As New York City pursues greater carbon reductions, the Passive House standard (PH) offers a way to significantly accelerate energy savings in public buildings. While PH is common throughout Europe, very few buildings in NYC have achieved the standard, and those that have are private homes. This rigorous standard sets a high benchmark for energy reduction that far exceeds the current New York City Energy Conservation Code and LEED’s Energy and Atmosphere prerequisite. PH principles focus on high performance envelopes, and simple but controlled mechanical ventilation with heat recovery, so it can be applied to a range of building types and construction systems. However, with few completed examples, determining the standard’s applicability to public projects in NYC is difficult.
The New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) and Atelier Ten recently completed a study of three DDC projects that examines the changes in design, construction, and building operation necessary to meet the PH standard. Each project brings to light different opportunities and challenges when considering PH. The study involved modeling potential energy efficiency measures related to the building envelope, lighting, and mechanical systems, as well as the potential impact of incorporating all measures on source energy intensity and CO2 emissions. Although not exhaustive, the study does provide great insight into how PH can be employed in public projects, possible environmental benefits and limitations.