R-951 Pacific Residence

Press in LifeHacker - Paul A. Castrucci award winning Net Zero Project by Paul Castrucci

R-951’s apartments are large and airy, filled with crisp, bright light from giant windows. The white walls and stainless-steel appliances make the apartment feel minimalist yet cozy. Each unit is 1,500 square feet and comes with its own outdoor space, rare in much of Brooklyn.

R-951 is unique in another way. The building boasts net-zero status, which means each apartment only uses as much energy as it produces. One way it does so is through Passive House design principles, which are used to attain a high level of energy-efficiency. The methodology reduces R-951’s energy usage by about 75%. In fact, it’s the first building in New York that is both Passive House–certified and net-zero capable.

Paul Castrucci, the principal architect of the firm behind R-951, says that this energy reduction comes from three key areas: super-insulatingreducing air leaks, and recycling and recovering energy where possible. For example, the entire perimeter of the building is super-insulated, which minimizes energy loss. The doors and windows are triple-glazed and the walls and roof, as well as underneath the concrete slab, each have six inches of insulation. Buildings often lose energy through air leaks. To avoid that, the firm air-sealed the entire building and taped around doors and windows to prevent air loss.

R-951 also utilizes an energy-recovery ventilation system to recycle energy and further reduce heat loss. Since R-951 has no air leaks, there has to be a way to bring fresh air into the building — but in the winter, that air may be quite cold. A typical building “exhausts all the air from the kitchens and bathrooms,” Castrucci says, which means that a lot of valuable warm air is leaving the building. The energy-recovery ventilation system acts as a heat exchanger, and thus reduces energy loads by using this warm air in a controlled way, by way of tubes that never cross-contaminate. “There’s incoming air in a series of tubes that’s right next to the hot air that’s going out, he says. “This [system] recovers the heat going out and transfers it to the air coming in.”

In addition to addressing practical energy concerns, the apartments were designed in a thoughtful way so they are liveable and comfortable. “I think the lightness and the light colors reflect the fresh air,” Castrucci says. This balance between aesthetics and practicalities is further reflected in the apartments’ interiors. Take the wood flooring: It’s warm, rich, and modern; and it’s also sourced in a sustainable manner. Though finding this wood required a few extra phone calls and a small upcharge (less than 5%), Castrucci notes that finding responsibly grown woods is getting “easier and easier.”

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The roof has a rainwater collection system, which irrigates all the plants in the building, as well as 52 solar panels, which produce renewable energy. If there’s a power outage, residents can plug directly into these panels to heat their apartment or run their fridge.

Solar panels are a surprisingly effective way for homeowners who want to save energy but can’t spend the time or money to build a totally new house. “Solar panels make a big difference,” Castrucci says. “You have a better investment investing in [them] then you do in the stock market.”

Another accessible way all homeowners can learn from R-951 is through its appliances. Castrucci says homeowners looking to increase their home’s efficiency can look to simple things like everyday lighting. “Everyone should be using LED bulbs,” he says. EnergyStar appliances are another easy way to increase efficiency. If you are able to replace your windows, you should use “the best window that you can afford with the highest R-value” (a measure of thermal resistance and level of insulation).

R-951’s apartments all come with induction stoves. With a gas stove, only 20 to 30% of the heat is transferred to a pot. Indoor gas stoves also contribute a high amount of indoor air pollutants. “When you have a building that’s so airtight, all those indoor air pollutants [build up] and it’s not good,” he says. The electric induction stove from GE solves the problem, and 90% of the energy goes right into the pot. “You’re saving energy, and it’s a more efficient, cleaner way of cooking.”

While building a Passive House may not be achievable for everyone, smaller improvements like adding solar panels and upgrading your appliances can go a long way. Screw in a long-lasting and energy-saving GE LED light bulb, for example, and you’ll be well on your way to savings.

Nandita Raghuram is a Senior Writer at Studio@Gizmodo. She tweetshere.

This post is a sponsored collaboration between GE Lighting and Studio@Gizmodo.

Photographs by Timothy Bell. 

Link to original blog post

2017 TED Residents : Congrats to Wendy Brawer our development partner at Further, Inc. by Paul Castrucci

Long time friend and partner for award winning R-951 Pacific Residence, Wendy Brawer, joined the ranks of the TED Residency program. Wendy Brawer is Green Map System's Founder and Director. Brawer created the first Green Map of New York City in 1992. Since then, she has published nearly 20 interactive and printed Green Maps. Wendy initiated the global Green Map System in 1995 and continues to lead its development as it spread to 65+ countries. She is an accomplished educator and has taught at NYU, Cooper Union and presented at more than 50 universities and conferences. Her accolades includes being Designer in Residence, Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, an Utne Visionary, a Woman of Earth/Terre de Femmes and recipient of a Sea Change Award.

On March 6, TED welcomed its latest class to the TED Residency program. As an in-house incubator for breakthrough ideas, Residents spend four months in the TED office with other exceptional people from all over the map. Each has a project that promises to make a significant contribution to the world, across several different fields. 

The new Residents include:

  • A technologist working on app to promote world peace
  • An entrepreneur whose packaging business wants to break America’s addiction to plastic
  • A documentarian profiling young people of color grappling with mental-health challenges
  • A journalist telling the stories of families and friends affected by deportation
  • A programmer who wants to teach kids how to code … without computers
  • A writer-photographer chronicling the lives of Chinese takeout workers in New York City
  • A scientist studying an easier path to deeper sleep

At the end of the program, Residents have the opportunity to give a TED Talk about their work and ideas in the theater at TED HQ. Link to original article 

New York–based designer Wendy Brawer is the creator of the Green Map, a tool that uses distinctive iconography to denote green-living, natural, social, and cultural resources. Locally led in 65 countries, GreenMap.org will soon relaunch with a new, open approach to inspire greater action on climate health and environmental justice among residents and travelers alike.