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.

June 2015 Passive House Events in the New York Region

June, 2015, is a big month for Passive House events in and around NYC.

Following the NYC mayor’s office’s report, One City Built to Last, which calls for Passive House as part of the solution to reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2050, interest in the Passive House Standard for building comfort and energy efficiency has exploded.

June 1: Seal it Tight, Make it Right – AIA Event

June 2: Passivhaus: Lessons from Europe – A Building Energy Exchange Event

June 5: Facade Performance 101, including an overview of the Passive House Standard

June 8-12: Certified Passive House Tradesperson Training in NYC by Passive House Academy with NYSERDA funding

June 9: Advanced Passive House Consultant Training – PHILADELPHIA

June 11: NY15 Conference and Expo – Built To Last: Passive House

June 12: Advanced Passive House Consultant Training – New York City

June 15: Passive House Meets Net Zero – Online/Live Streaming

 

Growth of Passive House Standard in New York

 

NY Times launches Passive House above the fold in Real Estate section

New York City’s rapid embrace of the Passive House Standard for comfort, health, and energy efficiency made The New York Times cover story in its Real Estate section on Sunday, March 29, 2015.

Duncan Architect is the Passive House consultant for a senior residence with a pre-K on the ground floor. This project is one of those featured in the Times article.

 A social services organization, the Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee or Hanac, has also jumped on the passive-construction bandwagon for its eight-story 68-unit senior housing development, to be completed in Queens in summer 2017, said John Napolitano, Hanac’s director of community development and planning.

Part of the allure of passive house is the ability to withstand some of the effects of power cuts, he said.

“We’ve had several blackouts, and keeping the seniors in their homes during those periods, in an environment where we can maintain thermal controls in the units for a period of at least five days without disturbance, resonates with us,” Mr. Napolitano said. “We can do that with passive house.”

“The Passive House in New York” NY Times

New York Passive House reviewed the article

NY Passive House (NYPH) is particularly proud of this article because it features a range of work by NYPH members, including:  Stephen Lynch of Caliper Studio, 255 Columbia Street by Ben Igoe of JBS Project Management & Sam Bargetz of LoadingDock5, Steve Bluestone of the Bluestone Organization, HANAC senior housing with consulting by Greg Duncan of Duncan Architect, and Michael Ingui of Baxt Ingui Architects.

and followed up with more information about the upcoming conferences in Germany and New York City. Greg Duncan will be going to the International Passive House Conference in Leipzig, Germany on April 16 and the New York Passive House Conference on June 11.

Duncan Architect is glad to be able to help people jump on the “passive-construction bandwagon,” especially on a project like the HANAC senior housing that will be such a benefit to the community in Corona, Queens.

 

 

 

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.

 

Passive House Institute to Include Renewable Energy in New Ratings

The Passive House Institute has announced [PDF] that it will start rating buildings that produce renewable energy while meeting the clearly defined Passive House Standard. In order to do this, PHI had to reexamine the calculations for primary energy. PHI uses the term primary energy to refer to what the US EPA calls source energy which you may be familiar with for Energy Star ratings. I’ll use PHI’s terminology in this post. See the Energy Star Portfolio Manager Technical Reference [PDF] for national source energy ratios for the US and Canada. These ratios depend on the mix of electricity generation. EPA chose to use national averages instead of local or electrical grid ratios. The choice of a “correct” primary energy ratio is complicated and not apolitical. For example, some people may disagree that burning coal on site is equivalent to onsite PV (both have primary energy ratios of 1.0 per EPA).  And the ratios are constantly changing. When designing buildings that will last decades, should we use past primary energy ratios or future forecasts? These choices only get more complicated as renewable energy becomes a larger fraction of the electric grid because wind and sunlight are intermittent, requiring energy storage.

PV 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: Greg Duncan

Current definitions of Net Zero Energy Buildings—there are at least four—ignore the energy storage and transmission requirements due to renewable energy produced on site. Different uses of energy have different requirements for storage and transmission. Because of these problems, PHI is replacing the primary energy ratio with a new concept, Primary Energy Renewable (PER), that takes into account storage losses as well as production and distribution losses. For example, onsite PV can power air conditioners during summer days when there is plenty of sun, so there is no need for storage and the PER is lower. Conversely, PV systems are not particularly ideal for heating. The PER for heating with electricity—ideally with an air source heat pump instead of direct resistance—is therefore higher. In the future, it will be much more environmentally sound and cost-effective to use renewable energy to cover energy demand for any cooling that may be needed than for heating. These new application-specific PER ratios are also climate specific, dependent on seasonal solar and wind production potential. [Proceedings of the 18thInternational Passive House Conference, pp 648-9. Aachen, Germany 2014. ISBN 978-3-00-045216-1.]

