BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP)– The state has announced $1.73 million in awards to support energy efficient new construction for affordable housing developments in six cities and towns built to Passive House standards.

The grants, awarded to eight affordable housing developments in Cambridge, Gloucester, Hanson, Northampton, Holbrook and Boston totaling 540 high-efficiency units, provide energy savings and improved indoor air quality for low-income households.

The funding was awarded through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Passive House Design Challenge program, part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s $15 million Affordable Access for Clean and Efficient Energy (AACEE) initiative. The program seeks to demonstrate that multi-family affordable housing can be built to high efficiency Passive House standards in Massachusetts at a low-to-no cost premium.

Passive House is a green building certification that ensures extremely high levels of energy efficiency and the provision of fresh air for ventilation.  Multi-family buildings built to the Passive House standard generally use 40% less total energy than energy stretch code-compliant buildings.   The annual energy use of 8-12 Passive House multi-family apartments is roughly equivalent to the average existing single-family suburban home in Massachusetts.  The Passive House energy efficiency standard ensures new buildings are built with high levels of insulation and air tightness, generous provision of fresh air with heat recovery for ventilation, and better windows than would normally be required.  

Earlier this year, Massachusetts was named the most energy efficient state in the nation by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy for the ninth consecutive year.

The only western Massachusetts project to receive this funding is Community Builders North Commons in Northampton. They were awarded $212,000 to increase insulation levels, air sealing, and ventilation levels to meet Passive House Standards for 53 apartments. It will provide mixed‐income, new construction family rental housing development on the Village Hill campus in Northampton and will include both affordable and workforce housing units, serving households with a broad range of incomes.

The Passive House Design Challenge awards are complemented by the recent addition of MassSave Passive House incentives for multi-family buildings.  Multi-family new construction buildings above four stories, both market rate and affordable, may be eligible for Passive House energy modeling funding and up to $3,000 per unit if they certify to the high-efficiency Passive House standard.