Passive House In the Press

Passive House has regularly appeared in the American press since a groundbreaking article in the New York Times back in 2008 by Elisabeth Rosenthal. Here is a list of many of the more significant publications.

Feb 5, 2021 – An Architecture Firm’s Push to Build Net-Zero Apartments-On a Budget, by Russell Gold, The Wall Street Journal

The shiny, onyx-colored building appears alien in its drab, postindustrial Philadelphia neighborhood—the love child of a “D-volt battery and the Death Star,” as one local architecture critic put it, admiringly.

Called Front Flats, the four-story building is wrapped on all sides and roof by 492 translucent, double-sided solar panels. The building is airtight and extraordinarily energy-efficient, its developers say.

By driving down consumption and producing electricity from its solar panels, Front Flats is designed to generate its own power. But this isn’t a corporate headquarters where executives can spend lavishly on a showcase edifice. It is 28 apartments, built on a budget for renters who make below the area’s median income. One-bedroom apartments rent for under $1,400, less than the $1,750 average for the neighborhood, according to rental-listings website Zumper. READ MORE

Dec. 29, 2020 – New York’s Real Climate Challenge: Fixing Its Aging Buildings, by Patrick Sisson, New York Times

A plan to upgrade a cluster of nine unremarkable apartment buildings in Brooklyn typically would not merit a second look. But this isn’t a quick fix; the project, called Casa Pasiva, aims to be a new model for the sustainable transformation of the city’s housing stock.

Sleek new skyscrapers that incorporate the latest energy-efficient building materials like mass timber may look impressive, but when it comes to solving the climate crisis in New York, the real challenge lies in the city’s decades-old structures.

More than 90 percent of the buildings in New York today will still be standing in 2050, and nearly 70 percent of the city’s total carbon emissions come from buildings. Taken together, these facts suggest that the fate of those nine nondescript Brooklyn buildings, and others like them, is essential to cutting emissions. READ MORE

Dec. 25, 2020 – A Blueprint for Green Buildings Struggles to Catch On, by Russell Gold, The Wall Street Journal

The American Institute of Architects has for years challenged its members to design buildings to combat climate change, setting a goal to hit “net zero” edifices by 2030.

The architects have a ways to go. Last year, 27 of the 19,000 building-design firms owned by AIA members reported meeting their annual mark. That figure was an improvement: 16 firms met targets the year before, and 11 the year before that.

Buildings generate a surprisingly large share of the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. About 40% of annual emissions in the U.S. come from heating, lighting, cooling and constructing buildings, according to the AIA. READ MORE

Dec. 21, 2020 – Modular Architecture Is Back. Is It Better?, by Daniel Davis, Architect

Modular architecture is having a resurgence. Although some architects have long espoused the benefits of building in a factory instead of on-site—less waste, no weather delays, more consistency—this delivery method has remained an outlier in terms of construction techniques. But change is coming. Fueled by a favorable economic environment, new technological developments, and the COVID-19 pandemic, modular architecture is showing up in new and unexpected ways. READ MORE

Dec. 20, 2020 – Is Passive House The Answer To A Pandemic And Climate Change? These Brooklyn Developers Think So, by Lisa Chamoff, Forbes

As New Yorkers continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, now in its second wave, and with the threat of climate change looming, “passive house” developers in the country’s densest city see their building philosophy as a response to these ongoing challenges — and hope this compels buyers in a down market. 

