Greener Than Green: Passive House Building Planned for Chicago

  June 25, 2018

By Greg Zimmerman

Chicago is about to get its first facility built to Passive House standards. Developer Mark Goodman & Associates is planning a 268,000-square-foot, 12-story office building in the Fulton Market district. The building is planned to be built to Passive House standards and is only the second such structure in the United States.

Passive House is a stringent sustainability standard commonly used in Europe that results in buildings that are up to 75 percent more energy efficient than traditional standards.

The other Passive House building in the United States is a small facility inhabited by Rocky Mountain Institute in Colorado, according the Chicago Tribune. The new Chicago building would be the largest U.S. Passive House building and one of the largest in the world.

The developers of the $115 million building see using Passive House as a market differentiator in an increasingly crowded Chicago building market. Despite the building’s higher initial cost, the developer plans to tweak the parking garage design to offset the cost. He also expects to attract tenants who recognize that fresh air and good indoor air quality are benefits in terms of productivity to their occupants.

The Passive House standard focuses on energy efficiency and indoor air quality in five ways, according to its website:

  • The building employs continuous insulation throughout its entire envelope without any thermal bridging.
  • The building envelope is extremely airtight, preventing infiltration of outside air and loss of conditioned air.
  • The building employs high-performance windows — typically triple-paned — and doors.
  • The structure uses some form of balanced heat- and moisture-recovery ventilation and a minimal space conditioning system. 
  • The building’s solar gain is managed to exploit the sun's energy for heating purposes in the heating season and to minimize overheating during the cooling season.

This Quick Read was submitted by Greg Zimmerman, executive editor, Building Operating Management. Read his cover story profiling Northwestern University’s vice president of facilities management, John D’Angelo.


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