country By Barry Halperin, AIA, Principal, Chairperson of the Board, Beardsley Architects + Engineers (NZE) Ready efficiency levels are Cambray Court Apartments in Gouverneur, NY and Sunrise Acres Phase III Housing, located in Hogansburg, NY.

Campbray Court Apartments; Photo Credit: John Griebsch


s the building stock in Upstate New York continues to age and technology continues to advance our abilities as architects to provide energy efficiency on all our projects, it becomes ever more important to consider our options and opportunities to deliver affordable and sustainable buildings to our clients. In the multifamily residential market sector this opportunity is amplified, since energy costs, or savings, are often passed on to the building owners

and tenants. In many areas of New York State, there is also a strong need for subsidized senior housing with support services and upgraded buildings. (LeadingAge, 2013) In the North Country especially, sustainability is not sought after for the popularity of sustainable design in the mainstream society, but as a result of the climate and conditions which necessitate energy efficient design. Two such projects which emphasize this ethos by achieving Net Zero Energy

Cambray Court Apartments is a 3-story apartment building located on the shores of the Oswegatchie River in Gouverneur, NY, approximately 40 miles northeast of the City of Watertown. The project included 71 one-bedroom apartments for low income senior living. It replaced a series of 1960’s era townhouse style apartments which had reached the end of their useful life, were costly to operate, and were located within a flood prone portion of the site which was subject to occasional springtime flooding requiring some residents to evacuate their homes. The design incorporates common areas to encourage community building and regular interaction between the residents and optimizes views of the river on a constrained and physically challenging site. With approximately 13% of the population in the area exceeding 65 years of age and 25% of those persons living in poverty, the project fills a strong need in the area for affordable senior housing options. Energy efficiency of the building’s systems and appliances was a primary project goal from the onset of the project Q3 | NOVEMBER 2019 | PAGE 15

Campbray Court Apartments; Photo Credit: John Griebsch

and was one of the first publicly funded developments in New York State to utilize a mechanical variable refrigerant flow (VRF) system by seeking a waiver from the project’s primary funding agency, New York Homes and Community Renewal (HCR). By utilizing this unique system, the project was able to reduce the pEUI of the building to 23.7 kBtu/sf/yr, an approximately 57% reduction in energy use over the previous townhomes that existed on site. With a planned 200kW off-site photovoltaic array estimated to produce 241,000 kWh/year yet to be built, it is anticipated that the building will offset 69% of electrical use (54% of Total Energy use) saving an estimated $30,050 in annual energy bills. A 290-kW array would be required to offset all the electrical usage. In addition to being Net Zero Energy ready, the project also meets or exceeds Energy Star Homes v3.1, ICC 700, and NYSERDA PON 2309 requirements. Continuing Northeast for another hour and a half, you reach Hogansburg, NY and the community of Akwesasne: PAGE 16 | Q3 | NOVEMBER 2019

Kanienkehaka (Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe) Territory. This sovereign Nation straddles the international border between the United States and Canada on approximately 16, 359 acres of undisputed land. Being in a climate with a winter design temperature of -15°F and summer design temperatures of 85°F (dry bulb) and 71°F (wet bulb), residential heating is one of the largest economic factors in maintaining affordable housing here. Couple that with the tradition of the Mohawk people to look seven generations ahead in making decisions that affect their community, and this mindset towards preservation, conservation, and responsibility to live in harmony with all living things necessitates a dedication to design all Tribal projects with sustainability in mind. Since 1998, Beardsley Architects & Engineers has worked with the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe and Akwesasne Housing Authority (AHA) on several projects. The Sunrise Acres Phase III, project is the newest iteration of two previous low-income housing projects for

elder members of the community with special needs and homeless veterans. The first phase which occurred in 1998 utilized conventional construction with an EUI of 66.6 kBtu/SF/yr, while the second phase in 2011 included sustainable design features such as 30 kW on-site solar photovoltaics, an insulated concrete form (ICF) building envelope designed to be 15% better than code, a geothermal system with water-to-water heat pumps and radiant flooring with solar thermal augmentation, an exhaust energy recovery ventilation (ERV) system, a solar thermal pre-heated domestic hot water system. Energy conserving equipment and fixtures rounded out the sustainable building features. While the Sunrise Acres Phase II project did not achieve net zero energy at the time of construction, it did exhibit a demonstrated EUI of 30.2 kBTU/SF/yr and 60% energy savings and 57% cost savings over the conventional apartment construction in Phase I. On-site renewable energy produces about 23% of the energy used. Sunrise Acres Phase III sought to go even further than the Phase II project with the construction of two new buildings adjacent to the Phase I project site. A 12-unit Seniors building with 10 one-bedroom and 2 two-bedroom independent living apartments and a 6-unit Veterans building housing 4 one-bedroom and 2 two-bedroom units were accompanied by kitchen, community room, laundry, lounge, offices, and a library on site. Sustainable design strategies that bring the project to net-zero energy include an air source variable refrigerant flow (VRF) HVAC system, exhaust ERV, water conserving fixtures, ICF envelope (R-30 walls & R-50 roof), and 329kW offsite solar photovoltaics with net metering which are planned as part of the Akwesasne Housing Authority’s “Go Solar Project” to serve residential buildings in the community that do not already have existing photovoltaics. High efficiency LED lighting and solar daylighting tubes also help to offset electrical usage within the building. An ERV system is also utilized for ventilation purposes within the building.

these projects to providing sustainable, low-income housing for some of the most economically disadvantaged groups in our country speaks volumes to their beliefs in providing affordable housing opportunities for all and provides a great example for future projects to come. n Additional Reading: Senior Housing in New York State, February 2013, Leading Age New York. Sunrise Acres was developed in three phases: Phase three is the newest iteration of two previous low-income housing projects.

