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Conference paper


To reach its goal of an 80% carbon reduction by 2050, New York City (NYC) must embrace a radical change to its buildings. The Passive House design’s performance-based standard ensures occupant comfort and very low energy use. It is a pathway for NYC to transform its building stock to reach a low-carbon future. New York seeks to radically reduce its carbon emissions from buildings (60%) through regulatory and voluntary actions.

Renovations and new construction of Passive House projects are beginning to emerge in NYC. Developers and occupants alike are adopting new attitudes towards high-performing, low-energy buildings due to the quality and comfort of these projects. Policymakers have taken notice and are considering incorporating Passive House design standards into the building code, but they have very real concerns about market adoption and readiness. Drawing from the experiences of other regions transitioning to the Passive House standard, such as Brussels, Vancouver, and Germany, New York is well positioned to develop and promulgate standards and implement policies to support broad scale Passive House adoption.

This paper will explore the nascent success of Passive House in the NYC market and the pathways and needs for implementing a widespread, mandatory high-performance standard. Examining the process that led to Brussels’ recent adoption of a Passive energy standard for all new construction, the authors identify the relevant resources, training, and supply chain development that NYC will require to build awareness and expertise to seed the ground for a successful transformation toward high-performance buildings.

While improvements to the energy code are underway, these are incremental, and the buildings created with it will lock in relatively high carbon emissions for the next few decades, as compared to the dramatic reduction in emissions that can be achieved by passive buildings. The Passive House standard is poised to play a significant role in the future of New York City buildings.

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