First Energy Efficient Passive House Pre-K Built in the US

energy efficient
Image Courtesy of Wilk Marketing

The United States first-ever energy-efficient pre-Kindergarten built within a passive house building, and designed to meet passive house standards, has been completed by New York City School Construction Authority (SCA) and CTA Architects, P.C. (CTA). This passive house building has been constructed according to the principles of the Passive House Institute (PHI). Being energy-efficient is the ultimate-goal of the PHI – a German founded independent research organization dedicated to building comfortable, affordable and ecological energy-efficient buildings.

Energy Efficient Pre-K Inside Passive House Building

The SCA has been constructing universal pre-Kindergartens throughout New York City’s five boroughs. The Mosaic Pre-K Center at 54-25 101st Street, also known as UPK Q368, in the Corona section of Queens, is the ninth universal pre-K design CTA has done for SCA.

energy efficient
Mosaic Passive House UPK Q368 – Image Courtesy of Wilk Marketing

According to Craig Tooman, AIA, LEED-AP, the CTA principal in charge of the Pre-K project:

“The 4,700-square foot, three-classroom facility on the ground floor of the Senior Residence uses only one-eighth the amount of energy a typical pre-K of a similar size would use. It houses a general office, a staff room, a parents/community room, an infirmary, a custodial space, a lobby, and a warming pantry that is equipped with a small kitchen area with a milk chest, a warming cabinet, and a connected food-storage room.”

Accessible by going through the pre-K facility, a 1,200-square foot yard has been designed for a play area.

The HANAC Corona Senior Residence, developed by HANAC, Inc., the Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee, is the passive house building that is now home to UPK Q368. Passive House Certification is expected to be given to the HANAC Corona Senior Residence this summer. This documentation confirms the complying with energy-efficient Passive House Design environmentally forward standards.

Energy Efficient Passive House Design Components

Being energy-efficient is a key component to Passive House Design requirements that include 75-percent energy savings. A Passive House must also have substantial environmental benefits for the physical health, comfort, and overall well-being of those who reside in, work in, learn in, and/or visit this facility.

The HANAC Corona Senior Residence is an eight-story, 68-unit, 58,000-square foot affordable housing apartment building for very low-income seniors. As with the new Pre-K that the building houses, the residence is the first affordable senior housing development in the U.S. to meet the Passive House Institute standards of design.

PHI is committed to research and development of construction concepts, building components, planning tools, and quality assurance to build energy-efficient structures geared to be ecological, comfortable and affordable.

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The passive house heating and cooling related energy use saves up 75-percent over typical new builds and 90-percent over traditional building. This is accomplished by utilizing energy sources within the structure – including body heat and solar heat. Through very energy-efficient construction of insulated windows, exterior walls, roof, and floor slab heat is kept in during winters and out during summers. The highly energy-efficient passive house ventilation system is designed to supply a constant flow of fresh air without creating energy-sucking drafts.

According to Tooman, conforming to the passive house building’s reduced energy-consumption requirements was the team’s biggest challenge.

“These types of ultra-energy-efficient designs are becoming much more popular, both city-wide and worldwide. Passive house requirements go well beyond those of LEED-certified buildings – the energy consumption is much, much lower.”

Pre-K Built to be Energy Efficient Within Passive House

CTA worked with its passive house consultant, YR&G New York (now WSP USA Inc.), and the Association for Energy Affordability (AEA) – the Passive House consultant for the base building. The goal was to integrate the same systems and energy-efficient approach of the base building. The pre-K space is connected to the base building’s energy-recovery system.

energy efficient
Image Courtesy of Wilk Marketing

A variable refrigerant flow (VRF) condenser was installed on the roof of the HANAC building specifically for use by the pre-K. Tooman notes that the design of the mechanical systems is geared to keep energy inside the building as it works to have a preheated or cooled fresh air supply. Not only does this maintain energy efficiency in reducing energy load, but it allows for a clean healthy environment to be upheld. The pre-K has its own entrance that uses the same triple-glazed storefront system as the senior center.

Tooman notes that the reason there are so few passive house schools is because of the use of high energy consuming elements. A school’s energy load is generally greatly higher than that of a residence.

CTA has created a design that will allow this pre-K to be much more energy-efficient in its operations than typical pre-Ks. Lower energy consumption determined includes computer systems, demanding lighting systems, high plug loads, and extensive cooking facilities. Passive house requirements limit the amount of energy used per square foot.

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