Is America ready for a passive house revolution? Justin Palmer is betting on it.
Even in person, the faceted facade of Perch Harlem appears almost like a rendering, its asymmetric collage of windows standing out in a historic neighborhood best known for its brownstones. The recently completed seven-story apartment complex, developed by Synapse Development Group with Taurus Investment Holdings, doesn't just look like a vision of the future—it's actively trying to shape that future by bringing innovative energy technology to New York City's rental market.
"It's a state-of-the-art building, and the neighbors are quiet," jokes the 36-year-old CEO and founder of Synapse, Justin Palmer, as he hosted a tour of Perch on a late winter afternoon. He's referring to the Trinity Church Cemetery and Mausoleum across the street, but also to the calming quiet inside the virtually airtight building. Perch is the first market-rate rental building in the city designed to Germany's rigorous Passivhaus energy-efficiency standard. To achieve passive certification with the Passivhaus-Institut, buildings must perform to specific energy metrics across four main criteria: heating and cooling energy usage, general energy usage, airtightness, and temperature range. With triple insulation, windows strategically placed and sized to maximize natural solar heat, and high-tech heat exchangers that recycle air to heat and cool its interior, Perch is constructed to passive specifications to reduce up to 90% of gas and energy usage by that of a traditional building.
If Palmer has his way, the Harlem building will be just the first of several Perch locations across the country–an ambitious vision of a new era of energy efficient architecture in the U.S.