High-rise Passive House in NYC
By Lisa DiCaprio, Conservation Chair, Sierra Club NYC Group
Photo Courtesy of Handel Architects
NYC is leading in high-rise Passive House design and construction. On November 1, 2017, the Passive House Institute certified the 26-story Passive House residential building on the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, which is now the largest and tallest Passive House building in the world. Handel Architects, based in NYC, designed the building. 
The world’s first Passive House high-rise, the 21-story Raiffeisen office tower in Vienna, was completed in 2012. A 28-story residential building is now in progress in Bilbao, Spain. In 2017, the NYC government selected Handel Architects to design a 37-story, all-affordable Passive House apartment building on city property in East Harlem. These high-rise projects represent a new phase in Passive House construction, which is crucial — buildings are now responsible for 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions and two-thirds of the world’s population is predicted to live in cities by 2050.
Passive House is an international building efficiency standard, developed by the Passive House Institute in Darmstadt, Germany, that saves up to 90% of the energy required for heating and cooling conventional buildings and 75% of all energy usage when electricity is included in the total. The first Passive House building was built in Darmstadt in 1991.
Passive House certification requires meeting criteria in three main areas: (1) use of energy per square foot per year, (2) external air and fresh air ventilation must be balanced with energy recovery and (3) air tightness, as measured by the number of air changes per hour through the building façade.