The estimated pEUI for the entire project with both buildings included is 25.8 kBtu/sf/yr with an Energy Cost Intensity of approximately $1.43/SF/yr. This represents a net reduction in energy use of approximately 61% and a reduction in energy cost intensity of $1.02/SF/ yr compared to the conventional construction utilized in Phase I. With the addition of the solar PV and completion of the project in 2019, this project will meet NYSERDA PON 2309 and Energy Star Homes v3.1 Tier III (Net Zero) efficiency levels. Only 185kW of the proposed offsite solar farm will be needed to offset all the remaining electrical consumption of Sunrise Acres Phase I, Phase II and Phase

III. The remaining energy production will be available through a community net metering program to offset electrical use for low income residents of the Akwesasne. These projects demonstrate the possibility of achieving Net Zero Energy (NZE) Ready design in one of the most economically and climatically challenging regions of New York State. By utilizing a myriad of energy saving strategies in design combined with the commitment of the client to strive for further efficiencies by supplementing these projects with solar arrays they are tracking towards achieving Net Zero Energy status. The dedication of the clients on

Sustainable Construction in Indian Country, US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Akwesasne Housing Authority Community-Scale AHA Go Solar Initiative. files/2017/11/f46/6-Akwesasne.pdf Beardsley Architects + Engineers has been committed to design with sustainability and environmental awareness in mind as a business practice long before it became widespread. The firm has been in practice in Auburn, NY since 1898 and provides full-service design across multiple disciplines and market sectors.

Q3 | NOVEMBER 2019 | PAGE 17

Build your team at the AIA Career Center. Put us to work for you. Post your firm’s open positions with confidence and connect with 30,000+ highly qualified architecture and design professionals. Visit the AIA Career Center today.

PAGE 18 | Q3 | NOVEMBER 2019


267 Carleton Avenue, Suite 301 | Central Islip, New York 11722 631.650.1200 |

Q3 | NOVEMBER 2019 | PAGE 19

Blake Middleton FAIA, LEED AP was the Partner-in-Charge for The House. Deborah Moelis AIA, CPHD is a Principal, and was the Project Architect. Both are based in Handel Architects’ New York office. Handel Architects LLP | 120 Broadway, 6th Floor | New York, NY 10271 | © Handel Architects LLP

The House at Cornell Tech, Roosevelt Island, New York City

Designing and Building the World’s Largest & Tallest Passive House Building

By Blake Middleton FAIA LEED AP, Partner & Deborah Moelis AIA CPHD, Principal, Handel Architects LLP The moral imperative to make big changes is inescapable as Al Gore said in An Inconvenient Truth. Our work to create the largest and tallest Passive House building in the world is our answer to this call for change. Though the technology and systems for creating these hyper-energy-efficient buildings had been around since the 1980s, no one had built a project of this scale and density. As the name Passive House indicates, it was originally developed for single-family homes and had been used effectively for low-rise and mid-rise buildings in Europe. But at 26 stories and 352 units of housing, nothing like The House at Cornell Tech had been built before.

PAGE 20 | Q3 | NOVEMBER 2019


his was a challenge well worth undertaking. Passive House is a game-changer for how all buildings can be designed in the future. Currently the most stringent design protocol for energy efficiency, Passive House is often implemented for projects trying to achieve net-zero energy goals. Passive House structures use an extraordinarily low amount of energy for heating and cooling—60 to 80 percent less than a typical building of a similar size and use. Roughly half the energy used by homes and commercial buildings is devoted to temperature control. Over the course of a building’s lifetime, a Passive House design can dramatically reduce its carbon footprint, while at the same time provide a healthier, more comfortable indoor environment. In addition to Passive House, The House at Cornell Tech also earned a LEED for Homes Midrise v2010 Platinum certification, the highest tier available within the LEED program. A majority of

Greenhouse Gas Emissions in NYC (2018)





Commercial & Institutional 14.4 MtCO2e Manufacturing & Construction 4.4 MtCO2e Residential 16.9 MtCO2e Non-buildings 13.4 MtCO2e

“In New York City alone, almost 36 million tons of CO2 equivalent are emitted each year to power buildings. Imagine the impact of reducing carbon emission by 60 to 80% if all buildings, new and old, were to meet Passive House Standards.“ the LEED points derive from the Energy & Atmosphere credit category, where the building is designed to perform 30 percent better than the ASHRAE 90.1 2007 standard. To design and construct this groundbreaking building, our team researched and oversaw the implementation of a host of new products, procedures, and innovative details. Sketches showing overlapping vapor barriers, tape methods, continuity of insulation, and thermal separation of metals became the new normal for the construction site. Keeping the project on time and on budget required a major coordination effort on our part — communicating Passive House needs and

technologies among agencies, contractors, 19 consultants, and 3 clients. In this brief overview, we are sharing some of our strategies and experiences to show a clearer path for those who are contemplating Passive House for their projects.

Taking the Leap


ehind every significant building is a client with a vision. When Cornell won the hotly contested competition to build a tech campus on New York City’s Roosevelt Island, a cornerstone of its proposal was to create the most environmentally sustainable and energy-efficient buildings possible. “There was tremendous ambition in the whole

project for sustainability, which was fully consistent with Cornell’s mission to pioneer new technologies,” says Andrew Winters, director of capital projects and planning at Cornell. It’s worth noting that there was no contractual requirement for the residential tower at Cornell Tech to be Passive House — our client, The Hudson Companies and Related Development, voluntarily chose to pursue it. Hudson had already built the first Platinum-rated LEED for Homes multifamily mid-rise in 2011, and seriously considered Passive House for an earlier market-rate project. Their experience, combined with Related’s expertise in sustainable design, gave them insight Q3 | NOVEMBER 2019 | PAGE 21

cost and complexity in the project, we kept everything else as conventional as possible: The building itself is a cast-inplace concrete structure and has standard materials and finishes for the interiors. It is important to note that Passive House design oftentimes requires only off-the-shelf technology; it is the precise assembly, detailing, and proper selection of systems that is the key to successfully meeting its performance requirements.

