A Long-Term Investment in the Community

Performance, place, and practice. These three principles have been guiding The Rosenblum Companies since Seth Rosenblum and Jeff Mirel, co-principals, initially teamed up. But, for this duo, performance is defined a little out of the box; for them, it means a steady decarbonization of the firm’s portfolio, so it’s not surprising that Rosenblum’s newest development at 1818 5th Avenue in Troy, New York, will be its first Phius CORE certified building. Practice is shorthand for designing developments with an eye to enabling tenants to create more sustainable lifestyles. Place refers to seeking out infill and adaptive reuse projects in walkable, transit-oriented locations. “We are very focused on high quality properties and long-term operation—not build and flip,” says Mirel.

Troy borders the Hudson River, and traces of its historic importance as a seat of the American industrial revolution can be found in its wealth of Victorian architecture. “From a place perspective, our project at 1818 Fifth Ave. represents an opportunity to restore a historic cityscape with a new but stylistically harmonious infill development,” Mirel explains. Slated to open in 2025, the four-story 1818 Passive House will boost Troy’s rental housing options with 71 new micro, studio, and one-bedroom apartments in the downtown area. The building will also house a resident coworking space, pet spa, and a combined bicycle storage and maintenance area.

1818 5th Avenue elev

The Rosenblum Companies is well prepared for its Passive House intiative, as two of the firm’s construction project managers are now Phius certified builders. And, the Phius consultant for the project is Chris Straile, senior manager at Sustainable Comfort, which has been consulting on Passive House projects since 2017. “It’s really nice working with a developer who is all in,” notes Straile, adding, “The Rosenblum team is very committed to meeting their own sustainability goals, as well as the state’s climate goals.” The building is being designed by Balzer & Tuck Architecture and is that firm’s first Passive House project. Balzer & Tuck and Rosenblum partnered previously on The News Apartments and Vicina, two multifamily projects also located in downtown Troy.

1818 is a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Buildings of Excellence (BOE) Round Three award winner.* Mirel was introduced to Sustainable Comfort through a community building networking event sponsored by NYSERDA. “NYSERDA is an incredible partner, and I tell everyone who will listen how fortunate I feel to work with them,” Mirel enthuses. “BOE is a meaningful financial incentive for this project, but the program is also an opportunity to learn from NYSERDA about other developers, contractors, and vendors. We are all benefiting from this information sharing, which will enable us to scale up high-performance construction across the state.”

In discussing this project’s step up to Passive House, Shawn Corp, senior associate at Balzer & Tuck Architecture, says, ”Urban locations are our preference. It’s exciting to get to reactivate properties that were decimated by urban renewal in the 50s and 60s. Working with Rosenblum on energy efficiency and going for Passive House is just gravy. It makes us that much more excited.”

Corp Mirel Gohl BOE 1690477717

Rosenblum chose to develop this property with well-appointed, moderately priced housing units that are appealing to young professionals in a city where average rents have been climbing in recent years. The micro units will each be 400 to 450 square feet, while studios and one bedrooms will be around 600 square feet and 800 square feet, respectively. All units will have accessible bathrooms, full kitchens, in-unit washer-dryers, and storage. Each unit will also have its own balcony, providing some outdoor space and serving double duty by shading the unit below it. More than 70% of the east-facing windows will benefit from this shading, while the south façade is close to the property line and features a limited number of windows.

Corp acknowledges that working to fit this building into the neighborhood’s historical context and trying to meet Passive House is a challenge. While Balzer & Tuck started with a relatively straightforward façade, they ended up adding more bay windows to match the look of the historic row houses across the street. Although the project’s design is still at an early stage, Straile says the preliminary model is showing that triple-pane windows with an overall U-value of 0.16 and an SHGC (solar heat gain coefficient) of 0.25 should provide an optimal comfort balance in this densely occupied building while minimizing condensation risk.

1818 5th St Jan 2023

In this heating-dominated climate, a planned VRF (variable refrigerant flow) system will be used to provide year-round conditioning. Given that active cooling is being built into the project, maintaining comfort during projected hotter summers should not be an issue. “The nice thing about Passive House is that there is a flexibility and a buffer with the mechanical systems, even as we right size the equipment,” notes Straile, adding, “Passive House brings in resiliency.” The design also calls for a semi-centralized ventilation system, with one ERV per floor.

Rosenblum is committed to making thoughtful material choices as to mitigate their embodied carbon impacts, but it is too early yet for a full embodied carbon analysis, according to Straile. He has done a basic carbon analysis of the building and plans to update that to a full accounting once the materials choices are further along.

“It’s a great team, with all of us having a similar vision,” Straile says, “And, winning the BOE competition is a meaningful affirmation of our approach.” Given this excellent foundation, the award-winning 1818 Passive House should be a strong addition to Troy’s downtown revival.

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*New York State has launched the 4th Round of Buildings of Excellence Competition, and winning demonstration projects will be awarded up to $1 million! Project proposals will be accepted through September 21, 2023. Design Firm Partners awarded up to $100,000. Applications will be accepted continuously through June 28, 2024. Apply now!

Author: Mary James
Categories: Multifamily