Passive House: At the Crossroads of Sustainability and Affordability

GreenEnergyTimes_Banner Green Energy Times is a bi-monthly publication chronicling the latest sustainability news in New England and New York (and beyond!). In 2016, SWA will be contributing a column for each issue. To start the year, SWA’s Heather Breslin discusses how and why the affordable housing market is beginning to embrace the Passive House Standard. The full article is featured below, or on page 27 of the February edition of Green Energy Times.  Read more

Unique Certification Options with National Green Building Standard™ (NGBS)


If you’re unfamiliar with Home Innovation Research Labs’ National Green Building Standard™ (NGBS), the program is designed primarily to rate the performance of single-family homes or multifamily properties in six important categories: Site Design, Resource Efficiency, Water Efficiency, Energy Efficiency, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Building Operation & Maintenance. So how does NGBS differentiate itself from other green building rating systems? NGBS goes beyond the norm by offering certification paths for new land development and remodeling projects. Let’s take a closer look at these unique verification options. Read more

SWA’s Preview of the 2015 Greenbuild Unity Home

High-quality design, engineering, and construction; the guiding principles used to assemble a team of building experts tasked with creating a demonstration project embodying cutting edge sustainability. Led by the New Hampshire-based builder Unity Homes and the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, a hand-selected team of product manufacturers and technical consultants have collaborated to develop the 2015 Greenbuild Unity Home. As the green building certification specialists, SWA’s Maureen Mahle and Karla Butterfield are managing the planning, design, construction, inspection, and testing of the modular home according to LEED BD+C Homes v4 Platinum, ENERGY STAR® v3, and EPA’s WaterSense and Indoor AirPlus certification program requirements. For last year’s conference, SWA provided similar services to verify the 2014 Greenbuild Living Home.

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Examining Green Building Rating Systems



Earning a green building certification is a significant achievement for a project as it represents a strong commitment to sustainability principles. When pursuing certification, it is essential to select the rating system best suited to your project type and performance goals.

In this blog piece, we will examine the anatomy of five popular green building rating systems, including their applicability to building type and a brief summation of typical advantages and challenges faced by clients pursuing certification. Read more

Passive House Activist: An Interview with Lois Arena

SWA’s Senior Mechanical Engineer, Lois Arena, P.E., is one of the leading Passive House (PH) specialists in the country. Lois ArenaShe is regularly asked to speak about PH at conferences, after-hour educational events, and to firms seeking to increase their knowledge about the subject. For SWA’s clients, she provides a full suite of PH services including energy modeling and consulting to optimize energy efficiency and ensure that projects are designed and built to meet the rigorous Passive House Standard, as well as field testing throughout the construction process to aid the team in achieving the strict PH air leakage requirements.

In addition to working on multiple projects in the tri-state area, she is currently contributing to the groundbreaking Passive House project for Cornell’s new technical campus on Roosevelt Island. When completed, the residential tower will the tallest and largest Passive House building in the world!

The project has earned a lot of media coverage, from a groundbreaking ceremony that was attended by both NYC’s current Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg to an article in the New York Times and other media outlets. And of course now, on our Party Walls blog, where I was able to get the inside scoop on the project straight from the source!

Was Passive House certification Cornell’s initial goal for this project or was it recommended based on efficiency goals set by the owner or developers? Read more