New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has presented New Yorkers with an ambitious challenge for the next few decades: to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses the city emits by an enormous 80 percent before the year 2015 rolls around.
This daunting challenge has not deterred Big Apple denizens, but rather has inspired them to swing into action. In New York City about 71 percent of carbon emissions are produced by the city’s buildings, therefore a good place to look to reduce the city’s carbon footprint is in building construction. Through the retrofitting of older buildings, and the building of new structures with energy savings in mind, it has become possible to achieve de Blasio’s goal.
At the forefront of the energy savings revolution are what is known as passive housing. Brooklyn is at the forefront of passive home construction, with several projects already completed or under construction. One of the several builders engaged in retrofitting older homes and/or constructing passive homes is Rocco Basile of AVO Construction. Basile and AVO are currently involved in a project in Brooklyn’s exclusive Boerum Hill neighborhood in which sustainable design has enhanced the residence’s high quality-of-living standards. Located at 210 Pacific Street, some of the building’s many amenities include: enclosed parking with electric vehicle car charging capability, private terraces, rooftop cabanas, a fitness room and a common recreation space.
Basile, a Brooklyn native, is completely on board with New York’s long-term plans to reduce the city’s carbon footprint. “Having grown up in the city, it’s great to know that we are contributing to the future growth of residential properties and with as little environmental impact as possible,” says Basile.
The Boerum Hill project proves that a beautiful, high-end property can incorporate the passive home, sustainability model, and create a unique, desirable dwelling whose inhabitants can feel good about and comfortable in.
Passive homes maintain comfortable environments minimally influenced by outdoor temperatures without using active cooling and heating systems such as air conditioners or heaters, which need electricity to function. The passive model relies on many modalities to maintain comfortable temperatures, such as insulation, triple-glazed windows and more to create an airtight building envelope; plus an energy recovery ventilator, which extracts energy by exchanging interior and exterior air. In more temperate climates no active heating system is needed whatsoever, but in New York, where the weather is harsh, passive homes still rely on smaller heating and cooling units, which are only used when the weather turns extreme.
This new way of constructing dwellings can save homeowners in the vicinity of 75 to 80 percent on their energy bills, while at the same time drastically reducing the carbon footprint left behind by their home. One owner of a 3,140-square-foot passive house in Brooklyn Heights now pays $323 per year to heat his home with a gas boiler. The average cost of heating a similar-sized active house is about $2,500 per year.
Although it only adds between 1 and 6 percent to the cost of constructing a new home, many up-scale home builders are choosing to build passive homes for their well-to-do clients. The reason is not only that passive homes are good for the environment: passive homes also happen to be quieter, and generally more comfortable. The insulation not only keeps out heat and cold, it also keeps out street noise, which in New York can be a huge issue. Passive homes also eliminate or drastically reduce the use of noisy air-conditioners and boilers.