CTBUH NYC Hosts “Cornell Tech The House & Passive House”

NEW YORK CITY – On February 16, the CTBUH New York Chapter, in association with the New York Young Professionals Committee (YPC), co-hosted a building presentation titled “Cornell Tech: The House & Passive House” with Handel Architects at their offices. Introducing the event, YPC Co-Chair Ilkay Can-Standard, Architect, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, spoke a few words about the progress the chapter is making. And speaking on behalf of Handel Architects were Blake Middleton, FAIA, Partner, and Deborah Moelis, AIA CPHD, Senior Associate.


Their presentations focused on the Cornell Tech Residences – dubbed “The House” – which is being designed to Passive House standards, and when complete will be the tallest and largest residential building in the world built to Passive House standards. Passive House (PH) is a strict international building standard that drastically reduces energy consumption while creating a healthier and more comfortable living environment for a fraction of residents’ usual energy costs. With the level of insulation, glazing, and air pressure testing involved with Passive House, this new high-rise on Roosevelt Island is pioneering the way to enhance building performance that is ahead of its time with upcoming NYC’s energy code updates.

YPC Co-Chair Ilkay Can-Standard, Architect, KPF, introduces the event and provides updates on the chapter’s progess.

The 26-story building is part of Cornell’s 2.1 million-square-foot (195,000-square-meter) technology campus in New York City, a partnership between Cornell and Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. The Roosevelt Island Campus will include 350 residences for students, staff, and faculty.

After an enthusiastic question-answer session, attendees network and discuss the presentation over some drinks. The event was co-organized with Handel Architects.

To achieve Passive House standards, Cornell Tech Residences will incorporate a number of sustainability focused design elements. The façade, constructed of a prefabricated metal panel system, acts as a thermally insulated blanket wrapping the building structure. At the southwest façade, facing Manhattan, the exterior opens to reveal a louver system that extends the entire height of the building. This reveal is designed to be the “gills” of the building, literally providing an enclosed, louvered exterior space where the heating and cooling equipment live, allowing the building system to breathe. Purified fresh air will be ducted into each bedroom and living room, providing superior indoor air quality. Compared to conventional construction, the building is projected to save 882 tons of CO2 per year, equal to planting 5,300 new trees.

The new structure will be the tallest building on Cornell Tech’s campus and an iconic marker. The building’s exterior will shimmer, using a state-of-the-art, color-changing paint that, when reflecting light, naturally shifts color from silver to warm champagne. The interior is designed to provide a comfortable living experience that reinforces the social and intellectual connectivity that is at the heart of the school’s mission. It is geared to further a dynamic environment in which students and faculty can benefit from the synergy of their peers. The building features a number of collaborative spaces, both inside and outside, to facilitate collective academic creativity.

Attendees discuss how they may integrate Passive House concepts into their existing project developments. Blake Middleton spoke about the powerful effects of Passive House overall in the industry, and stressed the importance of being advocates for reducing energy usage in the world today. Meanwhile, Deborah Moelis dove into the methodology of technically developing the details required for avoiding thermal bridging, restricting air passivity through the façade, and the process of strategically defining the construction procedures in phasing and on-site for the workers.

This was an enlightening presentation, and generated an enthusiastic question-answer session with attendees. The conversations after were buzzing of advocating similar methods and integrating more into existing project developments. All were looking forward to incorporating the inspired ideas in their project. CTBUH NYC YPC would like to thank Handel Architects for sharing their project with our members, in particular Blake Middleton and Deborah Moelis for sharing their experiences.

The event was organized by Handel Architects and YPC Communications Coordinator Devon Telberg, Principal, Telberg Studio, with additional aid from YPC Steering Committee Members Ilkay Can-Standard, Architect, KPF, and Elizabeth Geldres, Architect, Rafael Viñoly Architects.

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