In Brooklyn, two passive house projects in Greenwood Heights and south Park Slope and a school in Downtown Brooklyn were designed with energy efficiency in mind, but the developer also points to improved air quality as a key feature.  READ MORE

Dec. 7, 2020 – Manhattan’s ‘Most Sustainable Condominium’ Building Unveiled, by Emily Holbrook, Environment + Energy Leader

Roe Corporation, a privately held real estate company, today announced the launch of sales for what is believed to be the most sustainable condominium building ever built in New York City. Named, Charlotte of the Upper West Side, the nine-story ground-up was designed and engineered to exceed the energy and ventilation standards of the German-based Passive House Institute. One of the first new residential buildings to be constructed in the Central Park Historic District in the past 30 years, the condominium will bring seven sustainably designed full-floor residences to one of New York City’s favorite neighborhoods. READ MORE

Nov. 11, 2020 – A Passive House Architect Spreading His Wings, by Sheri Koones, Forbes

I have been in awe of the houses designed by GO Logic for several years and have included their homes in several of my books. They have been innovators in designing and building prefabricated houses as well as extremely energy efficient ones – many Passive House certified. When I heard that Matthew O’Malia, G O Logic co-founder and principal architect, and is now executive partner of OPAL architecture, his most recent endeavor,  was starting a new insulation company I was excited to hear about it, since Matthew has always been at the cutting edge of highly efficient home design I posed some questions to Matthew and here are his responses. READ MORE

Nov. 2, 2020 – Woodside Building for Technology and Design at Monash University by Grimshaw, Josephine Minutillo, Architectural Record

Oct/Nov 2020 – Learning to Live in a Passive House, by Kiley Jacques, Fine Homebuilding

Architect Wayne Turett works primarily on designing urban buildings, so this project—his own house in the country—was a bit of a departure. It was also his first attempt at Passive House certification. Almost two years into occupancy, he is still taking notes on the systems and overall performance.

In hindsight, Turett says the heat-pump water heater could have been a size larger because of its slow recovery; he has since added a mixing valve to minimize wait time. He also thought the building would have performed a little better than it does in terms of energy usage during the cold months. During warm weather, he has learned, the large window by the side-entry door adds significantly to solar heat gain; he plans to add a Lutron shade to reduce cooling needs. He has also added a motorized damper to control air leakage through the range hood. To optimize ventilation when using the induction cooktop, he feels compelled to crack a window. READ MORE

Aug. 11, 2020 – Is the Passive House Movement Getting Radical?, by Lloyd Alter, Treehugger

The North American Passive House Network (NAPHN) is “leading the transformation of the building industry to low-energy, high-performance Passive House design and construction.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) is “a global nonviolent movement to compel the world’s governments to address the climate and ecological emergency.” It has been called an “extreme anarchist group” by an energy website. British Police warn about its members who speak in “strong or emotive terms about environmental issues like climate change, ecology, species extinction, fracking, airport expansion or pollution.” READ MORE

Jan. 25, 2020 – Passive House brings awareness of ways to battle climate change in the Monterey Bay area, by James Herrera, Monterey Herald

MONTEREY – There is an initiative afoot to find ways to reduce the carbon emissions at the root of climate change by incorporating proven construction methods in housing and commercial buildings that reduce energy use by up to 90% and leave a smaller carbon footprint.

“We need to act quickly and effectively to bring carbon neutrality to the Monterey Bay area,” said Rob Nicely, president, Carmel Building and Design, who is leading the charge to find local entities to help foster the change.

“My area of expertise is in the building industry, so this is a plan for changes in that sector,” said Nicely. “If we’re to succeed in averting a climate catastrophe, it will take changes in every sector including building, transportation, manufacturing, agriculture and energy production.”

His firm is currently building a certified Passive House in Carmel Valley incorporating the techniques used to achieve energy efficiency in the all-electric home. The homeowners sought him out because of his passive house expertise. READ MORE

Sept. 27, 2019 – A 19th-Century Home in Brooklyn Gets a 21st-Century Makeover, by Tim McKeough, The New York Times

When Bobby Johnston and Ruth Mandl found the townhouse they wanted to buy in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, it had just one glaringly obvious problem: It was too nice.

“We were originally looking for something that was pretty dilapidated,” Ms. Mandl said. “And this one looked a lot more pristine than we thought we wanted.”

