IDSR, Research

Passive Housing, Introduction


The aim of our research is to set out a framework that is well adapted to explain what sustainability means within architectural design practices. The intent of this material is to shift attention from the building itself to the design practices that are making the building; in essence a case study for design, construction and operation. Similar, to Reyner Banham’s inspiration in proposing the ‘standard of living package’ as a piece of environmental machinery. We think that the ‘Platform for Living’ is an appropriate working title for our project that as it is informed by Banham’s project ‘A Home is Not a House.

For us this begins with a piece of land adjacent to Catskills Park in New York State. The culture of the Catskills is influenced by its proximity to New York City. Its a little bohemian, and populated by creatives with a creative spirit. Woodstock Handmade Houses published in the 1974 is a good example of the nonconformist culture associated with this area. Especially in Woodstock, where experimental architecture was the norm until property values established an incentive for more conservative (and less environmentally friendly) residential designs.

Currently the relationship between the Catskill Park Region and New York City is driven by water. Historically there were other natural resources stripped from the region for use in industry and the urbanization of New York City. But today the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) focuses its efforts on preserving the trees, roots and hillsides that are part of the watershed for New York City’s drinking water. The DEP choreographs the relationship between the communities near the Catskill watershed and the nine million people that rely on the water in the city.

Our interests are not restricted to the watershed, but this context brings an awareness to the resources required to build in the modern world, including the initial design and construction then, just as importantly, the performance of the building, in use, over decades. Our Platform for Living, the passive watershed house, is a case study in best practices for our clients, users, and neighbors.