Building Passive Houses Can Help New York Developers Save on Emissions Costs


Recently, New York City passed the proposed Climate Mobilization Act as a way to fight climate change. If passed, the basis of the bill would require buildings over 25,000 square feet to reduce climate emissions by 40% by 2030 and by more than 80% by 2050. The legislation also requires that some buildings cover roofs with plants, solar panels, small wind turbines, or a combination of these.

Rent-regulated housing, as well as worship structures, will not be subject to the emissions cap. However, building owners whose properties are subject to the new law will be fined $268 for each tonne of emissions over an individual building’s limit. To make the changes needed to avoid these massive penalties — like replacing outdated heating, cooling, and lighting systems — homeowners will need to retrofit older buildings with updated energy-efficient technology.

Jessica Anthony, Callahan Construction Managers

The legislation shows what a metropolitan version of the Green New Deal, the national movement for a multi-trillion-dollar climate-friendly plan, could look like. The legislation is expected to create thousands of blue-collar jobs and make it easier for the city to take advantage of future state and federal funding for clean energy projects and climate-ready infrastructure. As fears of climate change and its effects on industry grow around the world, other cities are taking notice and beginning to follow New York’s lead.

While nearly all of Callahan Construction’s recent and ongoing work is built to US Green Building Council LEED certification standards, we are beginning to see Passive House construction become a more favorable method of green building due to its environmental standards. rigorous durability and energy-efficient mechanical systems.

Although there is always an upfront cost for the upgrades associated with passive house certification, the result is an extremely efficient building. This type of construction offers a less expensive building that can be maintained with more longevity. Today’s climate-conscious customers now largely consider it an amenity.

Passive House standards improve indoor air quality and temperature with simple-to-use systems, making them extremely quiet and comfortable throughout the seasons.

Additionally, designing to Passive House standards can reduce a building’s energy demand for heating and cooling by 90%. Reductions in operating costs over time offset the additional costs associated with construction, and reduced carbon emissions provide climate-friendly buildings.

We are currently working on an affordable housing project in Cambridge, Massachusetts with Just-A-Start Corporation. The project will incorporate Passive House standards into its sustainability goals.

Additionally, in 2016 Callahan Construction completed Alnoba in Kensington, New Hampshire, the first such project to use Passive House standards in New England.

As we enter 2020 with the global climate crisis at the forefront of many’s minds and with the passage of new laws in cities like New York, it is becoming increasingly clear that current common building methods will not are not sustainable.

Globally, approximately 40% of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings. And while durability in construction has undoubtedly come a long way, there’s still a long way to go.

— By Jessica Anthony, Project Manager, Callahan Construction Managers. This article originally appeared in the January/February 2020 issue of Northeast Real Estate Business magazine.


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