Mr. Johnston, 39, and Ms. Mandl, 36, are married architects who run the firm CO Adaptive, and they were keen to do a gut renovation that reflected their ideas on design and sustainability, while also making space for children. READ MORE

Sept. 27, 2019 – One of These Bed-Stuy Homes Is Not Like the Others, by Emily Gilbert, The New York Times

Bobby Johnston and Ruth Mandl, the married partners of the architecture firm CO Adaptive, transformed an 1889 single-family townhouse in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, into a two-family passive house that generates more energy than it consumes. PHOTO ESSAY

July 22, 2019 – Living in the First Passive-House High-Rise, by Kim Velsey, The New York Times

Fernando Gómez-Baquero moved into his one-bedroom apartment on Roosevelt Island one day before the building officially opened in the summer of 2017.

“I convinced them to let me come here early,” said Mr. Gómez-Baquero, the director of the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute’s Runway Startup postdoc program at Cornell Tech, the technology-based graduate school that opened on Roosevelt Island in 2017. He makes it a habit to try to arrive early in general, whether to new technology or rental housing on the Cornell Tech campus. READ MORE

July 12, 2019 – Counting Down to a Green New York, by Stephanos Chen, The New York Times

New York’s ambitious plan to fight climate change by virtually eliminating greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is underway — and the battle begins at home.

Two-thirds of the city’s planet-warming pollution is produced by buildings, primarily residential ones, according to a 2017 inventory. In spite of recent efforts, impeded in part by years of intense building, the city reduced greenhouse gas emissions by only 14.8 percent from 2005 to 2015. READ MORE

June 11, 2017 – Striving for Energy-Efficiency in New York, by Keiko Morris, The Wall Street Journal

A church and a developer have teamed up to use passive-construction standards for a 174-apartment building in Jamaica, Queens, joining a growing list of larger-scale New York City developments embracing these ultra-energy-efficient building methods.

Passive-design principles focus on creating airtight buildings and maintaining comfortable temperatures while dramatically reducing the use of mechanical heating or cooling systems. Proponents say the process, which relies on high-quality materials and components such as windows and doors as well as advanced ventilation systems, can reduce energy use for heating and cooling by as much as 90%. READ MORE

May 17, 2017 – Can expensive, ultra-green homes sell in a gritty suburban Maryland town?, by Gabriel Popkin, The Washington Post

For more than a decade, a weedy, trash-strewn vacant lot abutted the house I rented near the center of Mount Rainier, Md. When I heard a few years ago that the lot had been bought by a developer, I imagined some slick businesspeople would show up a few times, throw together a cheaply constructed building, make a quick profit and move on.

Instead, a young guy with hipster glasses, skinny jeans and slightly disheveled hair drove up in a 1984 Mercedes diesel station wagon, wrestled an old push mower out of the trunk and spent two hours whacking down the weeds. This is a real estate developer? I thought. He looked more like an indie rocker, or maybe a Web designer.

The mystery mower turned out to be John Miller, a young, ambitious developer who — with his business partner, Jessica Pitts, and their company, Flywheel Development — wants to be the Tesla of home building: visionary, disruptive, world-changing. For their debut project, he and Pitts planned to build four ultra-green townhouses in this tiny city at the edge of Prince George’s County and price them higher than any homes had ever sold for in Mount Rainier. The 1,800-square-foot homes would be built under stringent European energy guidelines seldom attempted in the United States that cut energy use to about one-fifth that of a standard house and would generate as much energy as they expended thanks to rooftop solar panels. They would pack twice the insulation of a standard code-built home and feature a combined green roof and solar panel system that had never been installed in an American dwelling. This development would not only launch Flywheel, they hoped, it would help turn sustainable building from a boutique industry into a mass movement. READ MORE

Nov. 24, 2015 – Cornell Tech Project Tests ‘Passive’ Design in the U.S., by Emily Nonko, The Wall Street Journal

A new European building method that is touted to cut energy costs by as much as 90% is going to get one of its first big U.S. tests at a new technology campus that Cornell University is developing on an island in New York City’s East River.

The first residential building on the Cornell Tech campus that is beginning to take shape on Roosevelt Island is using cutting-edge design, materials and insulation to make the tower virtually airtight. In cold weather and with little power, this so-called passive building method can keep a house’s interior temperature of approximately 55 degrees Fahrenheit for days, proponents say.

