Passive House

Untangling the Climate Mobilization Act by Paul Castrucci

NYC Climate Mobilization Act will require covered buildings to meet stringent CO2 emission limits. Building to current NYC Energy Code risks non-compliance, subjecting owners to fines. The Passive House building standard is the surest path to compliance for 2030 and beyond.

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Open House : Sunnyside Gardens Residence at New York Passive House Days by Paul Castrucci

Sunnyside Gardens Residence Open House: 2018 New York Passive House Days


47th St Sunnyside, Queens | Friday - June 8 @ 4-6 PM
Link to RSVP


OPEN HOUSE EVENTS

4:00 Informal tours with Sissily Harrell and New Deal Home Improvement Company Inc

5:00 Questions and Answers with Project Architectural Designer Sissily Harrell and New Deal Home Improvement Company Inc

5:30 Meet the architect Paul A. Castrucci

6:00 open house shut down
---> after party walk to . . .
Quaint
46-10 Skillman Ave
https://goo.gl/maps/M8hew1PTbGD2


New York City – May 25, 2018

Paul A. Castrucci, Architect and ZeroEnergy Design joins New York Passive House (NYPH) for the Summer International Passive House Days. NYPH tours offer the public and industry experts a first hand interaction with Passive Houses. Paul A. Castrucci, RA and Sissily Harrell will guide the open house tour on Friday, June 8 from 4-6pm. The architects will also hold a discussion and educational event on site for builders, engineers, architects, developers, affordable homeowners and green building enthusiasts to learn more about the project. This open house is notable because it will be the first Passive House in Sunnyside Gardens project.

The Sunnyside Gardens Residence is a 1000 sqft single family row house located in the Sunnyside Gardens Historical District in Queens, New York.  Built in 1925, this compact 3 bedroom row house was design by Clarence Stein and Henry Wright in the Art Deco style. The structure will undergo an extensive renovation that carefully incorporates Passive House EnerPHit standards with the building elements that contribute to the special architectural character of the district, including siting, style, scale, material and detailing.

Sunnyside Gardens was built from 1924 to 1928 as a philanthropic effort to ‘encourage greater equity in housing production, location, and design’ and stands as one of America’s best examples of low-density, low-rise residential development. Inspired by the English Garden City movement, the district was based on a concept that combines resource and environmental planning of typical urban and rural conditions to create an alternative for suburban living. A key signature for the Garden City style is the combination of single-, double, and triple- family private homes with rental apartment buildings and their arrangement around common gardens and pedestrian-friendly thoroughfares. Long-time resident Lewis Mumford called Sunnyside Gardens “An exceptional community laid out by the people who were deeply human and who gave the place a permanent expression of that humanness.”

Paul A. Castrucci Architect has worked closely with the clients, NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, NYS Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, Parks Department, Queens Community Board #2 and the Hamilton Court Association to create a design that respects the character-defining features of the building and its historic context. Restoration of both primary and secondary facades begins with a particular sensitivity to the original Hudson River Brick and its corbeled detail in the entablatures of each facade. The firm received full approval from the Commission, the first in the district, on the Passive House-certified simulated double hung windows - designed to incorporate historic elements into the energy-efficient triple pane design, including shadow lines, simulated divide lights, and a simulated double-hung function (a better performing window very similar in look to the historic wooden single pane double hung window). Paul A. Castrucci Architect has carefully developed windows; paying close attention to original relationships of wall planes to windows, site lines from the street, color and material, and proper installation of all components by the contractor.

Paul Castrucci, Architect developed air sealing and brick restoration details for this project and will follow up with contractors’ training to ensure proper installation. 
A new R-40 roof assembly integrated with the Sunnyside Gardens Residence’s mechanical system is designed to minimize energy use. High-efficiency mini-split HVAC units heat and cool the home, taking up much less space than the typical apartments’ due to the buildings reduced heating and cooling loads. Interior space is limited in this single-family rowhouse, so ductwork is kept to a minimum size to take up as little space as possible as it passes through the interior. Precise air sealing installation will prevent thermal breaks.  Hot water is supplied with heat pump hot water heaters. Energy-efficient appliances and LED lighting is used throughout. Finally, a 3.5kW Solar Photovoltaic array will be installed on the roof to achieve near Net Zero energy capability. The solar layout is hidden from street view in order to respect its historical context. The home operates entirely on electricity - no natural gas or fossil fuels are used.
 


 
Passive House is an international building standard developed in the 1990s by the Passive House Institute of Darmstadt Germany.  The firm is committed to building to Passive House standards, reducing building energy use through passive measures and components such as insulation, airtightness, heat recovery, solar heat gains, solar shading and incidental internal heat gains. Passive House buildings are comfortable, affordable and create deep reductions in environmental/carbon footprint. 

New York Passive House is an independent not-for-profit organization that facilitates the exchange of information and experiences, among local, national and international practitioners of the Passive House building standard. 

ZeroEnergy Design is an architecture and mechanical Passive House design firm specializing in high performance homes and buildings. The firm’s commitment to innovative and ecologically sensible design is reflected in multidisciplinary knowledge base, which spans architecture, mechanical design and financial analysis. The firm  supported the project as passive house consultant.

Paul A. Castrucci, Architect is an early adapter of Passive House construction having completed R-951, which is New York City’s first Net Zero Capable, Passive House certified residence. The firm has over thirty years of experience in sustainable practices with a focus on affordable residential buildings, arts facilities and community centers. The firm’s body of work reflects the firm’s commitment to sustainability in design and construction. The firm’s projects typically incorporate systems like passive and active solar heating, photovoltaic electricity generation and schemes for natural day lighting and ventilation. 

Press contact: Rosalinda@castrucciarchitect.com    T. 212.254.7060 x 612

Partnership Organization and Special Thanks to New York Passive House, ZeroEnergy Design and Owners of Sunnyside Residence

New York Passive House Days : Clifton Residence Open House by Paul Castrucci

On Friday Nov. 10, 2017 New York Passive house and Paul A. Castrucci Architect participated in International Passive House Days. From 10 – 12 November 2017, the International Passive House Open Days, put on by iPHA and its international Affiliates, took place for the 14th year in a row. By visiting a Passive House home, office, or even construction site, you can experience the benefits of Passive House first hand!

 

Open House

Sawkill Lumber and Paul A. Castrucci Architect opened the recently completed townhouse in Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn. The open house tours are great places for builders, engineers, architects and green building enthusiasts to learn about the project, and network with many experts in the field. The tour started on the first floor (garden level apt was not open to the public) in the living room area and then migrated to the kitchen and dinning area. Paul Castrucci was on hand with David White of Right Environment .   A few topics covered were thermal break issues, passive house detailing for timber frame retrofits, working with reclaimed wood, and custom double pane windows. Over 50 people were in attendance. 