RHW.2 (Vienna, Austria), ARGE Atelier Hayde & Architektur Maurer & Partner | As part of his due diligence, David Kramer of Hudson toured a 20-story Passive House office building that had just been completed in Vienna, along with a mid-rise Passive House dorm there. “I didn’t want to be making too much history,” he says. “The building needed to be like a Prius. It had to work without the kids being aware of what was going on.” | Photo courtesy of

into both green building programs. “Passive House is the real deal,” says Hudson president David Kramer. “A lot of LEED is not that impactful—you get points for being near a subway station, but that doesn’t mean your building is any better.” Hence, our team was already contemplating Passive House when Cornell issued an RFP in late 2012 for an innovative residential high-rise. Hudson and Related teamed up with our firm, Handel Architects, along with Brooklyn-based builder Monadnock Construction. We had previously worked together on a residential high-rise called Riverwalk Point, close by the new campus. This experience and a deep understanding of residential high-rise design in New York, coupled with our proposal to create an armature of increasing levels of sustainable design features depending on available funding, were key to our selection for the project. Of course, it was critical that the building be financially feasible to build. For a previous market-rate project, Hudson had calculated that Passive House was too risky. “There’s a risk-return equation when you’re doing things for the first time,” Kramer explains. “We blinked at the last second because we knew we’d be paying a premium in construction costs and didn’t think that we’d be able to get higher rents. And we weren’t sure we PAGE 22 | Q3 | NOVEMBER 2019

“Passive House design oftentimes requires only off-the-shelf technology; it is the precise assembly, detailing, and proper selection of systems that is the key to successfully meeting its performance requirements.“ could make it up through savings in operating costs.” But for The House at Cornell Tech, the project was structured as a partnership between the university and the developers; Cornell took a significant equity stake in the building to mitigate the developer’s risk and to keep rents affordable for students.

Pushing the Envelope


he basic theory behind a Passive House building is straightforward. They have a heavily insulated, tightly sealed building envelope, combined with energy-efficient mechanical equipment, to dramatically reduce the energy needed for heating, cooling, and ventilation. These three aspects of the building—the envelope, the ventilation system, and the heating and cooling system— were the trickiest to design and construct properly. To minimize

To create the building’s high-performance skin, we minimized the amount of glazing to 23 percent and designed a highly insulated wall with R-values ranging from R-5 to R-40 for an overall average of R-19. We opted to use a prefabricated metal panel system, with windows inserted and sealed in the shop. The panels had several advantages: cost-effectiveness, better quality control in the factory, and faster on-site construction. In concept, a panelized wall would inherently have fewer joints on the building perimeter than, say, a unitized curtain wall, thus making it easier to achieve airtightness. That was the theory, at least. But the devil was in the details. “Getting that panelized system to the level of performance we needed was incredibly challenging,” says Lois Arena, director of Passive House services at Steven Winter Associates. “The idea was to create continuous insulation, but in practice there was metal edge meeting metal edge. In retrospect, we would have designed the panels differently, with a thermal break at the end, in order to minimize what had to be done on site.” Indeed, in Passive House, eliminating thermal bridges—a situation where exposed elements made of metal or concrete conduct heat or cold into/from the interior of a building—was as important as airtightness. In the course of developing the details to meet the rigorous thermal bridging standards, it turned out that a critical component that allowed the building to function as designed was a little piece of plastic, specifically engineered by the exterior wall contractor, which thermally separated the outer layer of the façade from the interior.

The façade was created from Eastern Exterior Wall Systems’ Mega Panel: each panel, a story tall and 30 to 36 feet wide. Window frames are thermally broken with triple glazing. Windows were installed into the Mega Panel in the shop to ensure air tightness. The Mega Panels were hoisted onto the building via a tower crane and set on anchors.

- A3 -

Staying Within the Energy Budget

Fig A.1: Knight Wall MFI-System ThermaBracket Assembly with Isolators

Fig A.2: Knight Wall MFI-System ThermaBracket Assembly Blown Up View

Thermal Clip

Slab Isolator

Insulated CMU Block

Load-bearing Isolator

Vapor Permeable Gasket

Vapor Permeable Tapes

Warm Edge IGU Glass Spacers

Vapor Retarder

Many off-the-shelf products are available to mitigate thermal bridging and air infiltration.


nique among sustainable building programs, Passive House has an absolute threshold on how much energy a building can use per square foot, not just for cooling and heating but also for the whole building. This includes power to run equipment, lighting, elevators, and appliances. This limit makes the program incredibly effective at reducing energy use, since the building has to be intrinsically efficient—it’s not possible, for example, to install a slew of fans to circulate air or a cluster of pumps to circulate water and still meet the energy budget. Some potential solutions had to be rejected out of hand because they required too much power. “The building design was like a sculpture that was constantly being molded based on Passive House criteria and calculations,” says Alan Hajtler, Hudson’s director of construction. The density of the building—one person per 550 square feet— compounded this challenge. “We had a constant battle with the total energy budget,” says Arena. “The more people per square foot, the harder it is.” (Currently, Passive House does not take into account differences in building usage or number of occupants.)

