The most exceptional thing about the house at 96 St. Marks Avenue is that it doesn’t look exceptional at all. It’s just another redbrick townhouse on a street chock-a-block with redbrick townhouses in a borough crammed with townhouse-lined streets.
However, the Prospect Heights house is the the city’s first multi-unit building to be built, or in this case retrofitted, to meet the über-stringent environmental standards developed by the German-based Passive House Institute (among other things, the house must maintain a comfortable indoor temperature without really using active heating or cooling systems, reducing the house’s energy consumption by 90 percent).
Having never seen a passive house before, The Observer expected at least some clunky sign of the building’s conversion when we visited the still under-construction home a few weeks ago. But, no. No weird metal ducts or shiny solar panels. Did the future of green building really look so much like the past? Read More