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Tour Cornell Tech's Residential Building, the World's Tallest Passive House

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Part of the university's Roosevelt Island Campus that's currently under construction

Construction on Cornell Tech’s 26-story residential building on Roosevelt Island is halfway complete, and about 70 percent of the passive house standard building’s facade has already been installed. On Tuesday, a group of reporters got to check out the construction site and go inside the building for the first time. After making a stop in one of the under-construction studio apartments on the sixth floor of the building, we were taken to the top floor, which provides views of the Queensboro Bridge and the Manhattan skyline beyond, on one side, and Queens on the other.

Once complete, this building will house a total of 350 units that will be used by both students and faculty at the University. At the time of its completion in July next year, the building will achieve Passive House standards, which will then make it the largest Passive House standard building in the world.

What does that mean exactly? For one, passive house buildings use about 60-70 percent less energy than typical building stock and have surpassed environmentally conscious standards set by LEED and NYSERDA. At Cornell Tech’s residential building, there are several factors that will make this come to life. The facade is built from a prefabricated metal panel system that acts as a thermally insulated blanket that wraps the entire building. The structure will operate with an energy recovery ventilation system that brings in fresh air and takes out stale air.

Residents can expect to save on their electricity bills and the building itself will save about 882 tons of carbon dioxide each year, which is equivalent to planting 5,300 trees. The 270-foot residential building is divided into a mix of studios, one-bedrooms, two-bedrooms, and three-bedrooms — there are about 16 units on each floor. Apartments are spread out over 23 floors, and the other three floors are amenities including a gym, and a kitchen/dining space on the top floor that will be used as a common area by the residents.

The residential tower is one of four buildings that make up the first phase of Cornell Tech’s Roosevelt Island campus. The tech incubator, known as The Bridge, and the Bloomberg Center, have both topped out and are also scheduled to be complete next summer. Construction on the Verizon Executive Education Center is yet to get underway but the project is expected to wrap up in 2019. Cornell is collaborating with Hudson Companies and Related Companies on the residential building, and Handel Architects is designing it.