Tour of First Floor

 

Passive House Family Zone

Paul A. Castrucci Architect is committed to community and families. The firm worked with it's host partner SawKill Lumber to create a Passive House Family Zone where children are welcome to play puzzle games and read children's books on sustainability. The firm wanted to create an environment that would be welcoming for working families interested in learning about Passive House Design. The open house was from 4-6pm a prime time for family time. 

 

Second and Third Floor Tour

Paul Castrucci and David White invited participants to tour the second and third floors. The third floor is an educational space dedicated to AIA, passive house and sustainability events. The room was organized to show a slide show of passive house projects from the firm's portfolio, SawKill Lumber samples with information, and reception area for networking.

Scenes from International Passive House Conference Weekend by Paul Castrucci

International Passive House Conference

Friday June 16 launched the International Passive House Weekend in New York City. Paul Castrucci, principle and Grayson Jordan, R.A. attended.  This year's conference and expo, "Towards Market Transformation" was held at the Metropolitan Pavilion and featured over 30 manufacturers and service providers. Presentation were given by New York and International architects focused on transforming the market and leading the way towards a cleaner and healthier built environment.  The conference also provided a vehicle for building upon relationships with the firm's community group partners and fellow architects. 

New York Passive House featured the firm's  project R-591  on the cover of the convention trifold. 

New York Passive House featured the firm's project R-591 on the cover of the convention trifold. 

Top Facebook Live Moments

The International Passive House Association conference talk on mixed use in mixed climates

Habitat for Humanity doing passive house at The International Passive House Association

Cold climate Passive house for production facility at The International Passive House Association

Posted by Paul A. Castrucci, Architect on Friday, June 16, 2017

Final thoughts before cocktails at new york Passive house conference

Summer Passive House Days

 Open House at 158 Clifton Pl

On Saturday June 17, the firm participated in a city wide Summer Passive House Days.  Summer Passive House Days are a way for architects, homeowners, clients and developers to get a first hand experience of the many advantages Passive Houses offer! Open house tours are great places for builders, engineers, architects and green building enthusiasts to learn about projects, and network with many experts in the field. The firm created a multimedia experience using QR codes that showed the participant video documentation of the process, blog post to more detailed information on the woods, systems and products. The QR codes were strategically place to offer a multimedia experience though out the space.

EnerPhit Rehab of existing 3 story plus Basement plus Cellar two family building. Passive House wood frame rowhouse renovation with extensive use of reclaimed wood throughout, including Sho Shugi Ban (burnt Douglas Fir) front facade and recycled Ipe from the Coney Island Boardwalk on the rear façade.  This renovation reduced the energy demand of the building to the extent that the planned rooftop solar installation brings the Owner’s unit into Net Zero capability.

Project in Process: In search of the Classic Red Brick for 312-322 Canal St by Paul Castrucci

The material choices for 312-322 Canal Street veers toward the common place elegance rather than the extravagant. The firm choose a standard red-brick, historically used, as the face material of the building. The materiality of this classic red-brick brings utility and practicality to the 100 feet-long elevation along Canal Street. The firm is still reviewing brick samples with the developer and searching for just the right classic red-brick . . .

Link to project

6sqft Press : Design Phase/Pending Approval for 312-322 CANAL STREET by Paul Castrucci

If you’ve walked down Chinatown’s Canal Street then you’re certainly familiar with a string of stores at 312-322 Canal Street hawking cheap souvenirs to tourists and passersby. After a proposal to renew the depressed stretch of shops with a brand-new brick construction failed to pass Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) muster in 2011, a new, much more ambitious plan to replace the ramshackle building has finally emerged.

Once again drawn up by architect Paul A. Castrucci, the new iteration would rise as a nine-story, multi-family property with retail at its base. Moreover, the structure would also be a Passive House construction, similar to Castrucci’s other buildings, 951 Pacific Street and ABC No Rio. As with any Passive House, the residence will be primarily heated by passive solar gain and internal gains (from people or electrical equipment) with the aim of cutting energy costs by 90 percent.

By comparison, Castrucci’s first proposal shut down by Landmarks was largely a more polished version of the existing structure, accented with aluminum-framed storefronts and awnings. The LPC called it “sad” and “neither here nor there,” among other things.

The property is sited on the edge of the East Tribeca Historic District, and according to CityRealty, its units will likely be designated as rentals. They add that Castrucci’s simple red-brick design aims to blend in with the neighborhood, rather than stand out. “The project enters into a critical dialogue with its surrounding context,” writes the architect on his website. “The façade’s repetition recalls some of the underlying structural rhythms of the historical district’s notable palazzo-style, cast-iron facades, but avoids replicating or reproducing their forms, details or material choices.”

In terms of its Passive House specs, the building will use high-efficiency heat pumps to condition the interior units, while ERVs (energy recovery ventilators) will supply apartments with filtered and conditioned fresh air. The prefabricated exterior brick panels will also be backed with a four-inch layer of insulation complemented by a layer of mineral wool, which when combined with Passive House-certified windows, will make for an air-tight building.

Although Castrucci has the project prominently featured on his site, official permits have yet to be filed. As CityRealty tells us, the property remains plagued with fines and stop-work orders that stem from illegal repair work done in 2010.

CITYREALTY Press : Design Phase/Pending Approval for 312-322 CANAL STREET by Paul Castrucci

CITYREALTY, "Nine-Story Passive House May Be Replacing Decrepit Stretch of Retail at 312-322 Canal Street"

By SANDRA HERRERA

The stretch of stores on 312-322 Canal Street is finally being revisited by Paul A. Castrucci Architect after the team's first proposal was denied by the Landmark Preservation Commission in 2011. Back then, the plan was to keep the retail but the design was deemed too bland for the lively area. This time around, their design is a for a residential, multi-family project that is slated to become Passive House-certified, much like their other buildings at 951 Pacific Street and ABC No Rio. Passive House principles stipulate that buildings must be primarily heated by passive solar gain and internal gains from people or electrical equipment, which saves up to 90% of space heating costs.

The proposed project will rise nine stories in the East Tribeca Historical District and will likely be rentals. According to Castrucci's site, the facade's repetition recalls the district's "notable palazzo-style, cast-iron facades, but avoids replicating or reproducing their forms, details, or material choices." In an attempt to fit in with the area, the firm chose practicality and utility over extravagance and went with a standard red-brick facade. The Passive House will have optimized energy consumptions with high-efficiency heat pumps to condition the interior units on an individual basis, while Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs) will supply the apartments with filtered and conditioned fresh air. The virtually air-tight building will feature exterior brick panels backed with 4" layer of insulation.

Although permits have yet to be filed, this sad brick row of 2-story buildings is begging for a change. Illegal repair work was done to the storefronts in 2010 without the approval from the LPC and the site is plagued by past-due fines and stop-work orders. This isn't the firm's first time around the block either - literally. Paul A. Castrucci Architect also got denied by the LPC for their residential proposal next door at 308 and 310 Canal Street.

