What Does It Take for Multifamily to Go Passive?

Here are several considerations that development teams should keep in mind, says Nate Thomas of The Architectural Team Inc.

As leaders in the multifamily sector seek to cut carbon emissions and meet ever-more-stringent energy codes, the highly efficient standard known as Passive House has gained new ground.

With diverse benefits ranging from lower ongoing operating costs to greatly enhanced occupant comfort, the pursuit of the Passive House standard is indeed a tantalizing prospect. And yet, when it comes time to plan the next big project, many development teams find themselves facing more questions than answers.

For those considering a Passive House multifamily project, how does this innovative approach, better known for its use in high-end, single-family homes, really impact the planning, design, and construction process for large-scale properties serving dozens or even hundreds of residents?

Here are several considerations that any development team should keep in mind when contemplating this path.


A Passive House building’s high performance depends on its exacting tolerances—a tight envelope with continuous insulation and high-performing openings, efficient appliances and fixtures, and often, some level of on-site power generation such as a photovoltaic array.

With relatively compact layouts and a high occupant density, apartment and condominium buildings are well suited to the Passive House approach—especially the midrise wood-frame structures that predominate nationwide and have an inherent ability to mitigate thermal bridging issues.

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