Green Cities

Cornell Tech to Build Tallest Passive House in the United States

Cornell Tech announced this week that it would begin construction of the world’s tallest Passive House certified building. The building, part of the first phase of Cornell Tech’s new campus construction, is set to be completed in 2017 and will rise 26 stories to a total of 270 feet tall. Passive House standards are the most strict energy efficient standards, far surpassing other certifications such as LEED. The building could save 60% to 70% on energy costs compared to traditional building styles. Passive House standards are aimed at super-insulation and temperature control of the building (Full list of qualifications here). The US Passive House Institute claims that the standards are designed to “Maximize your gains, minimize your losses.” One of the goals is to keep the building at a comfortable temperature without having to run active heating or cooling systems. This goal is something the Cornell Tech campus is striving to achieve.

Passive structures are not new to New York or the United States, but they have mainly been smaller buildings. The Cornell Tech building will surpass a 20 story Austrian passive house as the tallest in the world. The acceptance of Passive House standards by builders across the United States and the world could transform the energy efficiency of new buildings dramatically. Developers are also waking up to the potential savings these standards could save them and their tenants. The Cornell Tech building is being constructed in coordination with two private development firms, showing the potential these standards have to become more mainstream.

Cornell Tech also took one more step in educating the future tenants on their energy use. The building will not incorporate electricity costs into rent. This feature, if you can call it that, is the exact opposite many apartment hunters are looking for. Cornell Tech created this feature so tenants can see how much energy they are saving by living in a passive structure, and also so tenants can see how much energy other appliances use. Hopefully, more builders in the United States will see the potential savings Passive House Standards provide and tenants need to begin to request more energy efficient buildings.

William Reckley, Intern