USAF - 070731-F-8831R-001

Utility-scale solar at Nellis Air Force Base USAF – 070731-F-8831R-001

As you can see just from the examples of heating and cooling, calculation of a Net Zero Energy building is complicated. All of them rely on the building itself as the boundary condition for renewable energy production, although sometimes including parking lots and public rights of way. The Net Zero concept discriminates against tall buildings because it is not feasible to install enough PV or wind turbines to meet the energy demands of a 4+ story building. WNYC has an article on the challenges of going solar in an urban environment and why Passive House should be the basis for the design, in order to reduce energy consumption. The article uses the example of a Net Zero Energy school on Staten Island with the luxury of a more suburban location than most of New York City that will open in 2015. This building uses the “trick” of including PV panels over a parking lot.

P.S. 62, being built on Staten Island's South Shore, will have 2,000 solar panels to generate as much energy as the building uses. (Chris Mossa/WNYC)

P.S. 62, being built on Staten Island’s South Shore, will have 2,000 solar panels to generate as much energy as the building uses. (Chris Mossa/WNYC)

 

To address the discrimination against tall buildings that Net Zero definitions perpetuate, PHI is proposing new classifications based on renewable energy produced on site per lot area rather than floor area:

  • Passive House Classic: unchanged except for the new definition of Primary Energy Renewable. No onsite renewable energy required.
  • Passive House Plus: for a single family house, about as much energy is produced as is consumed.
  • Passive House Premium: for a single family house, produces an energy surplus.

Without changing the Passive House definition, PHI will also start recognizing “Energy Conservation Buildings” that meet a certain threshold for energy efficiency but fall short of meeting the Passive House standard.

Commercial Retrofit in Brooklyn, New York

Increasing the occupants’ comfort and ability to do their job by reducing noise and drafts while also reducing utility bills.

A preliminary blower door test revealed major air leaks in the existing masonry. These gaps were not obvious from a visual inspection and would have created huge problems with water leaks, uncomfortable drafts, noise transfer, and a high risk of condensation and mold growth. Fortunately we discovered them before the drywall went up so that the contractors could patch them.

After the test, the contractor installed regular fans in the windows to create a pressure differential to reveal where the air leaks were. Sophisticated equipment is required to measure the rate of air leakage but not to simply find the leaks.

The next step after installing the mineral wool installation is to put up a vapor retarder—on the warm side—that also acts as the primary air barrier. Intello, available from 475 High Performance Building Supply in Brooklyn, is a “smart” vapor retarder that prevents moisture transfer into the wall assembly while allowing it to dry out if it becomes accidentally saturated. After the air barrier is complete, but before the drywall is up, we will conduct another blower door test to make sure that the building’s airtightness is below the Passive House retrofit standard of 1 ACH50. Finally we will install a service cavity of 1-5/8″ furring to protect the airtight membrane.

Below is a view of the building from the F train platfrom with the old plumbing supply sign painted on the brick and One World Trade Center in the background.

For more information please email greg@duncanarchitectpllc.com

and check out video of a successful blower door test from our friends at Dwell Development in Seattle.

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.

Commercial Passive House Retrofit Tour in Brooklyn

On Sunday, November 11, tour a commercial Passive House retrofit of a 7000 SF
warehouse for the Hatzolah Central non-profit ambulance dispatch
service. See the project under construction as the ventilation system
and windows and doors are being installed. It’s conveniently located
near the 18 Ave F stop on McDonald Ave and 47th Street. The address is
1950 47th Street and I will be giving tours from 1:00-3:00. Coffee and
donuts courtesy of Zola Windows.

Gregory Duncan Architect is the acoustical and Passive House consultant on this project.

Passive House Tours November 10 and 11

Gregory Duncan Architect is proud to have three Passive House projects open for tours as part of the International Passive House Days on November 10 and 11.

Saturday, Nov 10:

Brooklyn, NY: Haus 96, the first condo building in the United States to be retrofit with Passive House components and methodology.

Sunday, Nov 11:

Westport, CT: Retrofit of a derelict, energy-guzzling single-family house designed in the International Style in the 1930’s by a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright. “Their effort continues the spirit of technical innovation embodied by the original design,” according to the Westport Historic District Commission, which gave the house a Preservation Award.

Brooklyn, NY: Commercial retrofit of a 7000 SF warehouse for the Hatzolah Central non-profit ambulance dispatch service. See the project under construction as the Passive House windows and doors are being installed.

See the New York Passive House site for more tour 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.