In-process : 158 Clifton Residence by Paul Castrucci

The 158 Clifton Residence is a two family row house project by the SawKill Lumber Company. The owner and founder, Alan Soloman, is gearing up the row house for living as well as collaborating with Paul Castrucci Architect. The building will be one of Brooklyn's only near Net Zero energy retrofits that will be a place of residence and on the top level host architectural educational events, green design salons and a contemporary 'wunderkammer' for objects made of reclaimed wood. Alan Soloman is excited to show the multiplicity of repurposed wood and the possiblities of sustainable design .    

Featured on the front facade is Douglas Fir from Worcestershire Sauce tanks reclaimed from NJ. The old growth woods were recovered from , and milled into 5” & 7” clapboard. The ebonized facade is characteristic of the Japanese fire treatment technique, Shou Sughi Ban,  that dates to the 1700’s and serves as a modern application, furthering the exterior performance of a sustainable material, and producing a subtle and dramatic silhouette of the underlying virgin Douglas Fir figure. 

Details of top floor a space for educational events.

In-process Sustainable & Affordable Housing : 377 East 10th St, New York NY by Paul Castrucci

Sustainable and affordable housing is an essential part of our practice for more than twenty years. The firm is pleased to present two current sustainable and affordable housing projects in the East Village community. The project team includes the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD),  the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board and a developer partner BFC Partners and SMJ Development.  

377 East 10th Street is a gut renovation project in the Lower East Side neighborhood of New York.  Our design team engaged in a participatory design process with the existing tenants, many of whom had lived in their spaces for more than 20 years.  Through a series of one on one meetings with the tenants, their ideas and spatial needs were incorporated into the project.  

The building is being adapted to meet the Passive House EnerPHit and Enterprise Green Communities standards. The firm is incorporating Passive House design techniques such as air tight construction, improved insulation and windows, and energy recovery ventilation, the buildings are made truly sustainable and truly affordable. 

ABC NO RIO Moving forward with programs in "exile" : next phase in construction by Paul Castrucci

ABC No Rio is embarking on a new phase. The summer of 2016 became a pivoting moment as programming at the Rivington Street space shifted to alternative locations and the staff prepares for demolition and new construction.

ABC No Rio's events, programs and the essence of community that it brings about continue "in exile".  In this transitional period, creates an opportunity for a renewed focus towards collaborative work that brings them back to their roots. ABC No Rio was founded as a project of the 1970s artist group called Collaborative Projects.  The spirit of collaboration will enable people to continue sharing resources and ideas in this atmosphere of change and mutual support.

The construction phase highlights the importance of the city's artist-run community spaces. The programming work ABC No Rio engages and the design work Paul Castrucci Architect are doing helps to strengthen progressive communities in response to the recent elections.  ABC No Rio has been responding to the times we live in since the space was founded 36 years ago.  The lost felt of not being able to operate in their space, to express themselves as they once did and nourish their creative environment has created momentum for ABC No Rio to take the spirit of creating community to other sister institutions.

Before leaving the building, ABC No Rio celebrated their 36 anniversary in their "old home". In June, they presented two final exhibitions: InFinite Futures and The Past Will be Present. Infinite Futures involved eighteen artists with a historical connection to No Rio. Each artist was invited to create installations imaging the site in five, fifty or five hundred years in the future. The Past Will Be Present included four photographers who documented the spaces and textures of No Rio's building and the people working within it.

The last month in the space had a series of sold out weekly hardcore/punk matinees. Punks of different generations danced, sang and cried together as they bid farewell to the tenement where they came of age and found their political and creative voices.  The last COMA improv session in their "old home" was an extended evening of short sets both inside and out, involving almost fifty musicians playing solo, in duets and in ensemble. ABC No Rio's programs "will be - and are - continuing in exile". For example, the hardcore/punk matinees continue at "Do It Yourself" venues in other boroughs. The zine library moved to another local and historical community space, Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center. The visual art program will be hosted in various galleries around the city. This movement creates opportunity for ABC No Rio to work closely with other artist groups/collectives. Their collaboration with Flux Factory, an artist-run residency space in Queens, cultivates a spirit co-operation over competition and becomes an exploration of mutual aid.

Image: Satellite view of ABC No Rio and Paul A. Castrucci Architect headquarters. One minute walk and neighborhood. 

Image: Satellite view of ABC No Rio and Paul A. Castrucci Architect headquarters. One minute walk and neighborhood. 

Paul A. Castrucci Architect and ABC No Rio anticipate demolition plans to be approved soon and to begin in early 2017. The journey so far has not been without challenging moments for both the firm and ABC No Rio.  The city gave ABC No Rio the opportunity to raise the money to develop the site and with a supportive community response the city signed over the deed in 2006.  In 2014, ABC No Rio moved the project over to the City's Economic Development Corporation. The city realized that greater flexibility in project management and administration was better suited to fit the unique aspects of this construction. In 2016, they received an additional $750,000 from the Mayor and the Department of Cultural Affairs. The bids came back a lot higher than available funding. Most recently, asbestos was found on the roof. 

Current circumstances test the artist run space and remind its community of ABC No Rio's origins. The ABC No Rio artist community was culled from a creative action by local artists who never dreamed that breaking into the building to protest the city's real estate policies would lead to this moment.  During the course of transforming the space and creating community ABC No Rio has overcome years of eviction attempts and the gentrification moment. 

Support and donations remain important in the next phase of construction.

ABC No Rio is a 501(c)(3) organization. Contributions to ABC No Rio are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Consult your tax advisor with any tax-related queries.

                        Thank you for your support

                       Thank you for your support

Brooklyn Open House: 2016 New York Passive House Day | Nov. 11, 2016 by Paul Castrucci

158 Clifton Place, Brooklyn | Friday - November 11, 1 PM  

RSVP on New York Passive House website - Link to RSVP 

 

For Immediate Release:

New York City - Paul A. Castrucci, Architect joins New York Passive House (NYPH) for the 13th International Passive House Days. NYPH tours offer the public and industry experts a first hand interaction with Passive Houses. Paul A. Castrucci, RA and Grayson Jordan, RA will guide the open house tour of 158 Clifton Place, Brooklyn on Friday,  November 11 at 1 p.m. The architects will also hold a discussion and educational event on site for builders, engineers, architects, developers, affordable homeowners and green building enthusiasts to learn more about the project.  

158 Clifton Place is a Passive House retro-fit (EnerPhit) of an 1887 wooden row house, and is located in the historic Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. In addition to Passive House construction, the project will feature a 7.5 kW solar array and reclaimed wood on the exterior facades and throughout the interior.  Partners for this project include, The Right EnvironmentsSawKill Lumber and Blue Line Construction.