Passive design first began showing up in Germany in the 1990s, and since then a number of for-profit and nonprofit organizations have been formed throughout the world to promote the building style, certify passive homes and train architects on the method, which includes special ventilation systems that provide fresh air. READ MORE

March 27, 2015 – The Passive House in New York, by Alison Gregor, The New York Times

Nov. 26, 2014 – Just Don’t Call It a Lab, by Sandy Keenan, The New York Times

When Joy Bergelson was planning the new field station here for the University of Chicago’s department of ecology and evolution, she wanted it to be environmentally responsible. She just wasn’t sure exactly what that meant.

Concepts like “natural solar gain” and “super insulation,” which are familiar to those involved in passive house design and all but eliminate reliance on fossil fuels, were foreign to her.

But Dr. Bergelson, 52, is an evolutionary biologist and a quick study. And she knows how to surround herself with the right people. READ MORE

April 18, 2014 – Easy on the Environment, but Not Necessarily the Eyes, Matt A.V. Chaban, The New York Times

When Thomas Paino, an architect, decided to remodel a rowhouse he had bought in Long Island City, Queens, his ambitions were nothing short of trying to save the world — at least so far as a two-family home could contribute to the cause.

“Architects are on the front lines because buildings are supposed to last 50, 100 years, and they’re huge consumers of energy,” Mr. Paino said as he stood beside the rooftop greenhouse of the recently completed project, which he named the Climate Change Rowhouse. “There’s no more time to waste.”

While Mr. Paino was thinking globally, he really hoped his actions would wow locally, erasing a longtime eyesore on an otherwise intact row of turn-of-the-20th-century townhouses on 11th Street. His plan was to replace the haggard 1903 rowhouse, all but ruined by a 1970s renovation, with a state-of-the-art home that used virtually no energy. And he came up with a daring design in the hopes that neighbors, passers-by, perhaps even the world would take notice. READ MORE

Nov. 1, 2013 – Aiming for Truly Sustainable Buildings, by Alison Gregor, The New York Times

Over the last decade, the most widely recognized seal of approval for green buildings among New York City buyers has been LEED, a label that stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Many property developers strive for LEED certification to appeal to residents with an image of eco-friendliness, as well as to charge premium prices and earn tax credits. Building features like LED lights, solar shades, recycled cabinets and flooring, rainwater irrigation systems, solar thermal heat tubes and green roofs are becoming more common. But some builders want to raise the bar higher, arguing that although LEED — ranked from certified, silver and gold to the most eco-friendly platinum — may be a good start, truly sustainable buildings should be the goal. READ MORE

Aug. 14, 2013 – The Passive House: Sealed for Freshness, by Sandy Keenan, The New York Times

SEATTLE — When you visit Sloan and Jennifer Ritchie’s new passive house in the Madison Park neighborhood here, it takes a while to notice all the things you’re not hearing.

Look out the living room windows and you can see a gardener wielding one of those ear-piercing leaf blowers in the yard, but you would never know it inside.

There is no furnace or air-conditioner clicking on or off, no whir of forced air, and yet the climate is a perfect 72 degrees, despite the chilly air outside.

Then there are the things you’re not feeling. In one of the most humid cities in the country, you aren’t sticky or irritable, and the joints that sometimes bother you are mysteriously pain-free. READ MORE

Dec. 21, 2012 – Collaborative brings affordable green home to Deanwood, Kathy Orton, The Washington Post

Lakiya Culley’s home started off as an idea by a couple of academics who didn’t want to play by the rules.

Four years later, after enlisting 200 students, a nonprofit organization and a government agency, as well as community leaders and countless sponsors, the concept has gone from an academic exercise to reality.

