Obama Announces Passive House Track with NY State Homes and Community Renewal

Image courtesy of usnews.com

Image courtesy of usnews.com

Several weeks ago, President Obama announced a plan to help bring renewable energy and energy efficiency to households across the US, including guaranteeing $1 billion in loans to individuals for green-energy projects. Among the initiatives announced in Obama’s new plan is the establishment of a Passive House track with New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) to provide loans to developers that will help accelerate the trend toward construction of Passive House-certified multifamily buildings in the city.

As I’ve written about previously, Passive House is an international building standard developed in the 1980-1990s by the Passivhaus Institut (PHI) in Darmstadt, Germany. The Passive House standard is composed of strict performance requirements for building construction, such as an airtight building envelope; thick, insulated walls; special window frames and glass; and a system that exchanges interior and exterior air, usually an “energy recovery ventilator.” Passive House, the most rigorous energy standard in the world, produces excellent indoor air quality while decreasing a building’s energy demand by 90 percent.

Compare this with the United States Green Building Council’s LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), currently the most popular sustainable building standard in the US. LEED buildings use 25-30 percent less energy than non-LEED buildings. While LEED opened the door for a more mainstream acceptance of green building, Passive House gives us a better shot at producing a carbon-neutral future, so all funds allocated for future Passive House development is a step in the right direction.

Under the NY program, HCR will work closely with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to monitor the ongoing energy use intensity of all Passive House projects selected for funding to provide valuable data to the market about how they fare. The HCR request for proposals can be found here. The Passive House program is referenced under the section “Optional Green Building Program Participation” beginning on page 58.

The EU has now adopted Passive House standards in its policy-making. According to the International Passive House  Association, there are over 40,000 passive buildings worldwide (homes, schools, stores, buildings) with approximately half of those located in Germany.

If you are a developer and have any questions about Passive House resources available to you in New York State, please see New York Passive House’s resources page or email info@nypassivehouse.org. If you’re an individual homeowner, know that PHI has also developed slightly more lenient performance standards for the renovation of existing buildings. Retrofitting a structure to Passive House standards (as I am doing with my Ditmas Park home) reduces a building’s energy demand by 75 percent. If you’re interested in optimizing your property, I can recommend some excellent certified Passive House architects and engineers You can also network with the diverse Passive House community at local informal meetups and/or consider making a trip to Darmstadt for the International Passive House Conference being held April 22–23, 2016.

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