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Passive House design is coming to Chicago’s multifamily housing industry

August 9, 2023

A Chicago Tribune Story

A German-born energy efficiency standard is catching fire in the multifamily housing development industry in Chicago, bringing reduced carbon footprints, improved air quality and lower costs for tenants.

The Passive House standard combines technology for ventilation, insulation and airtightness with design solutions that help retain heat in the winter and keep it out in the summer, with a 40%-60% reduction in energy usage for multifamily and single-family properties, according to Phius, a Chicago-based nonprofit that certifies Passive House buildings.

Multifamily developers, particularly those building affordable housing, in Chicago have begun to embrace Passive House design in the last few years thanks to local industry professionals advocating for changes in the city and state building energy codes, as well as buy-in from ComEd, the primary energy provider in the state.

A.J. Patton, CEO and managing partner of 548 Enterprise in Chicago, said he started his company in 2016 to lower people’s costs and build sustainably. Building to the Passive House standard is one way to do this, he said. Patton has two multifamily affordable housing projects in the pipeline incorporating Passive House design, and he said he thinks more developers would use the standard if they saw it being done to scale. 

He hopes his projects will inspire others to construct sustainable buildings.

“It’s a follower’s market,” Patton said. “Leadership matters, precedent matters, experiences matter. And so that’s part of what we’re going to do here with our developments.”

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