“It’s not about
what needs to
—Ken Levenson, architect, to
New York magazine
Building projects have long been focused on saving money by going green. But a new trend
in construction makes previous energy savings pale in comparison.
“Passive buildings” are proactively energy efficient: Walls are quadruple-insulated, windows are triple-glazed and even the façade is positioned to soak up the maximum amount
of sunlight. Hyper-efficient design elements can yield energy savings of more than 50 percent and lower heating needs by as much as 90 percent when compared with traditional
construction methods, according to Passive House Institute US, the organization that cer-tifies passive-building projects in the United States.
“It’s not about solar panels and bells and whistles; it’s about optimizing what needs to
be built,” architect Ken Levenson told New York magazine. One multifamily home construction he oversaw in New York, New York, USA incorporated stone-slab floors and
mantels that retain heat, and a sophisticated ventilation system that pumps in fresh air
without causing a money-sucking draft. The building is one of more than a dozen passive
projects that have launched in the city in recent years.
Though the building method, dubbed Passivhaus, was initially developed in Germany,
it’s since spread around the world and has made the leap from residential to commercial
IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK
How passive design creates aggressive energy savings.
Walls are two to three times
thicker than conventional
buildings, minimizing heat-leaking, energy-sucking drafts.
The building is oriented to maximize the sun’s light and warmth.
Windows are triple-glazed and
coated to minimize heat loss.
Materials such as concrete
absorb and release warmth
from the sun and occupants’ body heat.
To keep air in the well-sealed building from feeling
stale, a heat-recovery ventilation system pumps in
fresh air while transferring heat from exiting air.
Green systems such as
solar thermal panels
typically provide energy
for hot water.