High Occupancy, Low Energy: Multifamily Passive House

PH Multi-family Building
Rendering of Synapse Capital's multifamily Passive House building.

My firm, Synapse Capital, announced last December that our property at 542 West 153rd Street, which we are developing in partnership with Taurus Investment Holdings, would become the first Passive House market-rate rental building in Manhattan. The seven-story building, located between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood of Harlem, will contain 34 residential units consisting primarily of 1- and 2-bedroom apartments with amenities that include a resident lounge, rooftop garden, gym, bike storage, resident storage, 18 parking spaces and a Virtual Doorman system.

Passive House construction relies on modern and relatively inexpensive building methods, such as substantial exterior insulation, airtightness, minimal thermal bridging, and triple-pane windows to reduce energy transfer. Our vision for the property is to provide smarter, happier living by rethinking urban living from the ground up. In line with this vision, our decision to have the building meet Passive House standards is two-fold: first, we want to create a better living experience for our tenants, and we believe that focusing on the environmental footprint of our property is critical to achieving this goal. Offering our residents space in a highly energy efficient building provides a quieter and more comfortable living environment, which translates into longer retention and higher satisfaction for those who reside at the property. Second, the design ensures substantial operational savings as the owner of the property.

When we closed on the 9,900-square-foot lot with Taurus, Crain’s New York BusinessThe Real Deal, and Curbed covered the purchase and our plans for the building to become the first multifamily building in Manhattan to meet the Passive House standards, noting savings of 80-90% in energy costs versus those of a similarly sized building of a standard design and construction quality. Word of benefits like these is spreading: a handful of smaller Passive House buildings are already in existence in the outer boroughs, particularly Brooklyn; several countries in Europe, especially Germany, have been utilizing passive house technology for more than two decades already. Chris Benedict—our architect for the project, who specializes in constructing energy-efficient buildings at no additional cost to developers—is also building a 24-unit passive apartment building in Bushwick. We plan to complete the development of the project in Harlem over the next eighteen months.

Justin Palmer will be a panelist at the Façade Face-Off conference on 9/22. Join us to discuss the future of building facades in NYC and beyond. 

About the authors

Justin D. Palmer
Justin is a Partner at Synapse Capital.