Passive-House High-Rise to be Airtight

July 15, 2015 By Linda Hardesty

passivehouseCornell University is building a Cornell Tech campus on New York City’s Roosevelt Island that will include a Passive-House, high-rise dorm building. The Passive-House designation is set by Germany’s Passive House Institute and is only bestowed on super-energy efficient buildings.

To achieve Passive House standards, Cornell Tech Residential will incorporate a number of sustainability-focused design elements. The façade, constructed of a prefabricated metal panel system, acts as a thermally insulated blanket wrapping the building structure. At the southwest façade, facing Manhattan, the exterior façade opens to reveal a louver system that extends the entire height of the building. This reveal is designed to be the “gills” of the building, literally providing an enclosed exterior space where the heating and cooling equipment live, allowing the building system to breathe. Low VOC‐paint, which limits off-gassing and improves indoor air quality, will be used throughout the building, among many other elements.

Considered the most rigorous energy efficiency standard in the world, Passive House buildings consume 60-70 percent less energy than typical building stock, surpassing modern standards like LEED and NYSERDA.

Passive buildings incorporate a super insulated building façade, an airtight building envelope and an energy recovery ventilation (ERV) system to create a comfortable interior climate without drafts and cold spots. The ERV system constantly pulls in fresh air and removes stale air, while recovering the energy in the climate-controlled air leaving the building. The Passive House requirement for the airtight facade (measured as air changes per hour or ACH) is 0.6 ACH, 10 times tighter than typical new construction; new construction buildings average 6-8 ACH, while typical brownstones average 25 ACH.

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