Sunlight Harvesting report for BEEx

I am very pleased to share the sunlight harvesting work I’m doing as a guest author on the Building Energy Exchange blog.

GASLAND creator Josh Fox at NYPH15

Pleased and very honored to have brought filmmaker & anti-fraking activist Josh Fox into the Passive House community – at the NYPH15 Passive House conference, last Thursday.


The dataloggers have arrived!

Perhaps not so exciting to look at, but over the next months these little measuring instruments will record the performance of what I believe could be an important sunlight harvesting demonstration project in the offices of a corporate law firm in Newark NJ… more to come…


“Star Talker,” my entry to the Architectural League’s annual competition in Socrates Sculpture Park, has been chosen for honorable mention – a fun little project.

One City: Built to Last

Exciting news from our new administration: de Blasio intends to catalyze accelerated reduction of NYC’s climate impact by initiating projects on the city’s own vast building stock. AND THEY ARE RELYING UPON PASSIVE HOUSE AS A KEY GUIDING STANDARD. Straight to the point: “the biggest untapped opportunity is to improve the energy efficiency of the city’s one million buildings.”

NY14 Passive House Conference:

A successful presentation and a great conference – pleased to contribute our work to this vibrant community.

Ryan presenting at NY14 Passive House Conference:

I will be presenting the Red Hook Passivehouse renovation next week at the NY14 Passive House Conference. Leaders from President Obama to Mayor DeBlasio have called for increased building efficiency to address climate change: Passive House is the only proven building method that can enable the dramatic carbon reductions called for by the international scientific community. This conference will focus on the challenges of retrofits, and I am pleased that this EnerPHit project will be amongst those showcased to the international community.

New Recording Studio project:

Design is underway for a new recording studio project in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The owner has asked me to help bring her vision to life of a healthy, safe gathering place for her musical community, with great light and air – in a cellar! I am pleased that she has accepted my proposal to reflect a beam of sunlight from a rooftop heliostat through a series of mirrors to the floor of the live room: simultaneously making a natural gathering point and providing great natural light in a typically dark location.

Three Letters of Completion in One Day:

Letters of Completion arrived today for three solar array tax abatement projects! Each one of these pieces of paper represents a year or two of tedious bureaucratic hurdle-jumping: often two plan exams, a DOB plan audit, NYSERDA, DOB, ConEdison, Underwriter’s Laboratories (really!) and NYC electrical inspections, post-approval amendments with revised drawings, stacks and stacks of paperwork, and truly endless follow-up… often for a dozen panels clipped to a frame on a roof. Each one of these letters represents escape from purgatory… three in one day is remarkable indeed!


Today we passed a tremendous hurdle: air-infiltration at the Red Hook Passivehouse tested 0.75ach50! This means we have met a critical requirement for achieving PHI certification. There are few buildings in the world that can claim that level of performance, and we achieved it within the additional constraints of a NYC renovation. Controlling air infiltration is fundamental for energy performance in buildings. As a frame of reference, a typical old Brooklyn townhouse often tests as high as 20ach50. That’s two orders of magnitude larger, with accompanying heating bills in proportion.

Passivehouse Window Installation:

Its an exciting moment: the windows, typically a defining feature of a Passivehouse, have been installed in Red Hook. Ours are no exception: without exaggeration, these are among the nicest and best-performing windows on the planet. The frame of that window is rated at U-0.19, and the glass at U-0.105… that’s R-10 for the glass! Also typical is the economic trade-off that makes the cost of these windows reasonable: they are paid for with the savings from a much-reduced heating system, part of the underlying economic formula that makes Passivehouse so compelling.

NYC’s largest residential array, again:

Construction documents have been filed at Bronx DOB for my largest rooftop solar array project to date: A 107Kw system elevated on new structural steel above the roof of an existing block-and-plank elder-care facility in Mott Haven. When built, it will surpass a previous project, Dumont Green, as the largest solar array in NYC installed on a residential building.


Unbelievable. Hurricane Sandy flooded the Red Hook project with 30″ of seawater last night.

Insulation delivery:

A very large truck full of insulation arrived today for the Red Hook Passivehouse. We are using salvaged polyisocyanurate boards, reclaimed from re-roofing federal office buildings, yeilding substantial savings both in terms of cost and environmental impact. Special thanks to my old schoolmate Jesse Thompson for the tip on sourcing this material.

