Senior Housing Built to the Passive House Standard in Corona

On October 25, 2016, Queens community leaders celebrated the ground breaking of the borough’s first senior housing to meet the Passive House Standard for comfort, heath, and energy efficiency. The new structure will also be the first affordable housing site built in Corona in over 30 years. The non-profit developer, HANAC, worked with NYC’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to provide 67 below-market-rate apartments and a pre-Kindergarten school on the ground floor. The design team is Think! Architecture and New York Engineers with Gregory Duncan of Duncan Architect and the Association of Energy Affordability as the Passive House consultants. The building is being constructed by Bruno Frustaci Contracting, Inc. and will open in the spring of 2018.

Photo by Gregory Duncan

Photo by Gregory Duncan

Designed to meet the International Passive House Standard, this building will provide seniors with more comfortable living space while costing less to heat and cool. And on the ground floor, toddlers will also reap the benefits of the Passive House Standard. Because of the inherent stable temperatures in a Passive House, it will also be resilient in face of power outages that would create life-threatening conditions in a typical building. Continuous filtered fresh air eliminates most allergens and asthma triggers.

Each apartment has an individual Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) from Zehnder that provides the fresh air while recovering almost 90% of the heat that would otherwise be lost. Common spaces are served by commercial-sized ERVs from Swegon. Both ventilation systems are certified by the Passive House Institute.


Windows are typically a major source of heat loss and discomfort. Here, with triple glazing, airtight gaskets, and thermally broken aluminum frames, the windows will keep the seniors and four-year-olds comfortable year round. With a solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) of 0.3, overheating is not a problem. Operable windows in each apartment allow residents to get additional ventilation if they desire.

Continuous exterior insulation—as recommended by best building practices—is only a few inches thicker than that required by New York City’s 2016 Energy Code. In addition to the exterior insulation, the metal studs are filled with mineral wool batt insulation.

Rendering by think! Architecture and Design

Rendering by think! Architecture and Design

The HANAC Corona Senior Residence is in the running for an award from the Community Impact Competition of the New York Housing Conference.

“I’d like to commend HANAC for their vision in creating a new model for green senior housing in New York City and their impressive leadership for seeing it through all the hurdles. We’re very proud to be on their team,” said Jack Esterson, principal architect, think! Architecture and Design.

“As New York aggressively moves to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the HANAC Corona Senior Residence Passive House building will serve as a trailblazing beacon of best practices, for other developments in the marketplace and public policy officials alike,” said Ken Levenson, president of the nonprofit group New York Passive House. “This building will demonstrate that our low-energy future can be beautiful, comfortable, affordable and safe—for our seniors and all citizens.”

“HANAC has provided New York City with another exceptional example of affordable housing and what is sure to be a treasured community asset in Corona,” said Rachel Fee, Executive Director, New York Housing Conference.  “In addition to providing 67 affordable homes allowing elderly residents to age in place with dignity and community, the building also serves the borough’s 4-year olds providing high-quality early education.”


From left: Adam Romano, David Hepinstall, Gina Buffone, Gahl Spanier & Gregory Duncan. Photo by Ed Wheeler.

“The International Passive House Standard provides a rigorous framework to ensure the comfort and health of the seniors and toddlers with minimal operating costs for the residents, the School Construction Authority, and HANAC,” said Gregory Duncan, principal of Duncan Architect.