Passive House BKLYN

Energy Revolution in a Brooklyn Townhome

Monthly Archives: October 2009

4th Annual Passive House Conference

This past weekend, (before my Landmark board presentation), I presented Passive House BKLYN at the 4th Annual Passive House Conference in Urbana, Illinois.  It was great to get feedback on our efforts and to hear about the growing passive house movement.

Now, you might be wondering, “Why Urbana?” Urbana is where 4 of the fewer than 10 U.S. passive houses are located and is home of the Passive House Institute US – thanks to the pioneering work of Katrin Klingenberg and Mike Kernagis (and the staff at the Passive House Institute and Eco Lab).

If you are interested in exploring more about Passive House – check out and even consider attending next year’s event – it is worth it!


The Results Are In…

Today, we won unanimous approval for our Optiwin (fixed upper and offset lower tilt and turn sash) windows from the Landmark Commission! It is nice to know that we have a very thoughtful group of Board members running Landmarks for NYC at this time. David White and I presented the window drawings as well as described the Passive House standard. The Board seemed to be very excited about the idea. One of the members said that he especially liked that one of the first Passive Houses would be in a Landmark district because it spoke to preservation and sustainability working together. The Board stated that because we were going to such great lengths to match the outward appearance of the windows, they felt the different operation was of little consequence. We donated one of the Passive House books to Landmarks to be passed around among the staff and feel that we have made a great victory today in raising awareness about Passive House. Hopefully with this decision the next Passive House in a Landmark district will be able to gain approvals at the staff level or have a similarly fast Landmark Board process.

Moving forward, we are going to start working with Stephan Tanner to have the Optiwin windows customized for the exact window openings and will hopefully be ordering them by the beginning of next week. We expect the windows to arrive in February, if everything goes well. This is later than we wanted the windows, but today, I am not complaining. Thanks to those who helped us with our presentation and to Laura Briggs (fellow Passive House Consultant) who showed up to advocate for the project.

More Demolition = More Space

This past week, we were able to remove more of the existing walls on the 3rd floor at the request of the client. We knew there had been a fire in the home many years ago, but after removing the walls, we discovered the extent of the damage. The party walls were entirely blackened and remnants of old wall covering were completely scorched and left hanging. Whoever did the previous renovation chose to build partition walls 8″ in front of the brick wall We assume this was done to cover up rather than remediate the smoke and fire damage. Removing these additional walls provides a great opportunity for us to seal the party wall with ‘Sto Guard’ and will increase the room sizes by up to 8″ in width.The carpenters were framing the bathrooms this past week, which has sparked the task of determining the best way and place to run necessary duct work without compromising any fixture locations. This is where the choice of a good HVAC contractor comes in. Bids are starting to come in for this work and a company should be hired this coming week.

Next up is the spraying of the exterior walls with 3″ of spray foam to give us the R-21 we need to insulate the house.

Progress Update

Here’s what is happening this week at Passive House Brooklyn…

The carpentry focus is on the much needed repairs of the structural joists. After the demolition was completed, multiple damaged areas were uncovered. In some cases only an inch of an 8″ beam remained. In another case, the header at the 3rd floor stair opening had split in two and dropped 2″. Haphazard repairs to this had been made over the years but nothing that would have kept it from continuing towards failure.

With the walls opened up, airsealing is another primary focus. It is important to do this before the rough framing and plumbing/electrical roughing is underway for ease of access and to prevent construction delays. To seal the many small voids in the brickwork, we are painting on a product called ‘Sto Guard’. ‘Sto Guard’ is a very thick liquid that coats the bricks and provides an air barrier between the neighbors homes and our project.

Both the plumbers and electricians are continuing to clean out out-of-date and not-to-code pipes, wires and boxes to prepare the space for their new work.

The masons are working in the cellar to break up and dig out the old concrete slab. They will bury perforated pipes below a new slab that will address the water that forces it’s way up from the ground due to the high water table in Brooklyn. These lines connect to a tank and pump to send any collected storm water out into the city sewer lines.