Passive House is an international building standard developed in the 1990s by the Passive House Institute of Darmstadt Germany.  The firm is committed to building to Passive House standards, reducing building energy use through passive measures and components such as insulation, airtightness, heat recovery, solar heat gains, solar shading and incidental internal heat gains. Passive House buildings are comfortable, affordable and create deep reductions in environmental/carbon footprint. 

New York Passive House is an independent not-for-profit organization that facilitates the exchange of information and experiences, among local, national and international practitioners of the Passive House building standard. 

Paul A. Castrucci, Architect is an early adapter of Passive House construction having completed R-951, which is New York City’s first Net Zero Capable, Passive House certified residence. The firm has over thirty years of experience in sustainable practices with a focus on residential buildings, arts facilities and community centers. The firm’s body of work reflects the firms commitment to sustainability in design and construction. The materials and building systems the firm employs are selected for their low environmental impact and maximum energy efficiency. The firm values building principles that employ both passive and active strategies to generate energy and significantly reduce energy use. The firm’s projects typically incorporate systems like passive and active solar heating, photovoltaic electricity generation and schemes for natural day lighting and ventilation. 

Special thanks to our partners

Press contact: Rosalinda@castrucciarchitect.com
T. 212.254.7060 x 612

East Village Open House: 2016 New York Passive House Days | Nov. 11, 2016 by Paul Castrucci

377 East 10th St, Manhattan | Friday - November 11, 3:30 PM

RSVP on New York Passive House website - Link to RSVP

 

For Immediate Release:

New York City - Paul A. Castrucci, Architect joins New York Passive House (NYPH) for the 13th International Passive House Days. NYPH tours offer the public and industry experts a first hand interaction with Passive Houses. Paul A. Castrucci, RA and Jaime Alvarez, RA will guide the open house tour of 377 East 10th Street in the East Village on Friday,  November 11 at 3:30 p.m. The architects will also hold a discussion and educational event on site for builders, engineers, architects, developers, affordable homeowners and green building enthusiasts to learn more about the project.  

This is a Passive House retro-fit of a pre-1900 six story tenement.  The building was adapted to meet the Passive House EnerPHit and Enterprise Green Communities standards. The project team includes the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD),  the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board and a developer partner BFC Partners and SMJ Development. This NYPH open house tour will also focus on how the firm is implementing Passive House construction and addressing the neighborhood demand for affordable housing.  Reduction in energy use is critical to maintaining affordable housing, where residents may already be financially challenged.

Passive House is an international building standard developed in the 1990s by the Passive House Institute of Darmstadt Germany.  The firm is committed to building to Passive House standards, reducing building energy use through passive measures and components such as insulation, airtightness, heat recovery, solar heat gains, solar shading and incidental internal heat gains. Passive House buildings are comfortable, affordable and create deep reductions in environmental/carbon footprint. 

New York Passive House is an independent not-for-profit organization that facilitates the exchange of information and experiences, among local, national and international practitioners of the Passive House building standard. 

Paul A. Castrucci, Architect is an early adapter of Passive House construction having completed R-951, which is New York City’s first Net Zero Capable, Passive House certified residence. The firm has over thirty years of experience in sustainable practices with a focus on residential buildings, arts facilities and community centers. The firm’s body of work reflects the firms commitment to sustainability in design and construction. The materials and building systems the firm employs are selected for their low environmental impact and maximum energy efficiency. The firm values building principles that employ both passive and active strategies to generate energy and significantly reduce energy use. The firm’s projects typically incorporate systems like passive and active solar heating, photovoltaic electricity generation and schemes for natural day lighting and ventilation. 

Special thanks to our partners

Press contact: Rosalinda@castrucciarchitect.com
T. 212.254.7060 x 612

Press in Doggerel - Passive house: A road map for radically reducing energy consumption? by Paul Castrucci

By Alex Ulam / June 30, 2015 

This winter was one of the coldest on record in New York City, and many property owners saw major spikes in their energy bills. However, thanks to passive house technology and a glazed glass south-facing façade, the occupants of a recently retrofitted townhouse in Park Slope, Brooklyn, were able to leave the heat off even when temperatures outside fell below zero. According to the architect, the building’s cooling and heating systems consumed less than a fifth of the energy needed to keep neighboring townhouses at a comfortable temperature.

The project’s designer, a firm called Build with Prospect, bills itself as the first worker cooperative in New York City’s construction industry. Build with Prospect also is one of the first firms in the city to start doing passive house retrofits. And although construction costs for a Build with Prospect retrofit range from 4 to 7% more than conventional construction, the energy savings are so significant that a building can start yielding paybacks within as little as four years.

“The nice thing about a passive house is that the results are verifiable,” Build with Prospect architect Nate Priputen says, noting that the energy-efficiency standard, which was developed in Germany in the early 1990s, is a holistic system based upon strict measurements of total energy usage and air circulation. In contrast, the US Green Building Council’s LEED checklist system awards points for various other environmental benchmarks in addition to energy efficiency.

Drawing of one of Brooklyn’s first new-construction passive house buildings, designed by Paul A. Castrucci Architect; finished apartment seen above

Drawing of one of Brooklyn’s first new-construction passive house buildings, designed by Paul A. Castrucci Architect; finished apartment seen above

The passive house movement is strongest in Central Europe, where most of the more than 9,500 buildings certified as meeting its exacting energy efficiency criteria are located — in addition to the tens of thousands of buildings that have been built with passive house technology but not certified. A growing number of cities, such as Brussels and Frankfurt, are incorporating passive house standards into their building codes, and passive house–oriented masterplans are being developed for entire neighborhoods. And with the new European Union requirement that as of 2020 all new buildings meet “nearly zero” energy standards, meaning that they be built with a very high level of energy performance, the passive house model is destined to become even more prevalent.

With the growing concern about climate change, passive house is finally catching on in the United States.
— http://doggerel.arup.com/passive-house-a-road-map-for-radically-reducing-energy-consumption/

In New York City, one of the leaders in the United States for this type of construction, only a handful of buildings have been certified as passive house. But with the growing concern about climate change and the burgeoning interest in “zero net” carbon emission strategies, the approach is finally catching on in this country. The New York City government’s recently published One City: Built to Last report, which lays out a road map for reducing the city’s carbon footprint, discusses passive house as a potential energy performance guideline for all new construction.

The passive house standard requires a tightly sealed and heavily insulated building envelope to ensure optimum energy efficiency. The minimum airtightness level allowed is 0.6 air changes per hour under 50 pascals of pressure. To ensure that a house is in compliance with this limit and that there are no leaks, the building’s designers conduct an on-site blower door test. “The biggest challenge is the sealing,” says Priputen, adding, “If you have a weak spot you have to make all of the other areas stronger in terms of insulation and air sealing.”

