Ultra-Urban Passive House Built in New York City

passivhaus passive house new york city photo exterior

All images credit Loadingdock5

There are fundamentally two different ways of dealing with energy and buildings: Supply and demand. the supply approach attacks the problem with solar panels, heat pumps and tech; the demand approach is the Passivhaus approach, where you insulate and seal so well that you barely need any heat at all. Most of the Passivhaus designs we have seen have been the single family house in the country, but Jetson Green tells us that it has come to Brooklyn, with the amazing PH1 by Werner Morath and Sam Bargetz of Loadingdock5.

passivhaus passive house new york city photo insulation

And when they talk about a lot of insulation, they mean it; here you can see 7 inches of expanded polystyrene insulation (EPS) on top of the brick. They have 8 inches of extruded polystyrene (XPS) on the roof. Neither are our favourite insulations (particularly XPS) but they are very effective in this kind of building wrapping.

passivhaus passive house new york city photo wall section

click image to enlarge (Note: This window detail is from a different project, but shows the difficulty of eliminating thermal breaks)

Passivhaus includes rigorous performance checks and testing. Discontinuities and connections have to be resolved, and this is tough in a retrofit. Note how it is all put together to avoid thermal breaks; the window frames are essentially supported by the polyurethane foam.

passivhaus passive house new york city photo windows

The windows they picked are gorgeous; The architects are coy about what brand they are, but it appears that after looking at American (Serious windows) and two Canadian brands of pultruded fiberglass, they went Austrian, where you can get stunning clad wood windows (at about three times the cost). (the architect informs me that they cost about the same as American windows)

Being a Passive House instead of an Active House, it holds heat instead of moving or making it. Consequently the whole place is heated and cooled by a 1.5 ton mini-split heat pump (the size of a unit that handles a small apartment) and gets the required fresh air through a big energy recovery ventilator.

passivhaus passive house new york city photo exterior 2

This is such a good example of why I so love Passivhaus vs the Green Gizmo approach with its hundred thousand dollars of heat pumps and solar collectors. Not only will this probably cost less to build, it will cost next to nothing to operate and maintain, as the tech is so simple and small. And another big benefit for urban milieus like New York: with high performance windows, 7 inches of insulation and Passivhaus quality sealing, you will never hear a thing inside.

More at Loadingdock5

More on Passivhaus (which I prefer to Passive House)
Forget Energy Star and LEED, Green Building is Passivhaus
A Passiv Haus in Urbana, Illinois
Passivhaus in the New York Times
A PassivHaus Renovation: Heritage Meets Energy Efficiency
Passivhaus Comes To California, Shattering Stereotypes
Bamboo Screens Shade Stunning French Passivhaus
Passivhaus: Too Rigid and Inflexible for America?
R-House in Syracuse Can Be Heated With A Hair Dryer

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