Earlier this month, Parsons the New School for DesignStevens Institute of TechnologyHabitat for Humanity and the District’s Department of Housing and Community Development celebrated the completion of Empowerhouse. Located in the Deanwood neighborhood of Ward 7, the home is not only the District’s first “passive house” — a dwelling built to use substantially less energy — but also one of the few houses constructed in the United States that is both sustainable and affordable. READ MORE

Nov. 19, 2012 – Falls Church’s Pimmit Hills neighborhood has the first “passive house” in Fairfax County, by Tom Jackman, The Washington Post

A “passive house” uses 90 percent less energy than conventional houses, in part by using heavy insulation and airtight seals to maintain internal temperature without the external fluctuations of silly things like “seasons” and ”extreme weather.” The first one in Northern Virginia was built in Arlington, and now Nelson and Caroline Labbe are building one in the Pimmit Hills neighborhood of Fairfax County, with the help of architect Peter Henry and builder Richard Dobson. READ MORE

July 13, 2011 – Getting Active With Passive Houses, by Anne Miller, The Wall Street Journal

Nancy Sirianni’s overhaul of dream house by Long Island’s gold coast will have recycled pine boards, a new second floor and attic—but no furnace.

In Teaneck, N.J., engineer Len Moskowitz estimates the heating bill for the four-bedroom home that he and wife plan to build will run $200 annually.

And in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, developer Brendan Aguayo believes that the demand for environmentally friendly, low-energy use apartments is so great that buyers will pay a premium for one of four units in a renovated brownstone at 96 St. Marks Ave.

Ms. Sirianni, Mr. Aguayo and the Moskowitz family are among the early tri-state adopters of “passive houses”—a type of “green” housing that is growing in popularity in Europe and is now reaching the U.S.

Instead of focusing on environmentally friendly ways to produce energy, passive houses cut the need for energy consumption in the first place—by as much as 90% compared with the average American home, backers of the passive-house movement say. READ MORE

Sept. 25, 2010 – Can We Build in a Brighter Shade of Green?, by Tom Zeller Jr., The New York Times

NORWICH, Vt.

WHEN Barbara Landau, an environmental and land-use lawyer in suburban Boston, was shopping for insurance on the energy-efficient home she and her husband were building in the woods just outside of town here, she was routinely asked what sort of furnace the home would have.

“None,” she replied.

Several insurers declined coverage.

“They just didn’t understand what we were trying to do,” Mrs. Landau recalls. “They said the pipes would freeze.”

They won’t. A so-called passive home like the one the Landaus are now building is so purposefully designed and built — from its orientation toward the sun and superthick insulation to its algorithmic design and virtually unbroken air envelope — that it requires minimal heating, even in chilly New England. Contrary to some naysayers’ concerns, the Landaus’ timber-frame home will be neither stuffy nor, at 2,000 square feet, oppressively small. READ MORE

Sept. 25, 2010 – The Secrets of a Passive House, by Mika Grondahl and Guilbert Gates, The New York Times

When completed, the Landau residence now under construction in Norwich, Vt., will be one of about a dozen buildings certified as “passive houses” in the United States. Their strict building standard sets limits on total energy consumption and peak heating and cooling demand. A heat exchanger circulates fresh air throughout the house and reuses warmth from the inside air. The result is a house that typically uses 90 percent less energy for heating than a conventional house.  INFO GRAPHIC

Dec. 26, 2008 – No Furnaces but Heat Aplenty in ‘Passive Houses’, by Elisabeth Rosenthal, The New York Times

DARMSTADT, Germany — From the outside, there is nothing unusual about the stylish new gray and orange row houses in the Kranichstein District, with wreaths on the doors and Christmas lights twinkling through a freezing drizzle. But these houses are part of a revolution in building design: There are no drafts, no cold tile floors, no snuggling under blankets until the furnace kicks in. There is, in fact, no furnace.

In Berthold Kaufmann’s home, there is, to be fair, one radiator for emergency backup in the living room — but it is not in use. Even on the coldest nights in central Germany, Mr. Kaufmann’s new “passive house” and others of this design get all the heat and hot water they need from the amount of energy that would be needed to run a hair dryer. READ MORE