It took the team months to resolve which ventilation and heating/cooling system would be optimal for this project. In Passive House, an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) extracts hot and cold energy from the exhaust air and uses it to treat the fresh supply air. But how to get the air to and from each space in a building this big without busting the energy budget was a major challenge. One option, found often in smaller PH buildings, was to install individual ERV’s within each apartment allowing for a self contained ventilation system. We determined that such a “unitized” approach would cost an additional $1.5 million due to increased building height and horizontal ductwork. Also, it quickly became clear that the maintenance for 352 small ERV’s was going to be quite a burden on the building management. Our team decided upon the alternative: a “centralized” system. In this instance, each apartment has vertical supply and exhaust shafts that provide a pathway for air to travel to one of two energy recovery ventilators that sit on the building’s rooftop. Finding ERV’s large enough and suitable for this project was a challenge. The initial concept envisioned four ERV’s, but these were costly, space-intensive and strained the energy budget. Through resourcefulness of Related’s team, we

Q3 | NOVEMBER 2019 | PAGE 23

Energy Recovery Ventilator

Unitized Ventilation System

Bathrooms / Kitchens Exhaust air exits the building at the roof after passing through the ERV so heat energy can be captured

Fresh Air Tempered supply air provided to all bedrooms and living rooms in separate supply risers

Many Passive House projects in the US and Europe employ “through-wall� ERVs, which take up very little space and provide the ventilation system for an apartment or home. However, each unit requires an air filter that needs to be changed regularly. In a 26-story high-rise, with more than 500 occupants and irregular tenancies, the maintenance costs for changing that many individual filters would have been prohibitive.

ERV were able to procure two customized large units to meet the project’s ventilation needs. For heating and cooling, we opted for a low-energy variable refrigerant flow (VRF) system. Condensers that treat the refrigerant for heating and cooling sit on a thermally broken balcony off the side of the building, and each condenser pushes refrigerant to two half-floors for greater efficiency (floors on the north might need heating while those the south might need cooling). Our engineers at Buro Happold, together with Luke Falk, head of Strategy and Product at Related, determined that with such a high-performance wall and relatively small space to condition in each apartment, the individual evaporators needed only to have a quarter-ton capacity. However, there was nothing on the market with less than a one-ton cooling capacity. Despite the quantity involved (over 500 evaporators), the available suppliers were not prepared to provide a customized unit. We hope the market will respond with smaller capacity units in the near future.

Exhaust Air Fresh Air

Central Ventilation System

The central air distribution system at The House at Cornell Tech has only a small number of air filters in the rooftop ERVs: easy to maintain without disturbing tenants.

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Getting the Go-Ahead


btaining city approvals for the building was definitely more complicated than for a regular project. There were technical issues where the requirements for Passive House and the city building code came into conflict. In one instance, the amount of ventilation required by code, Passive House, LEED, and Energy Star were all different and had to be reconciled. “There’s an argument to be made that over-ventilation is bad, since it results in extremely dry air, and you can’t meet your energy budget if you are constantly heating and cooling so much air,” says Arena. Fortunately, although Passive House called for a lower continuous flow rate due to the tightness of the building, it had a higher air-change rate per hour, meeting the intent of the code if not the letter.

The site location and orientation were particularly advantageous to meeting Passive House goals. The compact shape, with minimal east/west exposures, when combined with oblique angles at corners were conducive to passive control of thermal transmission.

West Elevation

But the larger hurdle was getting through a public design review process, a condition for all projects at Cornell Tech, which is located on city-owned land. The city’s Public Design Commission felt that the building should have an all-glass façade, based on a pre-disposition that it should be more transparent. “Getting the design commission on board for something that deviated from the standard playbook for a Manhattan apartment building was the most challenging part of the process,” says Winters. “Those are not the easiest conversations to have.” We had to explain how the wall needed to be mostly opaque to meet Passive House requirements, and that a façade with deep extrusions or indentations would be less efficient. The PDC eventually endorsed the position, both on aesthetics and the underlying sustainable design mission.

South Elevation Q3 | NOVEMBER 2019 | PAGE 25

that had a window and a door as part of a blower door test. “It met the Passive House standard, but we could see that every pinhole was leaking smoke,” says Aleksandr Yelizarov, vice president and project executive at Monadnock Construction. One of the key challenges was to make the building airtight working with a construction crew that was used to building high-rises a certain way. Maintaining the integrity of the vapor barrier is critical in Passive House; instead of caulking, tape is used to seal the openings for windows and other details. “The number of times I heard, ‘That’s not normally how we do things’ was exponential,” says Arena. Monadnock pre-emptively hired a consultant to train all the subcontractors on how to apply the tape properly.

Before Panel Supports Sealed

after Panel Supports Sealed The advantages of the panel system were factory quality control, speed of delivery, and fewer exterior joints to be sealed. But each panel had to be seated on the floor slab, and each connection point needed to be sealed at the air barrier. There are more than 123 supports per floor, and more than 3,000 on the entire building. Our initial strategy was to create self-sealing flaps attached to the panel in the factory, then applied in the field. This proved to be less efficient than installing the lower half of the barrier in the field, with individual patches at each panel clip.

Fixing Things on the Fly


oing into the project, we knew that even if the design worked perfectly on paper, there were so many unknowns that could come up during construction. While we tried to work out everything ahead of time, many of the details that were planned in preconstruction ended up being changed onsite. “No matter how hard the design team works on developing details early on, it’s very hard to encompass all conditions to accomplish an airtight building,” says Louis Schwartz, senior project super-

PAGE 26 | Q3 | NOVEMBER 2019

intendent at Brooklyn-based Monadnock Construction. “You really need to get the trades involved, the people who are actually doing the work, and educate and train them.” Ryan Lobello, our associate in charge of construction administration, worked closely with Vidaris, our façade consultant, SWA, and Monadnock to carefully custom tailor each of myriad details involved. Monadnock’s construction management team went to extra lengths to understand Passive House. The entire team went through rigorous Passive House contractor certification training, which culminated in building a 10-by-20-foot mockup

The firm also set up rules for the construction site, warning against leaning building materials against walls and reminding crews to alert a supervisor immediately of any accidental punctures of the airtight barrier. “We told them that they weren’t going to Passive House prison, but how important it was to let someone know if they made a mistake so we could repair it,” says Schwartz. The construction team led by Yelizarov also came up with a fix for a major crisis that threatened to derail the schedule. After the first ten floors had already gone up, the factory-installed vapor barrier started to detach from the panels. To keep the project on schedule, the contractor developed a procedure for reinstalling new vapor barrier to the panels on site. The team also discovered efficiencies and solved installation problems as the panels were erected, yielding a super-tight building that heroically passed Passive House’s notably difficult blower-door test, with results that were four times better than required.

