Energy-efficient project in Brooklyn approved

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Architect claimed that residential building would be first in the United States to conform to strict “Passive House” design standards. On March 24, 2010, the City Planning Commission approved the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s proposal to allow the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council to build a six-story affordable housing project on a vacant City-owned site at 803 Knickerbocker Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The 28,390 sq.ft. project, known as Knickerbocker Commons, would include a 4,957 sq.ft. senior citizen center, 3,769 sq.ft. of recreation space, and seven parking spaces. All 24 rental units would be affordable to households earning between 30 and 60 percent of the area median income. Fifteen percent of the units would be set aside for the disabled.

At the Commission’s March 10 hearing, Henry Gifford, representing architect Chris Benedict, said the project would be the country’s first apartment building to fully conform to the strict “Passive House” design standards used in Europe to promote energy efficient development. A passive house is a well-insulated, virtually airtight building that relies on passive sources, such as sunlight, people, and electrical equipment, for heat. Gifford briefly explained that the proposed building’s design included applying thick foam insulation next to the outside of the building’s walls, not just between the studs, and placing windows in the appropriate position to take advantage of seasonal variations in the amount of direct sunlight the building would receive. Each rental unit would also have its own thermostat and ventilation system to prevent overheating.

When asked by Commissioner Irwin Cantor about any additional expenses associated with the design, Gifford responded that there would be no extra cost and that the heating system would result in savings for the owner and tenants. Gifford said it was “astonishing” that more developers have not implemented the Passive House design features.

The Commission approved the application, noting that it addressed the need for more affordable housing in the Bushwick neighborhood. Commissioner Angela Battaglia recused herself from the matter.

ULURP Process
Lead Agency:HPD,Neg.Dec.
Comm Bd.: BK 4,App’d, 38-0-1
Boro.President: App’d
CPC: App’d, 11-0-0
Council: Pending

CPC:  (C 100162 HAK – UDAAP) (March 24, 2010) (Architect: Chris Benedict).

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