174 Grand, Brooklyn New York

Located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, this row-house infill building is the home of Werner Morath, a partner in the architecture firm LoadingDock5. To minimize costs, Morath acted as both architect and general contractor, which allowed him to innovate spontaneously onsite. The green roof has approximately eight inches of soil and absorbs rainwater runoff.

174 Grand

Air leaks between the walls shared between neighbors is still a concern.

174 Grand

Open-tread stairs and white zigzag stringers contribute to the overall airy openness of the space.

174 Grand

The commercial space is not part of the thermal envelope.

Bamboo House

Karawitz Architecture designed this two-story house in Bessancourt, France, 18 miles northwest of Paris. The sloped roof is clad in solar thermal panels, which provide most of the hot water for the home, and photovoltaic panels, which capture solar energy.

Bamboo House

The entire house is covered in bamboo poles to create visual interest. The north facade is opaque, while the southern side is open, with swaths of glazing for solar gain.

Bamboo House

Operable high-performance doors open out onto the metal-grille balcony.

Carraig Ridge Project

This prototype, by Seattle-based Olson Kundig Architects, was designed for a site in Ghost Lake, Canada, to last 300 years. Constructed using prefab modules, it can be disassembled and recycled after use.

Carraig Ridge Project

Huge spans of frameless glass maximize views without significantly upping energy usage.

Hudson Passive Project

Following the 2008 real estate crash, Dennis Wedlick decided to design a sustainable and economically obtainable prototype for prospective home buyers. This is the final result. The shape is a mishmash of influences: open to the sun at the southern end, it recalls the Long Houses originally built in this area of New York by the Iroquois, but the basic form is also reminiscent of a traditional Dutch barn.

Hudson Passive Project

The concrete floor provides thermal mass. The laminated pine beams stretch upward into a cathedral ceiling. Completed in 2010, this is the first certified Passive House in New York state.

Little Compton

The clients of this weekend and summer house in Little Compton, Rhode Island, didn’t have a big budget to play with but were sold on the idea of building a home that would use 90% less heating energy than a typical house. Boston-based firm ZeroEnergy rose to the challenge, designing a simple, compact structure that kept costs reasonable.

Little Compton

The open layout promotes air circulation and allows for a simplified heating and cooling system, with a single exposed metal duct passing through the main living space. Here, the children’s loft is visible through an opening above the kitchen.

Orient Studio

Designed by New York-based Ryall Porter Sheridan, his artists’ studio in Orient, New York, sits on columns to interfere minimally with the ground below. The facade is clad in salvaged Douglas fir joists, and the roof features solar photovoltaic panels.

Orient Studio

View of the screened-in porch.

Orient Studio

The clients’ home was also retrofitted to meet Passive House standards. Here, expansive high-performance windows provide views to the water.

R-House

R-House is the winning entry of a competition sponsored by the Syracuse University School of Architecture to design an affordable single-family house for Syracuse’s Near Westside neighborhood. ARO (Architecture Research Office) and Della Valle Bernheimer collaborated on the project, an unusual form with corrugated-aluminum cladding and a steep, asymmetrical roof.

R-House

At 1,200 square feet, R-House is roughly the same size and scale as the neighboring houses.

R-House

The interior plan is flexible to allow for a fourth bedroom when needed.

R-House

Pre-order the book for $29 here.

Co.Design

Peek Inside 8 Of The World's Greenest Homes

A new book from Princeton Architectural Press surveys gorgeous "passive" houses that adhere to an emerging standard of sustainability.

Do you live in a green home? If you’re like me, you’ve probably done your best to green what you’ve got—swapping out incandescent bulbs, installing a Nest thermostat, buying that reclaimed-wood dining table—while continuing to live in a drafty, inefficient building that wasn’t built with sustainability in mind.

There’s a movement quietly afoot that wants to change that, one house at a time. One of the most efficient ways to build a home, Passive House design—capable of decreasing energy consumption by a whopping 75%—has gained traction in Europe but remains largely unpracticed in the United States. In The Greenest Home: Superinsulated and Passive House Design, a new book from Princeton Architectural Press, Julie Torres Moskovitz makes a convincing case for why it should become the standard for new residential construction, showcasing recent projects that marry hard-nosed Passive House techniques with gorgeous architecture. For those who worry that sustainability means sacrificing aesthetics, the book should be an assuring counterargument.

All 18 projects selected by Moskovitz display the core Passive House principles: Each has an airtight, highly insulated shell that won’t allow air in or out. Instead, an HRV system pumps fresh air in and expels the stale air out (that exhaust is also used to preheat incoming fresh air during cold months). High-performing windows allow solar heat indoors, while sunscreens avoid overheating. The interior temperature is kept at approximately 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and humidity is reduced, thereby eliminating a cause of mold and condensation. All of this contributes to a highly efficient machine for living geared toward the comfort of its inhabitants.

Did I mention the energy savings? Some of the projects in The Greenest Home, including Bamboo House (pictured above), generate more energy than they use.

If that doesn’t sell you on the virtues of a Passive House, just take a gander at the drool-worthy residences designed around the most stringent guidelines for sustainability. And should you feel inspired to build (or retrofit) a home to similar standards, you’re in luck: Moskovitz—a Brooklyn-based designer responsible for the first certified Passive House in New York City—provides detailed project descriptions and plans.

Pre-order the book here for $29.

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4 Comments

  • Logan Wood

    I was under the impression that the greenest homes on the planet are actually just clay huts.

  • Dougwittnebel

    I do love the projects and the houses, but not all green houses are based on a sealed envelope of a constant 68 degrees. Many green dwellings allow for a change of fresh air and a variation in comfort levels based on seasonal changes. Consider those as well please.

  • LMGale

    My boyfriend's iPhone conked out in New Zealand and miraculously came back to life in the US today. The only thing we can figure is that we spent the entire time in New Zealand, even indoors visiting family, friends, cafes, museums, etc, without once encountering a climate-controlled environment. A plane ride and a day back in  the US, and the air conditioning set it right again! The trick there is of course a climate that doesn't need much controlling, but it is interesting how opening (and screenless, which is weird) windows and indoor-outdoor transitions are just the way houses are designed there. No fanfare, just solutions. Part of the reason is that everyone is affected equally by expensive energy there.

  • Matt Bennett

    Hi, Belinda. Enjoyed these, especially the Carraig Ridge house. That would be my spot!