‘Passive House’ Standard Gaining Ground in Multifamily Housing

Developers in Chicago and around the country are taking notice of a design standard that encourages energy efficiency and sustainable materials.

2 minute read

August 9, 2023, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Installation of external wall thermal insulation with rock wool on Passive House residential building.

Thermal insulation on a building designed to the Passive House standard. | sommersby / Adobe Stock

Multi-family housing developers in Chicago are embracing Passive House design standards to lower their carbon footprints and reduce costs. As Lizzie Kane reports in the Chicago Tribune, “Multifamily developers, particularly those building affordable housing, in Chicago have begun to embrace Passive House design in the last few years thanks to local industry professionals advocating for changes in the city and state building energy codes, as well as buy-in from ComEd, the primary energy provider in the state.”

“Passive House design focuses on making a building tightly sealed by including features such as triple-paned windows and wraparound insulation to keep outside temperatures from creeping in (and noise too), as well as ventilation systems to keep air quality fresh,” Kane explains.

The Passive House standard, originally geared toward single-family homes, is being implemented on around 275 multi-family projects nationwide, according to a study from the Passive House Network. “The study said in order to speed up the pace of Passive House development, local, state and federal policymakers should finance incentive programs, offer professional training, increase provisions in state affordable housing programs and amend compliance rules in energy codes.” Passive House was recently added to Chicago’s Sustainable Development Policy and the city’s building code.

Kane describes other city and state policies in the works that will incentivize the Passive House standard and make it easier to build low-impact, efficient buildings at lower cost. Outside of Illinois, “Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut lead the way in multifamily buildings being developed to meet the Passive House standard, with each state having more than 50 properties in the pipeline or already completed, according to Phius’ database.”

Tuesday, August 8, 2023 in Chicago Tribune

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