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Inside New York City's First Landmarked Passive House

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The kitchen at 20 Garden Place. All photos by Chris Stein for Baxt Ingui Architects

New York is in the middle of a veritable passive house boom—the energy-efficient, sustainable buildings are all the rage, with more than 20 in the works throughout the city (including a tower on Roosevelt Island). One of the firms responsible for these homes is Baxt Ingui, which is currently working on eight different passive refurbishments throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan. The firm worked on what is officially New York City's first passive house in a landmarked district, a four-story brownstone on Garden Place in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District. "Landmarks has been really proactive in working with the passive house community," says Michael Ingui, a principal at the firm.

The Brooklyn Heights home, which took about a year and a half to finish, includes many of the elements that are typical of passive buildings: special windows (which, per the Landmarks Preservation Commission, also had to look like the double-hung windows found throughout the neighborhood), an insulated roof, and an energy-recovery ventilator. All of these changes help the home stay warmer without the benefit of radiators, and keep fresh air circulating throughout. "It becomes easier, rather than more challenging" to design for passive homes, according to Ingui. "We can insulate [townhouses] better, make them quieter, have them perform a lot better, have them be less susceptible to bugs and moisture in general, and all those things happen to bring you to where you're a passive house already," Ingui says. "It really allows you to do things you couldn't otherwise."

And now, Baxt Ingui is bringing the things they've learned by working on passive houses and applying them to standard-issue homes. The firm's other passive refurbishments include a landmarked house on the Upper West Side (which could also receive the city's first LEED platinum designation for a residence) and a Carroll Gardens townhouse that could also receive net zero designation. One of the firm's projects, at 16 3rd Place in Brooklyn, is open for tours this weekend as part of the 12th International Passive House Day—you can RSVP here.

His advice for homeowners seeking to bring passive elements to their own houses: "Work with a passive house professionals from the get-go—it's essential to the success of the project."

· 12th International Passive House Days [Official]
· Mapping New York City's Booming Passive House Movement [Curbed]