Passively sustainable residential tower

by Tania Wannenburg
Passively sustainable residential tower HANDEL ARCHITECTS

The world’s first Passive House residential building is projected to save 882 tons of CO2 per year, equal to planting 5 300 new trees.

When completed next year, Handel Architects’ residential building for Cornell University’s new campus in New York will be the tallest and largest residential building in the world that is designed and built to Passive House (PH) standards.

Passive House (PH) is considered the strictest international energy-efficiency building standard in the world. Surpassing standards such LEED, it drastically reduces buildings’ energy consumption, 60% to 70% less than typical building stock, while creating a healthier and more comfortable living environment for a fraction of residents’ usual energy costs.

Designed by Handel Architects, the Cornell Tech 26-storey residential tower is projected to save 882 tons of CO2 per year, equal to planting 5 300 new trees. All the building elements were designed with a sustainability focus, setting new benchmarks in sustainability and innovation.

A breathing facade
The exterior facade will be made of a prefabricated metal panel system that acts as a thermally insulated blanket around the building structure. On the southwest side, a louvre system that extends the full height of the building provides an enclosed space housing the heating and cooling equipment. These louvres are designed to signify the “gills” of the building, which allows the structure to breathe.

Shimmering colour
Painted with state-of-the-art colour-changing paint, the facade will shimmer as it reflects light, naturally shifting from a silver colour to warm champagne.

Indoor air quality
Inside, only low-VOC paint, which limits off-gassing, will be used throughout the building. Purified fresh air will also be ducted into each bedroom to provide superior indoor air quality.

Comfortable living
The interior of the building is designed to reinforce social and intellectual connectivity and also integration with the city. Entering the building, a high-ceilinged lounge offers residents a place to socialise with a view over the East River. Viewed from the outside, the transparency of the lounge creates a visual connection with the rest of the main campus and into the city. The building also features many other collaborative spaces in and around it to facilitate collective academic creativity.

“At the core of Handel Architects’ practice is the idea that cities are the incubators of our greatest achievements and our best hope for a sustainable future,” the architects comment. “We also believe that each individual building can be a catalyst for positive urban change as well as an achievement in its own right.

“The Cornell University residential building gives us an opportunity to not only contribute to a transformative venture, but to create a demonstration project that can show that radical energy savings are achievable right here and now.”

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to Handel Architects and Cornell University for the information given to write this article.

Innovative sustainability features
•    Thermally insulated facade.
•    A breathing louvre system.
•    Colour-changing paint on the exterior.
•    Purified air.
•    Low-VOC paint used inside.
•    Collaborative, connected spaces.


CAPTION: Being the tallest building on campus, the 26-storey residential tower is sure to become an iconic marker for both its sustainable attributes and aesthetics.

Courtesy of Forest City

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