Courtesy of Cornell University

Cornell Tech's Roosevelt Island campus, as depicted in this rendering, will collaborate with Citigroup this fall.

March 14, 2017

Cornell Tech Maintains Commitment to Sustainability Through World’s Tallest Passive Building

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In addition to being one of the biggest ongoing initiatives at the University, Cornell Tech’s campus on Roosevelt Island hosts the world’s tallest passive house residential building. The 26 story dorm stands 270 feet tall and houses approximately 350 residential units, according Cornell Tech’s website.

According to Passipedia — a leading resource for passive house information — a passive house is any building that is constructed under the rigorous international passive house construction standard. The standard serves to make buildings “energy efficient, affordable, comfortable and ecological,” according to the website.

Architecture student Mikki Heckman ’18 explained the efficiency and innovation of passive houses.

“Passive design characterizes a design process wherein environmental systems, site, and local climate conditions are considered from the very beginning rather than treating these issues as secondary to formal aesthetic and program,” she said. “The result is an architecture which is highly efficient, as it can use natural processes like wind to ventilate the building.”

Heckman also commented on passive design’s recent history.

“The passive house is a typology originating from Scandinavia in the 1980’s, which employs processes of passive design, along with a series of standards to create a home that is so smart and efficient it requires no active heating,” she said.

Luke Falk, assistant vice president for Sustainability and Related Companies, calls the Cornell passive house “groundbreaking.”

“We are quite literally breaking new ground with the development of the world’s first high-rise residential passive house,” he said in an article on Cornell Tech’s website. “It signifies the deep commitment by the entire project team to create a paradigm-shifting campus in New York City.”

According to The New York Times, buildings are responsible for about 40 percent of carbon emissions worldwide, and the New York City Mayor’s Carbon Challenge Progress Report found that residential buildings account for 37 percent of the New York City’s emissions.

The Cornell Tech website reports that the building is “projected to save 882 tons of CO2 per year, equal to planting 5,300 new trees.” The passive house dorm also serves as a significant symbol that advances the school’s “unwavering commitment to innovative sustainability,” according to the site.

“This milestone is also the culmination of unprecedented collaboration between the public and private sector and demonstrates the energy-saving potential of high rise residential architecture that can be achieved with forward thinking partnerships,” Falk said.

Heckman expressed her excitement that Cornell is taking active steps towards sustainability.

“I am ecstatic that Cornell is taking an active role in designing a sustainable future,” she said. “In setting the bar to passive house and net zero standards, Cornell will lead the way for a new environmental ethic in educational institutions across the country.”