A five-story, 42-unit building in the Bronx will undergo deep energy retrofits as part of a first-of-its-kind energy-efficiency program in New York.
The development is one of six affordable housing properties taking part in RetrofitNY, a pilot program administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
The purpose of the program is to bring a substantial portion of New York’s affordable housing units to or near net-zero energy over the next decade. Net-zero energy buildings consume no more energy, on an annual basis, than they produce on-site through renewable-energy technologies like solar panels or other distributed energy resources. The program is based on a Dutch initiative called Energiesprong, which has produced around 4,500 net-zero houses to date.
The program’s approach is to attract innovation from the manufacturing sector to provide solutions for a net-zero retrofit by aggregating demand in the housing sector. By aggregating demand and providing scale, manufacturers can begin to make the investments in building envelope and HVAC technologies to achieve the cost compression needed to make a turn-key solution viable, according to NYSERDA.
RetrofitNY seeks to bring together stakeholders, including the building owner, lenders, tenants, and regulatory bodies to rethink the way renovations are approached in the state.
Six teams were awarded $75,000 each for the design phase of their project, which will last approximately six months. Designs are also required to exclude the use of fossil fuels on-site, and demonstrate that the designs are cost-effective, standardized, scalable, and aesthetically pleasing.
In the Bronx, Bright Power, a firm that provides strategic energy and water solutions to building owners, is working to transform a property owned by Volmar. The team also includes Magnusson Architecture and Planning (MAP), Dagher Engineering, and Olive Branch Consulting.
“Other than coming up with the best solution that will transform the property in the Bronx into one that only uses as much energy as it generates, we aim to create a replicable solution,” says Marion Ligneau, manager in energy efficiency and sustainability for building rehabs at Bright Power.
Plans call for the development to have a solar installation, lighting controls and sensors, exterior insulation, new low-plumbing fixtures, new windows, and other features.
"We hope to craft the optimal solution for our building typology that balances current construction techniques, costs, net-zero energy use, and materials with low global warming potential in order to pinpoint what construction components can be innovated upon further by way of industrializing their process,” says Sara Bayer, senior associate at MAP. “We also hope to demonstrate construction feasibility of these industrialized products, such as prefabricated exterior cladding panels, so that they can be brought up to scale to the point that when an owner is considering a deep retrofit, it is without a doubt cost effective to bring it to net zero.”
The design phase is underway and is expected to end in the fall with construction to follow.
The other teams are:
· The International Center for Appropriate and Sustainable Technology (ICAST): working with Beacon Communities on a two-story, six-unit building that is part of a six-building campus in Troy;
· The Levy Partnership: working with Joint Ownership Entity (JOE) NYC on a six-story, 21-unit building in Harlem;
· SWBR Architects: working with Conifer Real Estate on a two-story, 24-unit building in Portville in western New York;
· King + King Architects: working with Rock PMC on a two-story, eight-unit building in Phoenix outside Syracuse that is part of a five-building campus; and
· Chris Benedict, RA: working with RiseBoro Community Partnership on a four-story, 46-unit building in Brooklyn.
During the design phase, teams will prototype the net-zero solutions and deliver a set of schematic documents to take the projects into the construction phase. NYSERDA will offer additional funding for developing and installing the designs under a separate, future solicitation to help address financing gaps attributed to the net-zero solutions. NYSERDA officials say they will then monitor the construction and performance of the solutions to incorporate lessons from this first phase into future requests for proposals for improved designs, ensuring the program will be rolled out on a larger scale until a self-sustaining market is created.