Passive Building Incentives Spur New Housing in Massachusetts

Two grant programs aimed at supporting highly efficient, affordable housing developments are yielding promising results.

2 minute read

March 9, 2022, 10:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


The Prescott Passive House in Kansas City, Kansas

The Prescott Passive House, part of the revitalization of downtown Kansas City, was designed to meet Passive House and LEED standards. | Studio804 / The Prescott Passive House in Kansas City, Kansas

Two Massachusetts state programs are successfully incentivizing the production of highly efficient affordable housing using passive building. According to an article by Sarah Shemkus, "Early numbers indicate that this building approach costs, on average, less than 3% more than conventional construction and can slash energy use roughly in half."

The programs reward developers who engage in passive house building, defined in the article as "a performance standard that calls for a drastic reduction of energy consumption as compared to a similar, conventionally designed structure. Buildings that meet the standard have airtight envelopes, insulating windows, and continually insulated exterior walls."

Two grant programs launched in 2018 and 2019 by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and Mass Save, the organization that administers the utilities’ legally mandated energy efficiency programs have let developers experiment with passive building. "The Passive House Design Challenge awarded eight affordable housing developments $4,000 per unit — for a total of $1.73 million — for new construction built to the passive house standard." Mass Save provides grants for feasibility studies and pre-construction energy modeling. "These incentives have been vital in sparking the growth of high-performance multifamily building, said Dave Traggorth, principal at real estate advisory firm Traggorth Companies, which is currently developing two passive house projects with a total of 57 units."

More efficient design also means lower energy and maintenance costs down the line. "The affordable housing sector has taken a particular interest in passive house building. The increased attention to airflow and air quality, along with better temperature control, make these homes healthier places to live, an advantage for populations that generally face more medical issues (and costs)." Building energy-efficient affordable housing, with its long-term benefits, can benefit both residents and builders.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022 in Energy News Network

Large blank mall building with only two cars in large parking lot.

Pennsylvania Mall Conversion Bill Passes House

If passed, the bill would promote the adaptive reuse of defunct commercial buildings.

April 18, 2024 - Central Penn Business Journal

Street scene in Greenwich Village, New York City with people walking through busy intersection and new WTC tower in background.

Planning for Accessibility: Proximity is More Important than Mobility

Accessibility-based planning minimizes the distance that people must travel to reach desired services and activities. Measured this way, increased density can provide more total benefits than increased speeds.

April 14, 2024 - Todd Litman

Wood-frame two-story rowhouses under construction.

Fair Housing Cannot Take a Back Seat to ‘Build, Baby, Build’

If we overlook fair housing principles in the plan to build US housing back better, we risk ending up right back where we started.

April 11, 2024 - James Jennings

"No 710" lawn sign on green lawn.

LA Metro Board Approves New 710 Freeway Plan

The newest plan for the 710 corridor claims it will not displace any residents.

3 hours ago - Streetsblog LA

Close-up of row of electric cars plugged into chargers at outdoor station.

Austin’s Proposed EV Charging Rules Regulate Station Locations, Size

City planners say the new rules would ensure an efficient distribution of charging infrastructure across the city and prevent an overconcentration in residential areas.

4 hours ago - Austin Monitor

Green hills with orange California poppies in bloom in foreground in Chino Hills State Park, California.

Making California State Parks More Climate-Resilient

A recently released report offers recommendations for keeping state parks healthy and robust, including acquiring additional land for conservation and recreation.

5 hours ago - Spectrum News 1

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.