North America’s largest passive house is part of one developer’s effort to serve communities with sustainable, affordable, efficient housing
By Julia Edinger
The built environment has a large role in shaping the world around us — both in terms of climate change and in terms of our own personal health. A sustainable future includes the ability to live and work in a space that is healthy and energy-efficient. While many developers are still boasting sustainability as a luxury feature, Omni New York believes that it is critical to providing quality housing to a community.
This is a developer that puts serving underserved communities at the forefront of its values. Omni works to serve communities is through projects like Park Avenue Green, a new apartment building in the Melrose neighborhood of the Bronx that provides affordable residences that are good for the community and the environment.
“Park Avenue Green creates much needed affordable housing solutions for low- and extremely low-income households, including formerly homeless families,” stated Mark Ginsberg, FAIA, LEED AP, Partner at Curtis + Ginsberg Architects LLP. “Sustainable low-income housing is provided in an innovative fifteen-story building, incorporating state-of-the-art building technology to create a community of environmentally comfortable homes for its residents and community-based artists.”
The ground floor acts as a shared space for the greater community. Owned and operated by the non-profit Spaceworks, this floor offers visual art studios and gallery space.
This 4,300 square-foot community facility creates a public display for local artists so that each person who walks by can view the display. This addition to the development emphasizes Omni’s commitment to building residences with a greater purpose. Artists can use this space to gather, to work, and to create. Specifically designed to include gathering spaces, a studio for community programs, and a variety of studio space sizes, this is a safe space for a community that may not otherwise have one.
The thoughtfully planned design was intended to improve the efficiency of the building. The team wanted to implement these features to create a better addition to the community — one that would be sustainable to residents.
“Affordability and energy-efficient homes work hand-in-hand, limiting long-term energy and operation costs for residents of limited income with subsidized rent,” explained Ginsberg. “The project heating for the building will be approximately 5-10 percent of the overall building energy consumption, compared to 38 percent of an average New York City multifamily apartment building. In affordable housing, where owners are required to include heating in the rent, reducing heating costs helps keep each unit more affordable.”
Now, on a cold New York City day, the people in this neighborhood in the Bronx can come inside, enjoy the art, and warm up.
The site required unique design, and the architects met the challenge with atypical geometry. The other challenge in designing Park Avenue Green was meeting Passive House standards while remaining within the working budget.
“Great care was taken to design to Passive House standards, including well-insulated exterior walls, thermal breaks at windows, and energy-efficient lighting and appliances,” detailed Ginsberg. “The individual VRF heating and cooling units allow for comfort control within each unit, while limiting the ranges of heating and cooling within each unit. The VRF’s along with efficient energy recovery units (ERV) in each apartment create units that have a high level of comfort and separation from adjacent apartments.”
Building affordable housing should never mean compromising on the comfort of future residents. Omni’s coordination in design with the existing Omni property next door, paired with the imaginative design by Curtis + Ginsberg Architects LLP, created a structure that blends with the community it is built in.
“In all projects, we strive to make our work enduring, resilient, and sustainable to enhance communities,” said Ginsberg.
Residents can enjoy a bike room, a community room, a uniquely designed lobby, and of course, the ever-changing art displays on the ground floor. Each unit has dynamic spacing due to the creativity of the architects, creating layouts that feel personal at a price that is sustainable.
The residences are designed to provide housing to families with low- and extremely-low incomes, including families that were formerly homeless. In a region where the cost of living is sky-high, affordable housing projects are crucial. Projects like Park Avenue Green prove that affordable housing does not need to compromise on quality, but instead, can set a new standard.
Julia Edinger is the Editor for Green Home Builder Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.