Boston’s First “Passive” Single-Family Homes Preview Greener Future

West Roxbury residential development is the first single-family homes in Boston to join a global green building trend reshaping design and construction.

According to Axios Boston, the Brucewood Homes project in West Roxbury was designed from the ground up to reduce energy use in cooling and heating and to limit the structure’s carbon impact.

  • The three single-family homes are essentially air-sealed with high-efficiency HVAC systems, windows and extreme layers of insulation to create an envelope that captures warm air in the winter and cool air in the summer.

Details: To earn certification from the International Passive House Association, buildings must use minimal energy for heating and cooling, maintain indoor air quality and meet net-zero energy standards.

The big picture: In 2021 Massachusetts updated a net zero building code framework for municipalities to opt into — part of the state’s plan to lower buildings’ greenhouse gas emissions and reach a 50% total reduction by 2030.

Zoom in: By next year Boston, Somerville, Cambridge and most of the area’s biggest suburbs including Newton, Brookline, Wellesley and Lexington will have adopted the guidelines.

  • Among much else, the suggested code requires passive house certification or similar efficiency results for multifamily buildings over 12,000 square feet.

Yes, but: A cutting-edge, efficient home isn’t cheap. The three 2,700-square-foot Brucewood Street houses each sold for at least $1.4 million, reports

What we’re watching: Critics worry strict new codes will make new construction much more expensive during a housing crisis where affordable new construction is pivotal.

  • In a report, researchers at MIT and Wentworth encouraged policymakers to offer incentives to builders to make the up-front costs of green homes more reasonable.

What they’re saying: The project’s architect, RODE co-founder Kevin Deabler told Axios that single-family houses like this are an important step, but the real impact of passive design will happen through multi-family projects.

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