Architectural design firm Fabrica718 recently completed the very first Passive House Institute (PHI) certified house to be located in New York City. Dubbed Tighthouse, the property is based on an existing row house which is over a hundred years old and has been extensively retrofitted to meet the exacting Passive House standard.

Tighthouse's moniker refers not to its size, nor the spending habits of its occupants, but rather to the dwelling being almost air-tight. However, this wasn't always the case, and the original property required a significant amount of work to be brought up to scratch.

During an extensive renovation which included input from consultants Studio Cicetti, Anastos Engineering, and ZeroEnergy Design, a new rear facade, an additional third floor, a roof terrace, and an art studio were all added.

Two solar thermal panels provide hot water, and solar PV panels reduces electricity supplied by the grid. All powered lighting is either LED or fluorescent, and natural light has ben harnessed where possible. A highly-efficient heat recovery ventilation system (HRV) is always running to provide fresh air.

This setup offers what Fabrica718 cites as savings of "90 percent less heating energy and 75 percent less energy use overall compared to the standard home."

Fabrica718 founder Julie Torres Moskovitz told Gizmag that the energy consumption of Tighthouse is currently monitored through remote log-in via computer or iPhone, and though a full seasonal cycle has not yet been completed, it has already nipped a small power anomoly in the bud, illustrating the value of remote monitoring.

Though the Passive House energy certification doesn't award points for photovoltaic panels, Moskovitz cites a preference for a dual approach of conserving as much energy as possible by following the Passive House standard, and adding renewable energy sources to reduce energy use from the power grid yet further.

Tighthouse measures 3,200 sq ft (300 sq m) and was completed in 2012.

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