No. 582 . 21 August 2013 
ArchitectureWeek

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Fabrica 718 designed this Passive House-certified remodel of a late 19th-century brownstone in Brooklyn. The degraded brownstone face veneer was replaced with an EIFS system, and original wood molding details were replicated in fiberglass. Photo: Hai Zhang

Brooklyn Brownstone Passive House

by Julie Torres Moskovitz

Brooklyn is a hub of innovative architecture and design, with dozens of young professionals commissioning or undertaking their own eco-sensitive renovations to existing brownstones and low-rise attached buildings throughout the borough.

Tighthouse, a Passive House brownstone retrofit, sits at the end of a string of two-story buildings constructed in 1899 that share a tree-lined block with larger brownstones built around the same time, centrally located off Fifth Avenue in the neighborhood of Park Slope.

It is the first certified Passive House in New York City and meets the standards for new construction, surpassing the EnerPHit certification.

Remodeling Approach

The unique retrofit of a 110-year-old house by the Brooklyn-based firm Fabrica 718 could serve as an important model for the many urban and suburban residences that need energy-saving renovations. Much more so than new construction, each Passive House retrofit involves its own singular set of conditions that demand creative problem solving and meticulous attention to insulation.

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Inside, the Tighthouse has new vertical openings and perforated open-riser stairs to bring daylight into the core of the rowhouse. Photo: Hai Zhang

The owners of Tighthouse, a young couple from Ohio, considered the long-term benefits of a low energy Passive House and understood that this gut renovation was a unique opportunity to comprehensively insulate their building.

It is no wonder that the clients, who grew up in an age of smartphones and have little tolerance for inefficiency, were attracted to the idea of a Passive Home, which is nothing other than a smart and innovative machine for living.

The couple's Midwestern pragmatism helped set the stage for finding efficient solutions to every aspect of the renovation, including the lighting, audiovisual, security, and mechanical systems.   >>>

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This article is excerpted from The Greenest Home: Superinsulated and Passive House Design by Julie Torres Moskovitz, copyright © 2013, with permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press.

 
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