Prior to testing, we had to submit various air barrier documents, including this diagram, to the Passive House Institute. The documents were used to verify that all the locations were detailed properly, and that all exterior surfaces, including the slab beneath the building and the roof, were thoroughly analyzed.

In order to test for air leakage and confirm that it met the critical Passive House requirement of 50 pascals/min or less, the entire building had to be pressurized. This required much forethought about where to seal off the openings, including the elevator shafts, ERV intakes, and so forth. Then pressure fans were installed for the test.

Q3 | NOVEMBER 2019 | PAGE 27

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Finish Line


Sendero Verde in East Harlem is a three building, 760,000 SF complex with 698 affordable apartments all designed to Passive House criteria. Now under construction, it includes community facilities and a new school.

he building finished construction in June 2017, ahead of schedule and within budget. The entire team celebrated on the rooftop. “It felt great—it was quiet and comfortable, even though we probably had more people than it was rated for,” says Arena. Over the last three years, The House at Cornell Tech has drawn much attention from builders, other educational institutions, and municipalities both local and overseas. It has been an important catalyst for change, both as a paradigm for creating dramatic energy efficiency as well as opening minds to the efficacy of Passive House when scaled up to this size and height. Indeed, the Passive House protocol is being incorporated into significant private and public projects. Handel Architects was designated by the Department of Housing and Preservation to deliver the first 100-percent affordable housing project requiring Passive House certifi-

Owner Cornell University The Hudson Companies, Inc. The Related Companies, L.P. Architect Handel Architects LLP Gary Handel FAIA Blake Middleton FAIA Deborah Moelis AIA CPHD Ryan Lobello AIA CPHD Louis Koehl AIA CPHD Erin Shnier AIA Ju Kim AIA

cation for a City sponsored competition. Now under construction, we expect this East Harlem development to show that substantial energy efficiency and affordability can be converging objectives. Up in Boston, Handel Architects’ Winthrop Center is now under construction; when complete it will be the largest commercial Passive House building in the world. And in 2019, Handel Architects was selected to design a new Passive house dormitory for the University of Toronto Scarborough. We expect these projects to further advance the idea that Passive House can and should be commonplace in buildings regardless of their use or size. The House is a groundbreaking example of sustainable architecture - the largest and tallest Passive House building in the world. For the entire team, this project has been a successful beta test to meet our moral imperative to minimize the carbon footprint of buildings. It’s our answer to the call for making big and meaningful change to combat global warming. n

Building Landscape Future Green Design Corp Geotechnical Techtonic Specifications Construction Specifications Elevator VDA (Van Deusen & Associates) Accessibility Steven Winter Associates

Passive House, LEED Steven Winter Associates

Civil/BPP Philip Habib & Associates

Construction Manager Monadnock Construction Inc.

Hardware Architectural Openings

MEP, FP Buro Happold

Security/IT ESCC

Exterior Wall Vidaris Inc.

Acoustical Lane Engineering Consulting, P.C.

Structural Engineer Buro Happold

Lighting Buro Happold

Code Design 2147

Q3 | NOVEMBER 2019 | PAGE 29

Baxt Ingui Architects, PC, is an architecture and interior design firm with extensive experience in residential, institutional, and commercial projects that aims to create well composed spaces, placing a high value on ensuring each project is well crafted, visually timeless, and serves its inhabitants for many years. Their design process relies on collaboration with their clients and extends to the builders, consultants, and craftsmen with whom they work. It is their goal to integrate function, aesthetics and building systems economically and minimize the environmental impact, using the standards of LEED and Passive House certification. Numerous projects in our 40 year history have received design awards. The firm is an active volunteer and supporter in many Brooklyn not-for-profit efforts, most notably, Brooklyn Community Housing and Services (, where BIA has provided technical assistance for over 25 years and designed four projects pro bono.

By Will Connor, RA, Baxt Ingui Architects PC with contributions from Michael Ingui, AIA; Ben Baxt, AIA; and Alyssa Kargl of Baxt Ingui Architects PC John Mitchell, RA, Partner, Building-Type, LLC, and Kevin Brennan, Brennan Brennan Insulation and Airtightness

Passive House: Lessons Learned on the way to a Systematic Approach


n the worldwide effort to drastically reduce carbon emissions, there is a widespread agreement that buildings are a major contributor. Reducing the CO2 output of buildings may be among the most immediate practical steps, an effort that requires building systems and envelopes to be super high performance. Among the high-performance protocols, Passive House is emerging as a methodical, measurable and replicable approach. Passive House is gaining wide acceptance around the world. In the case of new construction, Passive goes beyond simple metrics such as R values and watts per s.f. It is an approach that addresses and predicts the heat gains and losses through every square inch of the envelope and every linear inch of fenestration. The result is a construct that is often three times more energy efficient than a well-built structure designed to meet current energy codes. There is little rationale for not constructing new buildings to Passive standards, particularly now that materials and equipment options have been expanded. The pool of experienced contractors is growing. Costs are falling. PAGE 30 | Q3 | NOVEMBER 2019

But what about the enormous stock of existing construction? Many of our projects are Historic Masonry Retrofits and a large percentage of those homes are in historically protected districts. The houses, while beautiful examples of the 19th century faรงades and interiors, often have issues that have become increasingly troublesome as the decades roll on. These include significant faรงade restoration issues, structural problems, and in most cases, antiquated building systems. Passive House addresses all of these areas of concern. Passive House design breathes new life into older buildings. Passives Houses are healthier and more pleasant homes and offer many other benefits of high-performance buildings. The lessons learned from Passive House detailing can improve the design of every project in every firm. Initially, the impetus for embracing Passive House construction was the environmental benefits of a home that uses 70% less energy than typical construction. Smart choices in heating water, clothes drying and cooking and obtaining the very small amount of heating and

cooling energy from a renewable source makes net zero carbon energy home very reachable. While minimizing energy use is still a high priority for us, other benefits have become priorities for our clients. Our clients moved into their homes and we asked for feedback, we were happy to hear their enthusiasm for significant spatial and experiential benefits. These have become more frequent priorities and we underscore them early with clients who are interested in a passive home.