Paul A. Castrucci Architect’s new home for ABC No Rio, a community arts organization, is slated to become the first commercial passive house building in New York City.

Paul A. Castrucci Architect’s new home for ABC No Rio, a community arts organization, is slated to become the first commercial passive house building in New York City.

The other main pillar of passive house construction is a compact air and heat exchange system that conserves energy by transferring heat and/or moisture between incoming and outgoing streams of air. Designers specify one of two systems, depending on the site’s climate: heat recovery ventilators (HRVs), which transfer only heat, or energy recovery ventilators (ERVs), which transfer both heat and moisture.

We look at a solid new concrete wall in the back of the building, which is 18in thick as opposed to the 10in that Priputen says would be the standard for a new wall in a New York City townhouse. Accounting for part of the new wall’s thickness is expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation, which removes the need for formwork made of plywood or metal. Not only does EPS insulation result in a more efficient construction process, it also eliminates the enormous amount of waste from the more typical plywood and metal formwork that is generally disposed of after the concrete has set in conventional construction.

Along with the superinsulated walls, passive house construction generally features windows with an R-7 insulation value or higher. (Insulation value calculations can be highly complex. For the sake of comparison, however, a typical single-paned window has an R-0 value.) These triple-paned windows, which are only beginning to be manufactured in the United States, lower the heat loads while keeping the inside face of the glass significantly warmer, greatly reducing cold spots within a room.

Although the passive house standard is much more prevalent in Europe, it evolved out of research conducted in the United States back in the 1970s, when the country was in the throes of an oil crisis. In fact, two of the prototypes for passive house construction were built in the 1970s by a team headed by the architect Wayne Schick at the University of Illinois. The University of Illinois team determined that most houses lost heat through cracks and thermal bridging. So to eliminate thermal bridging and air leaks, the team used double-stud walls and massive amounts of insulation, which Schick dubbed “superinsulation.” Of course, removing all of the natural ventilation made getting fresh air into the house a challenge, especially during winter months. To compensate for the lack of natural ventilation, Schick and his team developed one of the world’s first HRV systems.

ABC No Rio rendering

ABC No Rio rendering

While the University of Illinois team’s research failed to bring about immediate changes in the American building industry, it caught on in Germany, where engineer Wolfgang Feist used it as the basis for the original passive house standard, developed in 1991.

A number of factors have led to the passive house standard taking so many years to catch on in the United States. One of the challenges, according to Priputen, was the imperviousness of the insulating membranes available in the 1970s, which trapped water vapors with dire consequences. “It created mold and degraded entire buildings,” he says. “People moved away from it, and it has taken this long to embrace that way of building again.”

Passive house is strongest in Germany and Austria.
— http://doggerel.arup.com/passive-house-a-road-map-for-radically-reducing-energy-consumption/

However, the political climate in the United States also appears to have played a part in retarding advances in building science. “The story in the US is that we took energy efficiency seriously for about eight years in the 1970s, and then Reagan got elected and it all got shut down,” declares Ken Levenson, a founding board member of New York Passive House, a nonprofit advocacy organization; and a founding partner of 475 High Performance Building Supply, which specializes in passive house building materials and technology.

In addition to politics, Levenson says that differences in national architectural education standards have led some parts of the world to adopt the system much faster. “[Passive house] is strongest in Germany and Austria, where there are the highest technical capabilities and the architects and engineers are much more aligned culturally with it,” he says.

Until recently, cost premiums also were a limiting factor to the passive house standard becoming a commercially viable alternative in this country. For example, up until about five years ago, there were only a couple of importers of passive house–quality triple-paned windows to the United States, says Levenson, but now there are more than a dozen importers and the cost has come down significantly. “Passive house windows were more than twice the cost of a decent American double-paned window,” he says. “Today, you would probably get it for a 25% upcharge.”

Although passive house products such as imported high-performance triple-paned windows still sell for a slight premium, they significantly pay off in the long run by eliminating thermal bridges, creating airtightness, and increasing comfort for inhabitants. “Consequently, you don’t need to have perimeter radiator heating or air conditioning — you can get rid of all of those mechanical systems and pull them back to the core of the building,” Levenson says. “Because of the optimization, which should be driving energy loads down by 85 or 90%, there typically is 75% reduction in size of mechanical systems needed for heating and cooling.”

One architect practicing in New York has even found a way to incorporate passive house technology into affordable housing. Chris Benedict, principal of Architecture and Energy Limited, has built two 24-unit affordable housing developments in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn that are on the way to achieving passive house certification. Currently, she is getting ready to break ground on a market-rate 40-unit apartment house, which will be the first passive house residential building in Manhattan.

According to Benedict, who has been designing energy-efficient buildings in New York City since 1996, the growing popularity of the passive house standard has made it easier to sell her specialized skills to clients. “I was in the energy-efficiency world prior to the arrival of the passive house standard in the US,” she says. “Before, if I was going to talk with people about energy-efficient buildings, I would have to talk about tons of different things. Now all I have to do is say passive house.”

In addition to being responsible for several of the largest passive house developments built to date in this country, Benedict has also played a role in getting zoning and building codes changed to make these types of buildings more cost effective for developers. For example, in New York City, prior to zoning code changes, developers interested in more energy-efficient buildings actually stood to lose the amount of allowable floor area because of the extra wall thickness that passive house requires. “In new construction it was a tough nut to crack for developers,” Benedict says. “What is nicer for developers than a glass building where the wall thickness is 2 inches? That is a lot more developable floor area because the wall thickness was counted as part of the floor area of the building.”

However, three years ago, Benedict successfully lobbied the New York City Planning Commission to allow floor area bonuses for extra insulation on both preexisting and new construction. As a result, on new construction in New York City, any building that has a wall thickness of more than 8in does not count as floor area so long as the wall assembly has a higher R-value than the current building code’s R-value requirement.

The change in the zoning code is already paying off for Benedict’s clients. On the market-rate passive house Manhattan apartment building that Benedict designed, she has been able to recover about 800ft2 of floor area for the developer in exchange for providing walls that exceed the New York City Building Code’s insulation requirements. This amount “was the cumulative extra thickness of insulation that didn’t have to count as floor area,” she said.

Currently, there is a debate within the US building science community as to which passive house standard to adopt. Most of the existing passive house buildings in the United States have received their accreditation from the original Passive House Institute (PHI), founded in Germany. And in order to receive PHI certification, an inspection is required by one of the institute’s accredited inspectors. However, there is also a Belgian Passive House standard, as well as a Swedish Passive House standard. In 2007, several architects split from the German passive house standard and founded their own organization called Passive House Institute US (PHIUS).

