Climate Change Row House in Long Island City, NY

Posted on by Joseph Jabaley

Completed in 1903, this two family residence located two blocks from the East River is being significantly altered to respond to the realities of a changing climate. With over three years in research and planning, the proposed modifications include elevating each of the 3 floors to move the basement level out of the floodplain, applying Passive House standards for energy conservation throughout the structure, providing for urban agriculture through a rooftop greenhouse, covering the remaining roof area with sedums, installing a solar hot water system, LED lighting throughout, and rain barrels for irrigation, eliminating a boiler for central heating, utilizing a Zehnder energy recovery ventilator and Mitsubishi heat pump condenser and air handling units, and utilizing the most energy-efficient appliances. These are among the major modifications for what we believe can serve as a demonstration to others owning houses with shared party walls. The building received permits from the five NY City departments requiring review and approval of the construction.

The technologies and methods of construction are relatively new for the United States, and certainly not commonly applied in row houses undergoing major rehabilitation and updating. As urban settings gain in attraction because of their many conveniences and economies of scale, more major renovations of housing built in past centuries will occur. New York can become a leader in this area given the extensive amount of such housing and the presence of many innovative experts developing new materials and modifying building practices to ensure energy efficiency and ease of maintenance.

Our house has benefitted from the work of three structural engineers, a mechanical engineer specializing in passive house design, and an architect working exclusively in sustainability of outcomes for buildings being designed as well as modified to be highly energy efficient.

Comparative metrics on energy use and efficiency can be gained with using the next-door house that shares the party wall, 45-14 11th St., owned by the architect Thomas Paino, that has a major modification with double pane windows, but whose lowest floor is still below the the floodplain elevation. 

We would like to propose to make this a demonstration house with as complete documentation on the process of achieving energy efficiency through the structure's design, the judicious evaluation and selection of appropriate building materials and their installation, and monitoring the outcomes. These are essential measures that should set an example of how we can meet the challenges of a changing climate.