“Passive” Cornell Tech campus to aggressively cut energy costs

The building method, a hit in Europe, can slash expenses by as much as 90%

Cornell's "passive buildings" on Roosevelt Island. (Credit: Handel Architects)
Cornell's "passive buildings" on Roosevelt Island. (Credit: Handel Architects)

Students at Cornell Tech spend their days pushing the boundaries of science and technologies. Soon, some will spend their nights doing the same.

The first residential building at Cornell University’s tech campus on Roosevelt Island will employ passive design, a building method that can cut energy costs by as much as 90 percent. Using special materials, insulation and design, the building will be able to maintain an interior temperature of about 55 degrees, even during the winter and with little power.

The Cornell Tech building is being developed by Hudson Cos. and Related Cos. Soaring 270 feet, the 272,500-square-foot building will house 350 rental apartments. It is set to open in 2017.

“Cornell Tech told us they would consider innovative building techniques,” David Kramer, principal of Hudson told the Wall Street Journal.

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He said some apartments won’t need heat throughout the year.

“Our goal is that people will just think they have an amazing apartment, and they didn’t even know it’s a passive house,” he said.

Passive design, which emerged during the 1990s in Germany, has been slow to catch on in the U.S. An estimated 90 percent of passive housing units are in Europe, and only 152 homes stateside have been certified as passive since 2007. Many architects and developers have been slow to jump on the bandwagon since they are more focused on complying with LEED standards.

In addition to the Cornell Tech project, New York-based Baxt Ingui Architects is gut renovating 10 townhouses in Brownstone Brooklyn to comply with passive standards. [WSJ] – E.B. Solomont