One of the big bones of contention between the German-based PHI and PHIUS is a difference of opinion over what a building’s maximum energy loads should be in order to qualify for certification. Benedict says that the PHI standards are impractical for very hot or very cold climates in the US that are unlike that of Germany, and that it would be more practical to have limits on peak energy loads rather than on yearly energy use. “One of the reasons we haven’t had the huge launch that could have happened in this country is because of the rift and the fighting that has been going on,” she says. “That has confused the marketplace a bit, and it also has confused practitioners who hear one thing and then another, so they don’t know which way to turn.”

It will doubtless take time for the competition between the different passive house institutes in this country to play out, and perhaps there is room for several different types of standards. Meanwhile, it has become much easier to build these types of buildings as a result of passive house technology becoming significantly more affordable and regulatory barriers being removed in places like New York City. With US cities tightening their energy codes, it seems clear that the building industry in this country will soon need to know a great deal more about passive house technology than it does now.

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Press in Sallen Foundation : Getting Active On Passive House by Paul Castrucci

By: Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

I'm a fan of Passive House. Ever since visiting the top-to-bottom renovation job for an elegant 19th century home in Brooklyn Heights undertaken by architect Ken Levenson back in 2011, the potential for constructing — or in this case reconstructing — urban buildings to keep occupants really comfortable year round without boiler heating or air conditioning in every room has been my yard stick to measure all other climate-friendly buildings. Levenson's Snapshot column was the first introduction Sallan readers had to Passive House, and since then, Ken's been one very busy Passive House advocate.

Still, he wasn't the first to use lots of wall and roof insulation in new ways, install super energy efficient windows and deploy other techniques to make energy efficiency and indoor air quality top priorities in NYC residential buildings.[1] Chris Benedict, using an approach similar to that of Passive House, seems to be the first architect to execute extraordinarily energy efficient design for both new construction and gut renovations in the City, with an emphasis on affordable housing. She also makes the claim that radically energy efficient building design opens the door for a drastically simpler building energy code, which means much less time and effort on the part of owners and architects when applying for permits. And that's not all. In June 2015, at the fourth annual New York Passive House (NYPH) conference, Benedict and her partner Henry Gifford received the NY Passive House Pioneer Award from Levenson. Earlier this year, Sallan introduced readers to the Passive Net Zero Energy condo in Prospect Heights Brooklyn undertaken by architect Paul Castrucci and Green Map maven Wendy Brawer. Cheers to all!

This brief history serves as a lead up to my take-aways from this year's NYPH conference. Let's start with the numbers. They're small. At present, there are 28 Passive House projects in New York City. But the actual number of PH residential units here is about to surge. At the conference, Related Companies announced a residential high-rise project for the now-under-construction Cornell University applied sciences campus on Roosevelt Island. Described by the New York Times as the "world's tallest passive house", it will be a 26 story, 352 housing unit building on a campus with aspirations to being net-zero carbon in its operations. The Related spokesman Luke Falk said this residential tower will use just 25% of the energy of comparable new buildings, but unlike Passive House projects in northern European cities, air conditioning will be installed to cope with New York's notorious hot and muggy summer weather. Unlike Benedict's mid-size multi-family buildings, the large Cornell tower will have central ventilation and heat recovery systems. Determining how to get Passive House-performing ventilation systems to comply with New York City building code has been one of the learning curves in this project. The good news is that it can be done and this will make doing the next passive high rise and the one after that easier. This is certainly an encouraging take-away.

My other chief NYPH conference take-away, however, was that today's market demand for a Passive House is not robust here. At the "Developer Roundtable: Views From the Leading Edge of Market Rate and Affordable Housing", moderated by Stuart Brodsky, participants spoke frankly and in-depth about their experiences in New York City, Philadelphia and London. The Philadelphia-based Passive House architect and developer left me with the impression that the City of Brotherly Love was way out ahead of the Big Apple when it came to scaling up the number of new affordable housing projects that meet Passive House standards. Such leadership rests on the state's housing finance agency scoring system which gives extra points to Passive House designed project applications, but does not require projects to be Passive House compliant. The speaker, Timothy McDonald, stressed that this was a Passive House victory, but one not achieved through policy-making by mandate.

A London-based developer of renovated market-rate housing whose energy efficiency is way above the norm focused on his firm's market research. Here's where things got interesting. The research found that home-buyers were willing to pay more for good soundproofing, but not more for energy efficiency. Since the building envelope insulation that soundproofs a structure also makes it much more energy efficient, his marketing message emphasized the former along with the 'healthfulness' and thermal comfort of these properties. A Brooklyn developer describing new market rate condos designed to be an "energy intelligent building" ruefully conceded that Passive House standards were "not what closed the sale". Instead, for developers like him, however personally committed to cutting his carbon footprint, a more direct incentive to build green is found in recent zoning changes, which grant developers more floor area to build when they use more building envelope insulation than required by code. On the other hand, as was noted, "appraisers are god". Since Passive House up-front costs don't compute for them, appraisals act as an obstacle to energy-active projects.

NYPH 2015 was the fourth annual conference I've attended. Each year more people come, each year, the speakers have more projects to describe and more facts on the ground to report. These appear to be upbeat trends to a fan like me. It's heartening to hear that US cities like New York and Philadelphia are getting more Passive Houses. Experience counts. As well, forces to be reckoned with by every developer, like building and energy codes, zoning requirements and project financing criteria all play a role in shaping the adoption of super energy efficient building design — even if market demand does not lead the way — are trending in the right direction. Still, it does seem that Passive House has a long way to go before it becomes a contender for the title of the new normal in US cities. What will move the needle? In One City Built To Last, the de Blasio administration puts Passive House on its roadmap for shrinking the City's carbon footprint when it "Implement(s) leading edge performance standards for new construction." As well, the report One New York: The Plan For a Strong And Just City cites, "The first net-zero school is currently under construction in Staten Island by School Construction Authority. DCAS is exploring additional public buildings to serve as additional net-zero or Passive House pilot projects." Maybe at NYPH 2016 we'll be nearing the tipping point for getting active on Passive House.

[1] At its simplest, Passive House can be thought of as a set of cooking instructions rather than collection of prescriptive codes. It's outcome oriented. By combining the basic ingredients — a highly insulated building envelope with few thermal breaks — the result is a building with high thermal performance. Installation of a continuous ventilation system that runs on recovered heat ensures good indoor air quality, occupant comfort and low energy use. A building's EUI rating is the outcome-oriented standard measure of energy performance. For a more in-depth description and links to resources and project descriptions see NYPH

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Press in Inhabitat : Brooklyn’s First Passive House Condo Building Rises in Prospect Heights by Paul Castrucci

by Bridgette Meinhold, 04/14/14

Brooklyn is quickly becoming a hotbed of passive design, and the borough is set to have another Passive House feather in its cap soon. The R-951 Residence is an ambitious three-story project that is currently under construction in Prospect Heights. When complete, the building is expected to be the first net-zero, solar-powered, passive house condo in the area. Built and designed by Paul Castrucci Architect and Ray Sage of Race Age, Inc., the three-family residence will feature a net-metered, rooftop solar system to provide enough energy for all three households as well as a backyard, deck and rooftop space for residents to enjoy the outdoors and grow their own food. We're definitely putting ourselves on the waiting list!

