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The Largest Passive House In North America: 154 Low-Income Housing Units (46 For Formerly Homeless)

This is such a nice story to ring in 2020 with — a thank you to Park Avenue Green.

“This is such a nice story to ring in 2020 with. A thank you to Omni New York, LLC., the owner/developer, for the project Park Avenue Green, and to Bright Power, for their work on this project and many others with Omni New York, LLC.”

Passivhaus, or passive house, is: “A standard utilizing various principles of insulation, passive solar climate control, and low-energy construction methods to create buildings which require very little in the way of fuel or electricity inputs to meet heating and cooling needs.”

The largest residential building built to the Passive House US (PHIUS) standard in the USA and the largest passive house building in North America came about at the end of 2019 for low-income tenants as well as others.

Take note, all who say don’t bother to attempt passive house standards for lower income developments. This one combines social ethics as well as the passive house higher standard of sustainability. Park Avenue Green in this development has 154 units of low-income housing (including 46 for formerly homeless people). So, for all the naysayers who claim it can’t be done low income, think again. Omni New York, LLC generated more modern vision with this project Park Avenue Green, that pushed the passive envelope further with good sustainable housing for all.

The designers and architects, Curtis + Ginsberg Architects, write:

“The development provides much needed low-income housing to the Melrose neighborhood while incorporating state-of-the-art building technology and creating a community of environmentally comfortable homes. A gallery and affordable artist studios are located at the ground floor for the not-for-profit Spaceworks, providing spaces for local artists visible from the street.

Image Credit: Curtis + Ginsberg Architects, Park Avenue Green

Bright Power agrees:

“‘Park Avenue Green is an example of sustainable, affordable building, and it’s great to have Bright Power and our partners at Omni New York LLC and Curtis + Ginsberg Architects recognized by PHIUS,’ said Tyler Davis, Manager of New Construction at Bright Power.

“Park Avenue Green demonstrates that you can build energy efficient, multifamily affordable housing building in New York City, and we’ll continue to apply the lessons we learned from this project into our future work.”

The design integrates storm resiliency features, another plus for low income that often find the most difficult experiences during emergencies due to climate. Architects, Curtis + Ginsberg Architects note the virtues of the design for rugged weather impacts. The building is a highly insulated, a thoroughly sealed building envelope, and includes cogeneration, an extremely efficient variable refrigerant flow (VRF) heating and cooling system. There is an array of photovoltaic panels on the roof.

Approach in low-income projects with the neighborhoods in mind, often find sucess from employing those nearby. Bright Power creatively kept construction costs down –“Beyond downsizing oversized equipment and relocating systems, Bright Power worked with Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS+) to source specific project components from local manufacturers—reducing first costs for Omni, while still meeting strict performance requirements.”

Llyod Alter weighs in with praise of the dumb box designs in this large passive house project. There have been plenty of fine, beautiful images of passive houses. Yet, for crowded urban settings, it is not always about the outside, but about the inside and sustainability. Alter continues:

“It’s time for a revolution in the way we look at buildings, quoting Nick Grant: ‘Passivhaus advocates are keen to point out that Passivhaus doesn’t need to be a box; but if we are serious about delivering Passivhaus for all, we need to think inside the box and stop apologizing for houses that look like houses’ – or, in this case, like an apartment building.

“I also quoted Jo Richardson and David Coley about how we need ‘a revolution in what architects currently consider acceptable for how houses should look and feel. That’s a tall order – but decarbonizing each component of society will take nothing short of a revolution.'”

Related Articles:

Image courtesy of Curtis + Ginsberg Architects, Park Avenue Green

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Written By

Cynthia Shahan started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. (Several unrelated publications) She is a licensed health care provider. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education, mother of four unconditionally loving spirits.


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