Without typical radiators, renovation with typical systems, ducts, soffits, there are far fewer spatial constraints as when designing a townhouse. No longer are we reluctant to place a tub near a window or expose bedrooms to street noise. Typical environment or equipment limitations no longer apply.

See Case Study of 20 Garden Place on page 31

The homeowner can reclaim the roof space, a valuable commodity in a town-

CASE STUDY 20 Garden Place First Certified Passive House in a Landmark District

This house was our second passive house and was a significant project in that it became a repeatable template for the passive house process. We created an open communication among our in-house team, the general contractor, engineers, consultants, and Passive House Certifiers with weekly on-site meetings to create details that were more efficient and more effective with every step of the way. As one of the earliest passive houses submitted to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, we worked collaboratively with a number of preservationists as well as other general contractors who were concurrently working on other projects of ours. It successfully became the first certified passive house in a historic district and created the framework that we are continuously honing. The renovation included digging out the cellar to accommodate a small-scale basketball court, a rear addition which needed to respect the neighbor’s angled wall to meet Landmarks requirements, and a rooftop addition that walks out onto a large roof deck. Where most of the exterior detail at the front façade remained intact, the interior historic detail had been previously removed. This provided a blank slate for us to design an open and contemporary layout that expanded and maximized the square footage. Our clients, a family of four, came to us looking for function and comfort, and they emphasized the need for natural light and an open flow between multiple living spaces. They also wanted a home that was healthy and as energy efficient as possible which made them a perfect candidate for a Passive House. The collaboration also included the interior furnishings by Shawn Henderson Interior Design who provided a final layer of sophistication with tasteful finishes. Photography by: Peter Peirce, Inc. | Landscaper: Gunn Landscape Architecture, PLLC | Passive House Consultant: Sam McAfee |

Q3 | NOVEMBER 2019 | PAGE 31


105 Willow Street Brooklyn Heights Passive Townhouse The owner of this home envisioned a beautiful but comfortable single-family home that could last for generations and facilitate their busy lifestyle. They wanted open spaces that connected and communicated well with each other where the interior and exterior spaces flowed effortlessly and also provided for elevator access to each level including the roof. Using passive house details, we were able to greatly reduce the mechanical system throughout the house, which enabled us to freely design the interior spaces. It allowed for a double height dining space that connected the kitchen to the living room on the floor above without any interruptions or soffits. The use of a single condensing unit for the entire 6 story home (plus a roof bulkhead) allowed for a fantastic outdoor living space at the roof, as massive dunnage and large units were not required. Another challenge for this landmarked home was that the rear façade is visible from the street, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission was adamant about retaining the character of the historic bay window at the rear wall. The insulation around the columns had to be minimized, and this was offset with an ultra-tight air seal and a continuous wrapping of rigid insulation around the steel frame to prevent thermal bridging. These careful details made the restoration of the bay possible, and it provided for a beautiful view and access to the rear yard. This project was an enthusiastic collaboration not just on the passive objective, but also the interior design and finishes, with Pat Starr Interior Design. Traditional touches like full-height wall paneling on the parlor floor and carefully selected textured furnishings balance out the contemporary, custom-designed Bocci pendant chandelier that is suspended two stories over the dining table. Every inch was utilized and designed to provide the owner with sufficient and integrated storage space that did not detract from the living spaces. Separate recreational spaces were provided for the client’s large family such as a built-in bar and entertainment space at the fourth floor, a golf simulator, a wine room in the cellar ... with all these added luxuries, who would ever want to leave this ever-entertaining passive home? Photography by: John Muggenborg Photography | Landscaper: Sabin Landscape Architects | Passive House Consultant: Cramer Silkworth |

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house. Roof decks utilizing most of the roof area are possible because of the fewer, smaller and lighter condensers. In some cases, one small very, quiet condenser replaces 4–5 large and often loud condensers. See Case Study of 105 Willow Street on page 32


heat – through continuous insulation and airtightness. Attention to orientation is for heat gain essential. The same systems that help to keep the building comfortable in winter can lead to overheating in summer if not carefully addressed. Overheating can be managed through glazing selection, response to orientation, shading devices, and strategically placed trees and other vegetation.

Passive buildings have sealed walls that prevent dust, bugs, mice, as well as unwanted air infiltration. Compromised by age and traditional construction, many of our typical townhouses get their “fresh air” through tiny cracks and holes, which is also how bugs and vermin can easily come and go. For example, Passive methods, the floor joists are wrapped (airsealed) before pocketed into the sealed party wall. This creates a sealed envelope that allows the users to control if, how and where fresh air is introduced.


The combination of sealed walls, better insulation, and triple glazed windows with multiple gaskets drastically reduce street noise. Quiet, serene spaces no longer need to be limited to the back of the home.

