511 E 86th Street – NYC’s All-Inclusive Passive House Development

Market: Residential
Type: Affordable high-rise, Market-Rate
Location: New York, NY
Owner/Developer: Carrera RS, LLC
Project Services: Energy Code Commissioning,
Passive House Verification
Building Size: 140, 226 SF; 140 Units
Certification: Passive House (PHI)
Primary Energy Conservation Measures: Aerated Concrete Block;
80% Efficient Central ERV;
Thermal Isolators at Balconies;
VRF Heating and Cooling;
Triple Pane Windows and Doors

Rising twenty-two stories tall, this development will offer 105 market-rate and 35 affordable rental units to residents of NY. The apartments will range in size from studios to two bedrooms, most of which will also feature balconies and views of the East River. Community amenities will include roof terraces, a resident lounge, a fitness center, and bike storage. Although the development’s amenities and features might resemble those found in nearby high-end condo buildings, its comfort and efficiency will create a stand-out experience.

The site is slightly unusual in that it is flag-shaped, a product of being cobbled together from four existing lots. Taking full advantage of the property, the development consists of two distinct sections, one narrower and shorter—just 12 stories—and connected by a corridor on each floor to the taller, wider portion. The building rests partially on a slab-on-grade insulated to an R-20 and partially on a full basement.


The walls will be built using aerated concrete block with an interior steel stud cavity, and will be insulated on the exterior with 4 inches of XPS. Each balcony will be thermally isolated using structural thermal breaks and will be accessed by Passive House-quality full-light glass doors. As with most high-rise multifamily projects in NY, cooling is the dominant load even though the east- and west-facing glazing is limited. Internal gains from people, lights and appliances in a highly dense apartment building typically outweigh solar gains by 2 to 1, however in this case, it’s 3 to 1. Heating and cooling  will be supplied by a centralized variable refrigerant flow heat pump system and fresh filtered air will be provided via a central commercial-sized ERV.

Implementation of these energy conservation measures are vital to the success of this project. Installation of each system will need to be closely monitored and verified throughout the construction process to ensure the building can successfully achieve its goal of earning Passive House through the Passive House Institute (PHI).

Read more about SWA’s Green Building Certification Services