Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Authors Contribute to Study on Viability of Passivhaus Standard for Tall Residential Buildings

April 18, 2017

Recent research released by FXFOWLE into how New York City buildings can meet energy efficient Passivhaus standards featured contributions from two Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH) staff members. Senior Principal Sean O’Brien and Staff II Brienna Rust were coauthors on “Feasibility Study to Implement the Passivhaus Standard on Tall Residential Buildings,” which explored the impact of adapting a building designed to meet LEED certification to one that meets Passivhaus. 

Passivhaus is a design concept developed in Germany that uses architectural solutions like stringent air tightness and minimized thermal bridging to create buildings that consume very little energy. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority sponsored this project to explore the viability of this approach for energy efficiency in the local construction industry. FXFOWLE led the study, and several other engineering and consulting firms contributed to the project. 

The researchers compared a base case high-rise, mixed-use building in Queens, NY, seeking LEED v.3 Silver Certification with an adapted design to meet Passivhaus requirements. “The study examines the impacts of achieving the standard from architectural, enclosure detailing, mechanical, structural, constructability, resiliency, zoning, and code perspectives,” wrote the authors. They found a 47% reduction in primary energy consumption from the base model and an 85% reduction in heating demand, offset by a 2.4% initial cost increase and a 24-year payback. 

“The findings of this study suggest that it is viable to design large high-rise residential buildings in New York City to meet the Passivhaus standard” with minimal aesthetic changes, the authors conclude. 

Sean will present the results of this study as part of an expert panel discussion on 29 April at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2017 in Orlando, FL. 

Read the study.