At first glance, this detail is not wildly different from a typical interior gut renovation scenario in many townhouses. Separating materials that conduct cold through an assembly has long been a goal in any wall assembly. In a passive home, intense focus must be given to the elimination of thermal building. We know that internal studwork that physically touches the exterior masonry allows enough thermal transfer to nearly negate the effects of the insulation layer. Just as in typical construction assemblies, considering vapor drive in the assembly is also vital. We have found it best to use ‘smart’ membranes that have the ability to expand and contract during the seasons to allow vapor to pass, when it is unwanted and retained when it is beneficial. This allows for an airtight but ‘vapor permeable’ assembly to manage humidity.


Passive house owners can tell the difference in air quality, one of the most appreciated aspects of a Passive House. Energy recovery ventilators (ERV) deliver filtered, fresh air at nearly room temperature while also regulating moisture. ERVs are constantly running at a low speed without user interaction, but at a low electricity draw. They can stabilize humidity – especially in summer months – and filter incoming air from contaminants and pollution, noticeably alleviating health issues like allergies.

Below is one pro-typical detail refined in successive projects, easily adapted to satisfy those objectives in a rouge of situations.


Passive House is the logical path to net-zero. Without first significantly reducing energy use with a better envelope, achieving net-zero with renewable energy sources, such as solar panels is quite difficult. Reducing heating and cooling loads first is a key ingredient. See Case Study of 78 3rd Place on page 34

To achieve a high-performance building, special attenuation is devoted to: •

thermal bridging

vapor management

integrity of the air barrier



Lastly, the service cavity – the interior fur out installed immediately behind the finishes: this accomplishes a few things. First, the furring itself is important to hold the smart membrane in place. The pressure of blown in insulation causes the air barrier to bulge out and a typical staple is not strong enough to hold this layer in place. Secondly, this allows trades like electricians and plumbers to run their lines ‘inside the envelope’ reducing the number of times you need to penetrate the air barrier. Lastly, the end user can freely hang artwork and the like without puncturing the air barrier in the future.


New York City Passive House occupants barely use their heat. When polled, the 7 homeowners that have moved into their homes used their heat less than two weeks last winter and, in most cases, only needed heat for 3 nights. Passive Houses are designed to harvest the heat from the winter sun and retain typical interior heat from sources such as lights, appliances and even the occupants’ body

Wall with the air barrier installed without the horizontal furring. Q3 | NOVEMBER 2019 | PAGE 33

CASE STUDY 78 Third Place First Passive Plus House in the United States

This Brooklyn townhouse is the first Passive Plus house in the United States aiming to achieve net-zero energy use utilizing roof top solar panels. The original house received a restoration of the front façade, a rooftop addition with mansard roof, and a large rear addition doubling the floor area. In the rear addition, the home features a sculptural steel stair housed with double height fenestration allowing light to pour down into the lower levels while the large sliding glass Zola doors allow for a comfortable indoor-outdoor experience. The extension also includes a new modern kitchen with a 48â€? gas range and a hood venting to the exterior. The original wood burning fireplace in the parlor room was retained incorporating a custom glass door enclosing the firebox. A second fireplace was added in the new top floor addition where you can also enjoy expansive views through the new floor to ceiling Zola doors to the roof deck. A south facing solar canopy installed by Brooklyn Solar Works allows the triple slider to remain open during a rainstorm as well as shades the expansive glass from the summer sun all while producing energy. BIA Interiors was inspired by the new light filled open concept, normally not seen in townhomes. Working to maintain the cohesive feeling from the original home into the new extension, a light color palette was used throughout while creating interesting pops of color and texture in the fabrics, rugs and furniture. By using Passive House standards, the need to have radiators at windows was eliminated allowing more freedom for long decorative curtains and built-ins. Minimal ductwork allowed lighting and furniture layouts that are much more flexible. The house is a true reflection of the collaboration between architect, designer and homeowner providing a fantastic space to entertain family and friends. Photography by: John Muggenborg Photography | Passive House Consultant: Sam McAfee |

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struction strategies early to ensure the design can be implemented as intended and the energy goals met.

A Certified Team — Contractor selection

Top: wall with the air barrier installed with the horizontal furring; Bottom: wall with horizontal furring and the insulation blown in (and the air barrier bulging out).

Mechanical equipment and heating, cooling and ventilation delivery systems are greatly reduced, sometimes even eliminated. With such minimal heat loss/gain and infiltration/exfiltration, temperatures and humidity within the structure are quite uniform across all seasons.


Including the Passive House Consultants from the earliest staged of the schematic design phase is essential; it ultimately saves time and money and reduces the probability of mistakes and later problems. Early coordination during design allows the creative process to move forward smoothly, without having to revisit issues that typically come up later in the project timeline. Together, the architects, engineers, consultants, and contractor develop construction details and con-

Most of the contractors with whom we worked on our early Passive Houses had never completed a Passive House. Some did not know what Passive construction was at all. We have found if the general contractor is interested in energy efficient concepts and enjoys the craft of building, that person picks up the concepts relatively quickly and enthusiastically. It is helpful for contractors to become Passive Certified Tradespeople through a contractor training course prior to construction. In New York City, AEA in Bronx NY offers courses and certification regularly. This course has benefited the construction process of our projects to such a large degree that we now ask prospective contractors for Passive projects take this course prior to accepting a bid. In one case, a decidedly ‘old-school’ contractor who was openly skeptical, took on a Passive House project. By mid-way through construction, he had purchased his own blower door, his own thermal imaging gun, and he had truly become an evangelist. See Case Study of 25 West 88 Street on page 36

Design and Site-Driven

Delays can be avoided when atypical situations such as unusual windows and doors, balconies and odd structural connections are considered and addressed in advance by the team. Identifying these points as early as possible is helpful to ensure that a builder is prepared; then holdups in the construction are reduced or avoided. In addition to the architect’s typical focus on design, through construction it is regular practice in our office to hold frequent (typically weekly) walkthrough meetings. We do this for a number of reasons. It is imperative to identify any discrepancies or issues with the passive envelope and deal with them immediately. Dealing with them later is rarely an option.

