New York City’s commitment to an 80% reduction of carbon emissions by 2050 has quickly and dramatically raised the profile of the Passive House standard. As one of the few building energy standards with a record of delivering results that match such an aggressive goal, the Passive House standard was featured in Mayor de Blasio’s climate action plan, One City: Built to Lastand has since been the subject of intense focus by public and private stakeholders in both the City and State.

Executive Summary

As a partner in multiple City and State energy efficiency initiatives, the Building Energy Exchange set out to understand how a low energy building standard, like Passive House, might be applied across our building sector. In this briefing, we outline the guiding principles of the Passive House standard, review its successful application in other jurisdictions, take stock of the Passive House resources and projects in the city, and identify the major challenges and barriers to adoption.

Passive House is a rigorous and voluntary standard for energy efficiency in buildings. It depends on a well-insulated building envelope, air-tight components, and continuous ventilation that can save more than 70% of heating and cooling costs compared to a typical code compliant building. There is a small but growing population of passive projects in New York: nine Passive House Institute certified buildings in New York State and four in New York City. There are twenty more projects underway in the city, including several large-scale developments, which will create over 300,000 square feet of certified projects in the next few years. The majority of these projects are residential, often low-rise, and mostly in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Additionally, there are over 28 projects that have been built incorporating passive house principles. New York has one of the largest populations of certified passive house professionals in the country, with training courses offered by several organizations. This briefing examines some of the challenges inherent in building passive, including regulatory barriers, the lack of education, the lack of institutional support for high efficiency or passive projects, the need for a robust supply chain, and the uniquely dense urban fabric of the city.

To understand how to best support this growing movement, we examined transformative passive house policies from other cities, like Vancouver and San Francisco, and from European countries pioneering movement, like Germany, Austria, and Belgium. Many of these countries have either adopted Passive House standard for new construction or have created fast-track pathways for projects pursuing Passive House certification. We end this briefing by outlining near term steps the City and State might take to accelerate Passive House projects in New York. Other jurisdictions can offer pertinent examples and significant lessons, but New York City must develop a road map that suits the particular needs and challenges of the largest real estate market in North America. There are many potential components to the City’s path forward, such as: leading adoption through public building retrofits and new construction; engaging the private sector through a low-energy building competition; removing regulatory barriers and creating code pathways for Passive House certification; creating direct incentives for builders and designers; and studying the plausibility of using Passive House within the major segments of City building stock.

The potential impact of Passive House is tremendous, providing one of the very few realistic paths to New York City reaching its climate action goals. This briefing draws on resources from New York and abroad and from the opinions of those in the city’s passive house community, to better understand the challenges and possibilities of adopting low energy and passive design building standards.

New York City doesn't rest on its laurels. Passive House is a transformative notion and we're going to be leaders showing this can be done, and can be done everywhere.Bill de Blasio, NYC Mayor

Available For You


  • Retrofit
  • Passive House / High Performance
  • Passive House

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