Read more: Brooklyn's First Passive House Condo Goes Up in Prospect Heights | Inhabitat New York City 

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Currently under construction, the R-951 Residence in Brooklyn is aiming to become the first net zero, solar powered, passive house condo project in the area. Designed by Paul Castrucci Architect and builder Ray Sage, of Race Age, Inc, the three unit walkup is a unique project with an ultra-efficient design, tight and highly insulated multi-family residence. A net-metered, rooftop solar system provides enough energy for all three tenants and backyard, deck and roof top space provide plenty of room to spend time outdoors and grow their own food.

Read more: Brooklyn’s First Passive House Condo Building Rises in Prospect Heights R951 Residence-Paul castrucci Architect – Inhabitat New York City 

Press : A Passive House Movement Grows in Brooklyn by Paul Castrucci

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September 25, 2013

A three-unit condominium project under construction in Brooklyn is one of many Passive House projects that are springing up in the Borough

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The unit on the right, constructed of ICFs, is expected to achieve Passive House certification   Photo Credit: Alex Wilson

I was in New York City over the weekend where I spoke at the Annual Meeting of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association. What I most relished about the trip was an opportunity to explore a new infill housing project in Brooklyn that’s being built to Passive House standards and may well achieve net-zero-energy performance.

Passive House is a certification system that originated in Germany and has been picking up steam over the past few years in North America. To achieve certification, buildings must have modeled energy performance that does not exceed a very stringent limit for heating and cooling as well as total annual primary energy consumption below a specified threshold.

Getting a glimpse into New York’s Passive House community

It was actually through my daughter that I got to know builder Ray Sage, of Race Age, Inc., and architect Paul Castrucci, of Castrucci Architect. In addition to building high-performance buildings, Ray manages some rooftop beehives in East Village from which he harvests honey; my daughter was writing an article about raising bees in the City for her CSA (community supported agriculture) newsletter and spent an afternoon with Ray, his wife Wendy Brawer (who runs GreenMap, a nonprofit network that produces maps of cities highlighting green living resources), and their friend Paul, to learn about beekeeping and help out with honey extraction.

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The first connection with builder Ray Sage was through his bees--on a rooftop in the East Village of New York.  Photo Credit: Alex Wilson

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Somehow the topic of green building came up, and it turned out that Ray and Paul were both familiar with my work with Environmental Building News. Ray and Wendy came to my Saturday evening lecture, and I was invited to visit the R-951 Residence, their three-unit Passive House condominium project under construction in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Along with working together on honey extraction, Paul, Ray, and Wendy are partners in Further, Inc., a design-build firm specializing in sustainable building, and the developer of R-951.

A four-story, three-unit walk-up

Being built on a narrow lot in a neighborhood of three- or four-story row houses, R-951 (named for resilience, R-value, and the address: 951 Pacific Street). The three-unit row house is tall and narrow, but with a remarkable amount of outdoor space. The first-story apartment includes a sizable backyard along with half of the basement space (the rest being common space for the three units). The second-story apartment includes a small front balcony and larger rear balcony plus an upper-level loft bedroom. The upper unit is also on two levels and includes front and rear rooftop terraces along with a small front balcony.

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Secton of R-951 showing the three multi-level apartments and extensive outdoor space. Click to enlarge.Photo Credit: Castrucci Architects

Each unit is about 1,500 square feet. Because the project is designated as a green building by the City, there was a 500 square-foot bonus provided to the developed area. “That is huge,” Paul told me, in that it allowed the addition of the terrace space.

The building is insulated with insulated concrete forms (ICFs) and lots of additional polyisocyanurate foam insulation. The exposed north and south walls are insulated to about R-46, the roof is insulated to R-59, and there is R-21 insulation under the basement slab.

Windows are state-of-the-art triple-glazed, vinyl-framed Schüco units from Germany with NFRC U-factors of 0.15 and remarkable 0.71 visible transmittance. In other words, these windows allow less than half as much heat loss as standard, American double-glazed windows with low-emissivity glass and argon gas fill), yet they are just as clear or even clearer. The solar heat-gain coefficient (SHGC) is 0.50—allowing plenty of solar gain for passive solar heating benefits.

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The Schüco windows provide visible transmittance of over 70% with unit U-factors of 0.15.  Photo Credit: Alex Wilson

Preliminary energy modeling using the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP), done by Grayson Jordan in Paul’s office, came out at 4.80 kBtu/ft2·year, which is slightly higher than the Passive House threshold (4.75 kBut/ft2·yr), but Paul thinks that with some tweaks to the envelope during construction the project will help them meet the Passive House requirements.

Indoor air quality will be ensured with the highest-efficiency heat-recovery ventilators on the market—those made by the Swiss company Zehnder (the same product we’ve installing in our house). As with our house, the small-diameter round ducts are snaking through R-951 by the dozens.

Net-zero-energy

The building is all-electric. A Mitsubishi mini-split air-source heat pump provides heating and cooling for each apartment. Hot water will be provided with Stiebel Eltron heat-pump water heaters, which I believe are the highest efficiency heat pump water heaters on the market. Induction cooktops and electric ovens will be used in the kitchens. Jordan Goldman of Zero Energy Design, consulted on building science and mechanical systems design for the project.

A rooftop solar array will provide a total of 12.2 kilowatts (kW) of solar electricity (4.2 kW for one unit and 4.0 kW for each of the other two). These will be net-metered systems that “spin the meter backwards” when the system is producing more electricity than the apartment is using. The solar system is being installed by AEON Solar and will tie into the Con Edison power grid.

The solar system will not include battery back-up, but will use SMA’s new transformerless inverters with access to some power when the utility grid is down and the sun is shining. I wrote about this new inverter last month, and love the resilience benefits it provides.

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High-efficiency Zehnder HRVs will ensure good air quality in the apartments. Photo Credit: Alex Wilson

The solar system will come close to making the project net-zero-energy, but whether it actually gets there will depend on how efficiently the homeowners operate their apartments.

The cost for all these added features to achieve Passive House performance is about 5%, according to Ray, though such a small surcharge for the green features in part reflects the generally high construction cost of multi-unit condominiums in Brooklyn.

Ray, Wendy, and Paul anticipate that these features may boost the selling prices slightly compared with standard condos in the neighborhood—one of which is going up next door (with a common wall) and offers a clear comparison.

You can watch the project take shape at R-951.com.

Burgeoning interest in Passive House

After our visit to R-951, Ray, Wendy, and I drove through a few neighborhoods of Brooklyn looking at a number of other projects that are currently being built or renovated to achieve Passive House certification—and one being built to the Passive House performance standards, but that will not be certified (because the owner wanted a fireplace). And these projects were all within a few blocks of R-951.