Blower Door Test as a Tool

A major threshold on the road to certification is air tightness. A blower test pressurizes and depressurizes the home to determine the volume of air leakage through the envelope. (measured as ‘Air Changes per Hour at 50 pascals pressure’ or ACH 50). In a typical townhouse, around 10.0 ACH 50 are common, which means every energy input is needed to make up for that much heat/ cool loss. 0.6 ACH 50 qualifies the home for new construction certification or 1.0 ACH 50 for ‘enerPHit’, the standard for renovation. The house would also need to meet other parameters, such as primary energy use.

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CASE STUDY 25 W. 88th Street Manhattan’s First Passive House

The design of this house is exciting in many ways. It is Manhattan’s first Certified Passive House, Certified LEED for Home Platinum and it is in a NYC Landmark district. The renovation consisted of restoring the Renaissance Revival style front façade, originally built in 1888-89 by Thom & Wilson, by bringing back the ornamental details and the entire stoop entry that was previously removed in the early 1940’s. We built upon the unique design of this brownstone by including a rooftop, a rear addition and multiple architectural details such as archways to create a more open floor plan, a sculptural interior staircase, larger doors, larger windows for more natural light without compromising air leakage, and efficient and cost-effective mechanical systems, including solar panels to run the entire house. In addition, the five-story townhouse also includes several amenities from a finished cellar, wine room, billiards room, playroom, modern kitchen, multiple bedrooms, a yoga studio, entertainment room and exterior terraces. BIA Interiors enhanced the newly designed open floor plan by integrating a light and neutral color palette with the use of lighter materials such as plush fabrics and natural woods. The designers worked closely with the client to incorporate their existing pieces from living abroad and many travels, while adding modern touches such as sculptural lighting and textured wallpapers. To balance the more traditional feel of the home, BIA Interiors selected a few new furniture pieces that helped make the space feel more modern and relaxed accommodating the family’s everyday lifestyle while also being a great space for entertaining and social gatherings. Photography by: Peter Peirce, Inc. | Landscaper: Project Plant LLC | Passive House Consultant: Sam McAfee |

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ects is also LEED Platinum and another is the first Passive Plus house in the U.S. The projects have been or are being built by 8 different contractors. We have used 5 different mechanical engineers, and 6 different teams within the office. Only one of the contractors had ever done a Passive house before. Many of them were able to achieve certification using his or her preference in detailing and materials. The constant among them was the basic Passive House value and concepts. We realized the combined experiences represented a huge pool of experience that should be shared.

We quickly realized that waiting until late in the construction process to perform a blower door test was anxiety producing. What happens if the ACH threshold is not met? How do we find the leaks? How do we fix them? Consequently, we now insist that multiple intermediate blower door tests be performed in Consultant Services to perform multiple tests are contracted from the beginning. The builder is aware of the key points when these should occur. This way the integrity of the envelope is confirmed before finishes are installed, when it is easy to find and fix issues.

Collaborative Approach

In more than 40 years as a firm, collaboration, both internal and beyond, has been the foundation of the firm’s culture. Planned as well as informal internal experience and resource sharing is a high priority and is constant. With Passive House, that practice has been expanded beyond firm to include our entire construction community. The culture of collaboration has evolved from intra-firm to be frequent “all team” meetings with clients, consultants, sub-contractors and vendors throughout the entire life of the project. Of the 16 projects with which we have been or are now involved, 7 are certified and occupied and 9 are in the design or construction process. Almost all are in a NYC Landmark District, one of the proj-

As projects were being constructed, the project teams (contractor, consultants, engineers, architect) negotiated conditions often specific to that project. Often, the outcomes were better or more cost-effective methods, construction details and/or sequencing. One example is the air sealing to seal the exterior walls of the homes. There are many products and methods available. Each contractor has gravitated towards a preferred method. Some prefer plywood sheets with taped seems: It’s a familiar material and easy to work. Others are more comfortable with fabric air barrier and tape systems from a single manufacturer. This is indicative of a lesson: there is a wide range of means and methods available on the road to Passive performance. Each contractor would offer hands-on input that resulted in improving our details. But these updates were living “inside” that project. Even if they were circulating through to the office, they were not benefiting the local building community as a whole. Thus born, was the first G.C. Collaborative.

The first meeting was a bit tense with everyone hesitant to jump in. By the end, there was lively and open give and take. The take-away was numerous tips, ideas and “what-ifs”, with literally pages of notes. Now out on-site brain-storming gatherings are events to which the builders, consultants and our office look forward; they typically pack the house. It has been a remarkably helpful process. We recommend this to all building communities working on Passive projects. While the craft of traditional construction has evolved steadily but slowly over thousands of years modern Passive House means and methods are evolving extremely rapidly. Sharing experiences and resources has rationalized what to some is a complex process, to logical concepts and a orderly system. Passive Houses go beyond fulfilling a user’s functional objectives, and providing significant enhancements to their daily lives, they make a significant contribution to CO2 reduction. Along the way all of the players from the clients to the crafts people can be part of fun, creative and productive process. They have been immensely rewarding experiences. n

We began bringing the General Contractors with which we work together and began to meet regularly to discuss their current Passive House projects. We learned what works, what doesn’t, pitfalls and hurdles. The meetings are usually held at an active Passive House jobsite. Initially, this collaborative approach was met with reluctance and skepticism. Attendance at the first meeting relied on capitalizing on our long-standing relationships with the builders. These firms regularly compete for our work.

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NOV ‘19 A rchitecture new yor k state is a quarterly publication developed by AIA New York State, 50 State Street, Albany, NY 12207. For questions, comments and editorial content ideas, contact Robin Styles-Lopez, Director of Communications at or 518.449.3334. PAGE 38 | Q3 | NOVEMBER 2019