The House at Cornell Tech

Market: Residential - Education
Type: High-Rise
Location: Roosevelt Island, NY
Developer/Owner: Cornell Tech, Hudson Companies, Related Companies
Architect: Handel Architects
Building Size: 270,000 sf; 26 stories; 352 units
Certifications: Passive House, LEED® for Homes™Multifamily High-Rise, ENERGY STAR

Project Background

Cornell Tech had an ambitious vision for its state-of-the-art 12-acre sustainable campus on Roosevelt Island, the crown jewel of what is now considered the tallest Passive House in the world—a 26-story, 352-unit residential high rise that can house about 530 graduate students, faculty, and staff. According to Passive House advocates, such buildings not only result in superior energy efficiency, they are quieter than traditional spaces, thanks to the heavily insulated and airtight facade, and also have better indoor air quality due to the filtered fresh air delivered to all habitable spaces. Specifying a building envelope that would meet Passive House criteria and withstand very high wind loads was a challenge. The solution involved galvanized steel framing and custom prefabricated wall panels with built-in windows. A great deal of coordination and oversight was needed to ensure continuity of the insulation and air barrier.

In October of 2017, The House at Cornell Tech was officially certified to Passive House standards, in addition to receiving many other green building certifications including LEED® for Homes Multifamily High-Rise™ Platinum, ENERGY STAR®, and compliance with NYSERDA’s Multifamily Performance Program. Working to achieve these standards was made possible through careful collaboration and consistent teamwork by all project teams. Students are now occupying the building and energy use is being monitored.

Project Services 

Steven Winter Associates was selected to join the project team to provide Green Building Certification, Commissioning, Energy Modeling, and Accessibility Consulting.

Primary Energy Conservation Measures 

  • Triple pane high efficiency windows
  • VRF heat pumps for heating and cooling
  • Energy recovery ventilation
  • Prefabricated highly insulated metal wall panels– which provided increased quality control, a decrease in panel joints thereby reducing potential air leaks and thermal bridges, and increased speed of construction
  • Projected savings of 60-70% whole building energy demand




  • Finalist, Architecture + Sustainability – Architizer A+ Awards
  • American Architectural Award – Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies
  • Open City Award – Open House New York (OHNY)
  • Project of the Year, LEED Home Awards – U.S. Green Building Council
  • Finalist, Excellence in Development – ULI New York


  • Award of Honor, Design Award – Society of American Registered Architects National


  • Award of Excellence – Society of American Registered Architects


  • Best Student Housing Project – Build Magazine


New York Times- Living in the First Passive House High-Rise 

Wall Street Journal- Why Your Next Home Might Not Need Any Energy at All 

Metropolis- The House at Cornell Tech is the World’s Tallest Certified Passive House 

The Atlantic- The Height of Efficiency