New York Developer’s Guide to Multifamily Passive House Certification

New York Passive House has published a great free guide to certification of multifamily Passive House buildings.

One of the example projects is the 68-unit affordable senior housing building that Duncan Architect is consulting on in Corona, Queens. HANAC

If you’re interested in high performance multifamily construction, download the guide.

With Passive House as an identified incentive by New York State Homes and Community Renewal for affordable housing financing, and funding organizations like the Community Preservation Corporation also recognizing Passive House, it is important to demystify the process and provide support to those developers interested in pursuing Passive House construction.

The Guide provides 8 clear steps most useful in making a successful project, 7 important reasons to get your development project certified to the international Passive House Standard, and a succinct outline of the certification protocol to get you across the finish line.

Big Changes for New York Buildings to Address Renewable Energy and Resiliency

 

New York is preparing for the potential closure of the Indian Point nuclear power plant by investing in demand reduction, on-site energy production, and energy storage. The Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Acceleration Program from NYSERDA is part of this effort.

chp-eereenergy.gov

CHP provides resiliency in case of power outage. Because the equipment runs 24/7, it is likely to continue operating during an emergency, as long as natural gas supply is not disrupted. Backup generators, on the other hand, risk not starting when they are needed and generally do not have the fuel to operate for days at a time. For commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet (5000 square meters), multifamily buildings with more than 200 units, and buildings that have a high hot water demand, CHP is economical, especially with state incentives. In smaller buildings with Passive House levels of efficiency, however, it may make more sense to disconnect from the natural gas connection to avoid fossil fuel use. Providing hot water using direct electricity is more efficient within a renewable structure.  [2014 PHI Conference Proceedings P. 651] Domestic hot water tanks heated by air source heat pumps can act as energy storage for a renewable smart grid infrastructure.

More information about installing CHP microturbines in NYC buildings.

Currently CHP relies on natural gas supplied by utility companies. However, there is a potential synergy with a new technology called Power-to-Gas (P2G). P2G is useful for seasonal storage of surplus renewable energy. With P2G the amount of methane gas required for a typical house would be about 3.5% of the amount of natural gas equivalent (fossil energy) currently consumed. [2014 PHI Conference Proceedings p.641] Why not use biogas? Biogas is problematic because it requires a lot of agricultural and forest land that could otherwise be used for food, raw material, and transportation fuel.

Renewable energy is likely to continue its fast growth. In fact, the investment bank UBS sees residential PV as a huge growth market in the near future, even though utility-scale PV is less expensive per installed peak watt. As onsite PV energy production becomes more common, there will be a challenge with overproduction on sunny days and the need to use energy from storage at night, especially during cold winters. A change to New York State’s utility structure may be needed to address the cost of renewable energy storage and transmission. In addition to energy storage, one solution is to use onsite PV energy as much as possible before exporting it to the grid. This has been called—a little inelegantly—self consumption. German architect Kay Künzel presented his self-consumption strategies at a New York Passive House presentation on February 27, 2014. His home automation system timed certain appliances to run during the day to take advantage of direct PV energy. Another self-consumption strategy is to use DC power as much as possible to avoid the DC-to-AC inverter losses.

Solar panels on vegetated roof of Etrium Passive House office building near Cologne. Photo by Greg Duncan

Solar panels on vegetated roof of Etrium Passive House office building near Cologne. Photo by Greg Duncan

New York City recently passed the Zone Green amendments which make installation of solar panels easier, although in order to qualify for New York property tax rebates for installation of solar panels, you will need to have a registered architect or engineer file with the Department of Buildings. To calculate the photovoltaic potential in your location and to get information about incentives, use the PV Watts calculator.

Duncan Architect can help you create buildings that are energy-efficient and resilient with onsite renewable energy where feasible. Email greg@duncanarchitectpllc.com for more information.

 

Brooklyn Passive House Video

Brooklyn Independent Television features the energy-efficient retrofit condo, 96 St. Marks Avenue, that I consulted on for architect Ken Levenson. See the Passive House Buildings Project Data Sheet for technical information and haus96.com for the marketing website. Located in a historic district in Prospect Heights, this townhouse renovation combines historic preservation and modern technology for a beautiful, comfortable living space with extremely low heating costs. Comfort is assured by the quality of the building fabric and by giving the owner of each unit control over their own heating, air conditioning, and fresh-air ventilation. This type of retrofit serves as a model for future real estate development in New York City and beyond.

Please contact Gregory Duncan Architect for more information.

Tour Multifamily Passive House in Brooklyn

Haus 96, the first multifamily Passive House retrofit building in Brooklyn, will be open for guided tours on Saturday, November 10, 2012. This project proves that historic preservation, comfort, healthy indoor air, and dramatically reduced energy costs are compatible.

Duncan Architect performed the energy modeling for this project for architect Ken Levenson. Building science geeks may appreciate the following data:

  • Heat Demand 27 kWh/m²a
  • Cooling Demand 5 kWh/m²a
  • Primary (Source) Energy Demand 111 kWh/m²a
  • Airtightness 1.98 ACH50

See New York Passive House’s listing of upcoming tours for more information.

 

Multifamily Passive House Buildings in New York

The most obvious benefit of the Passive House standard is a dramatic reduction in energy costs. Using the Passive House design methodology and energy-modeling software, architects can save building owners up to 90% on heating costs compared to a typical existing building. In addition buildings built to this standard have superior thermal comfort—warm in winter and cool in summer with no drafts. A side benefit of using high-performance windows and air sealing is reduced noise from the street and from neighboring apartments. The proper architectural details can provide for acoustic insulation and energy efficiency.

Rental Buildings

Due to the expense of submetering and market expectations, owners of multifamily rental buildings in New York usually pay for heating their tenant’s apartments in addition to the common areas. By law landlords are required to provide heat between October 1 and May 31. This can be a significant expense, so developers often ask their architects to design energy-efficient buildings.

Condo Buildings

Tenants in condominium buildings often have their own heating equipment in the unit and are responsible for their own heating bills. One of the reasons condo buyers are attracted to green buildings is that they can save a lot of money on their utility bills. If the energy savings are significant, as with a certified Passive House building,  the developer’s initial investment will pay off with a higher sales price.

Townhouses

As an architect who has worked on townhouses in Brooklyn and Queens, as well as larger apartment buildings in Manhattan, Gregory Duncan understands the potential this type of building has for huge increases in comfort and energy savings. See our article on Passive House in New York City which explains how this green building standard is in many ways easier to achieve in New York than many other places.

Of course, the Passive House energy-efficiency standard applies to commercial and single-family houses as well. So, no matter what building type you are planning, a Certified Passive House Designer can help you make it better.

Email Greg Duncan at greg@duncanarchitectpllc.com to get started.

New York State Energy Incentives

There are several energy-efficiency incentive programs in New York State:

In addition to the NY State incentives, the US Treasury Department is providing grants through the 1603 Program to commercial properties for renewable energy.

I’ll be updating this list with more programs, including non-profit incentives.  Suggestions in the comments are welcome.