North Street Passive

Cold Spring, NY

Passive House Project



The client came to River Architects eager to rethink the design of the existing 1970’s house with no insulation and unbearable drafts, but spectacular views of the Hudson River and the Hudson Highlands. The client requested a modern design and to engage the views, to convert the basement garage into her painting studio, and to above all be comfortable.

River Architects came highly recommended for our design sensibility and energy conservation strategies. River Architects quickly convinced her that Passive House design: a design standard developed first in the US in response to the 1970’s oil embargo, and refined in Germany into a detailed methodology based on building science and physics to drastically reduce energy use by up to 90%, to control the costs to the owner, and to maximize comfort.

The modern design is balanced with traditional materials: The hemlock siding is finished using Yakisugi, an ancient Japanese technique to char wood to preserve it. The standing seam roof, which wraps down to overlap the exterior walls partially, is composed of pure zinc preserved with its natural patina and will last generations. The basement level is finished in stucco and will have removable flood gates, which will offer protection from the increasing storm surge anticipated with global warming. Climbing vines on cable netting will soften the stucco base, blurring the connection of the house and the landscape.

River Architects provided the design and material selection, and conducted the rigorous energy balance calculations necessary for Passive House Certification. Solar Pathfinder measurements were taken to precisely measure solar gain and required shading, THERM computer models were made to eliminate thermal bridging and to optimize insulation while avoiding condensation problems. Energy use calculations have made it possible to eliminate a conventional heating system, and constant fresh air is maintained through Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs). Calculated energy use for space conditioning is $320 for the entire year.

Photos by Brad Dickson