I was amazed to learn of so much activity. In fact, Wendy told me that there are over 700 members of the NY Passive House MeetUp Group! That doesn’t mean that all those people are actually building Passive House projects, but clearly there is a great deal of interest.

Alex is founder of BuildingGreen, Inc. and executive editor of Environmental Building News. In 2012 he founded the Resilient Design Institute. To keep up with Alex’s latest articles and musings, you can sign up for his Twitter feed.

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Press New York Times : For an Architect and His Family,a Home and a Laboratory by Paul Castrucci

THE stacks of the Con Edison plant at 14th Street and Avenue C are just barely visible through the hedgerow of grasses and herbs that top the parapets of 179 Rivington Street on the Lower East Side. It's a view framed by serendipity, and it delights 179 Rivington's architect, Paul Castrucci, who built this tricolored, sawtooth-roofed, five-story building sheathed in zinc, brick and concrete as a laboratory of sustainable architecture and green-building practices.

It's a home laboratory, too: Mr. Castrucci, his wife, Marisa DeDominicis, and their three children live in the top two floors in a four-bedroom apartment that seems to float among the cornices of the Rivington Street tenements. The solar panels along the south-facing "teeth" of the roof draw enough power to make this family's Con Ed bill a wash each month; the garden in progress around the top floor absorbs storm water and forms a soft, green canopy that cools the roof a notch or two each summer; and the skylights and cantilevering aluminum windows draw air through and out of the space, like a natural (and free) air-conditioner.

"It's a bit of a way of life," said Mr. Castrucci, who made public-art pieces forged from iron before he made buildings. This bit of a way of life is an aesthetic, domestic and political mission that cloaks this family in community activism -- Ms. DeDominicis is a program coordinator at the Trust for Public Land -- and self-sufficiency.

"We're just your typical Lower East Side activist family," Ms. DeDominicis said half-jokingly the other day, tipping her new puppy, a winsome beagle-Jack Russell blend named Ginger, from her arms on to the concrete of Mr. Castrucci's ground-floor office. She went on to describe two decades of the grindingly hard work that has led her family to this corner lot, which was one of the last vacant lots in the area.

In the 1980's, Mr. Castrucci, now 46, was living in a storefront on Fourth Street between Avenues A and B. Madonna was said to have lived upstairs, though no one could remember seeing her. He made a gallery in the space with his brother Andrew, who is also an artist, called the A+P Gallery; their rent was $350 a month. He practiced architecture and made art -- muscular iron pieces he forged in the riot of vacant lots that peppered the East Village.

"That was in the 80's, when everyone had a gallery," said Ms. DeDominicis, 42. "There were three on every block."

She had been living on 13th Street, in a 1910 tenement renovated by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and then, as so many buildings were in the 1970's, abandoned by its landlord.

Drawn to the unpainted canvas of the area, Ms. DeDominicis was one of a group of squatters and community gardeners who brought the building -- and the neighborhood -- back into the 20th century. (It is now a limited-equity co-op supported by the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board.)

Ms. DeDominicis threw herself into community life, running a grass-roots recycling program, working as an advocate for the elderly and then the homeless, learning carpentry skills at New York City Technical College and volunteering in community gardens -- "creating order," she said, "out of the chaos of our neighborhood."

She had a carpentry company, Women's Work, and returned to New York City Technical College to teach basic carpentry skills to women. She and Mr. Castrucci met one day as she was gardening in a vacant lot and he was blacksmithing next door. He moved into the 13th Street apartment with Ms. DeDominicis and her daughter Kali, now 15. Their son, Lucca, arrived 11 years ago; their daughter Selene is 9. (That garden has been bulldozed, and his old storefront is now a wine bar.)

Ms. DeDominicis was happy on 13th Street, proud of the work she and her neighbors had poured into the building and the street. But Mr. Castrucci wanted to build. Ten years ago, he bought a 25-by-100-foot lot on Fifth Street, between Avenues C and D, for $20,000 and the back taxes, an additional $60,000.

Within a year, it was revealed that the city had condemned the lot and planned its development as a public park, a rara avis for the area. The situation's denouement, in which the city paid Mr. Castrucci and Ms. DeDominicis $570,000, involved a nine-year legal battle and took care of their lawyer's fees and the purchase price of their 40-by-40-foot Rivington Street lot, which they bought at public auction for $380,000 in 2000.

It was one of the last lots auctioned in the area, before a suit by the Green Guerrillas, community garden activists, and the state attorney general's office stopped the process by which the city was selling off its vacant lots -- many of which had become public gardens -- in the last days of the Giuliani administration.

This lot, happily, was just a lot -- the former site of a pharmacy, with a pawn shop next door -- and with a special feature: it is at the corner of Rivington and Attorney Streets, and its neighbors across Attorney Street to the east and north are a public park and two low-rise public schools, offering a feast of light, air and views.

Mr. Castrucci had spent three years investigating properties at city auctions, captivated by the political theater of various groups, like the one that brought thousands of grasshoppers to an auction, shutting down the proceedings for an hour.

The Rivington Street lot, like so many owned by the city, seemed seriously underpriced in its auction estimate, Mr. Castrucci said, and when the bidding was done, it sold for three or four times the value the city had placed on it. Stunned by the bidding and worn out from nine years of wrangling to recoup his costs from the lot on Fifth Street, Mr. Castrucci was seriously shaken by the end of what turned out to be his final auction. "I could hardly sign my name," he said.

Mr. Castrucci's plan was to build a one-story structure, and maybe build another story each year, as funds allowed. Ms. DeDominicis urged him to be bold. A construction loan of about $1 million was a year in the making. Construction and the attendant research and experimentation -- trying to find the right green insulation (it's cellulose, and you blow it in wet), high-efficiency boilers and more -- took a year and a half.

The street floor holds Mr. Castrucci's architectural practice, an office so soaked in light his associates have taped their plans over the Attorney Street windows. "We're working on that," Mr. Castrucci said.

This building is a calling card for his modern architecture -- a clean, utilitarian form with a clear vision -- which he deploys in a number of community-based projects (limited equity co-ops, a community center nearby) as well as private and commercial work. The middle two floors have four apartments, the rent from which helps pay the mortgage.

In the hot sun one recent morning, 179 Rivington was an extraordinary sight: modern, graceful, perked with color. "I'm really in awe of my husband," Ms. DeDominicis said. "I would not be living here. I would not have had the same focus. So together we have arrived at this point."

Later that morning, two housedress-bedecked women, doubled over with age but grinning wildly -- and each half leaning on, half pushing her foldable shopping cart -- zigzagged past the corner.

"Hey," one of the women yelled. "That's a very beautiful building. Are there any cheap apartments?"

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