Renovation published:

The house I remodeled for Seth and Rabia in Kensington has been published in “Eco-house Renovations: 45 Green Home Conversions” (Schiffer Books). I find I am in some good company, including Pugh + Scarpa, Bercy Chen, my esteemed colleague Andrew Tesoro, not to mention the inimitable Jersey Devil.

Athan Geolas:

I am pleased to announce the addition of Athan Geolas to my staff. Athan comes to me from RISD via Brown’s Petra Archaeological Project, and he really knows how to use a pencil! Nice to have you, Athan.

PassiveHouse in Red Hook:

Construction is underway for NYC’s second PHI-certified Passivehouse, in Red Hook.

New Project: Red Hook Passivehouse.

I am immensely pleased to announce a new project: the renovation of an existing mixed-use building into a PHI-certified sound studio and residence in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. Buildings built to this standard use radically less energy than conventional construction: ours will have to use 90% less heating and cooling energy, and 70% less for all energy uses combined, as compared to a new building built to code… and we are working within the constraints and challenges of renovating an exsiting building in one of the most challenging environments in the country. By comparison, most LEED-certified new buildings only use approximately 25%less. This project will likely be New York City’s first mixed-use certified Passivehouse, the city’s second certified Passivehouse of any type, and something like the 12th in the country. We are planning a solar array large enough to make us NYC’s first (second? third?) net-zero building, and, best of all, the music made here, all-electronic, will literally be made from the sun: it will be made and played whether or not the rest of the world has power.

A Plug for Marielle:

My colleague and native-plant specialist Marielle Anzelone’s latest piece is begun at The New York Times: “Autumn Unfolds,” a 14-week series following the change of the season in NYC. It’s at City Room (online), and in the Metropolitan section (Sunday paper). Marielle is a unique advocate, a tremendous resource, and a kindred spirit whom I credit with deepening my own awareness of the role native species play in supporting biodiversity and place, especially in urban environments like NYC where you might least expect it.


Curtis Wayne asked me to call in at the end of a show on architectural criticism to discuss a project of mine that he is interested in: the daylighting retrofit proposed in my competition entry for the 2011 Next Gen competition, and I was happy to oblige. We discussed William Lam, the lighting designer whose work I drew upon, and the lightshelves that are the core of the design. It was a nice conversation: you can listen to it at the Burning Down the House page of the Heritage Radio Network, here: Episode 67 – Curtis’s Rules of Criticism.


An article about me on the green-design blog Inhabitat: “Architect Ryan Enschede Tackles Climate Change Through Sustainable Building in NYC.”

On the Radio:

Curtis Wayne asked me back onto his radio show, this time to discuss a topic closer to my heart: the radically-energy-saving Passivehouse construction methodology. It didn’t fit into one show, so he brought me back on the next episode, and I brought along my colleague Stephanie Bassler of North River Architecture, who had just completed her Passivhouse project at the Omega Institute. As always with Curtis, we had a free-ranging conversation.

Burning Down the House: Episode 59 – Passivhaus Continued

Burning Down the House: Episode 58 – Passivhaus

Jordan Goldman

Colleague and Passivehouse consultant par-excellence Jordan Goldman was interviewed on NPR-affiliate WBUR Boston discussing Passivehouse construction: “Building Homes That Withstand The Cold.”


I was invited onto the radio show Burning Down the House for a discussion of building sustainability, energy performance tracking, local energy pioneer Henry Gifford’s criticism of the USGBC, and and my own thoughts about LEED and various other matters.

Burning Down the House: Episode 44 – Henry Gifford vs. the USGBC

Historic House Tour this weekend:

This Sunday May 23 is the Boerum Hill House & Garden Tour, and 524 State St, a townhouse I spent two years working on with Andrew Tesoro, will be open to the public. I am particularly satisfied with the penetration of daylight through the typically dark center of the house, and, a special plug: the first-ever installation of Kenzan Tsutakawa-Chinn’s beautiful “Constellation” LED chandeliers are in place and available for view.

More information and ticket purchase here: Boerum Hill Association.

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