While Passive House (aka Passivhaus) is well-established in Europe, it’s still fairly new here in North America. By definition, then, commercial Passive House here is a realm of firsts.
We’ve got the “first Passive House public school building” and the “first Passive House religious assembly building” in North America. We even have “global” firsts, like the “first Passive House dental clinic” in the world, and the more wonky “first commercial kitchen range hood within a Passive House envelope” in the world. Last week we announced the first Passive House animal hospital in the world (with the “as far as we know” disclaimer – passive building has become so prevalent in Europe that it’s tricky to track “firsts” now.)
I’m happy to say that we’ve got another first to announce, the Near West Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio: the first Passive House performing arts center in North America (definitely) and the world (probably).
This 24,000 SF structure will replace the company’s current rental space in a facility long out-grown by the 35-year-old community arts organization. Too small and too hot (no AC in Cleveland means uncomfortable audience in the summer), the old location had become a constraint to the New West Theatre’s growth and its ability to carry out its community mission.
Why did Near West Theatre choose to pursue Passive House for its new home?
Comfort was the first motivation. The theatre company’s old space is sweltering in the summer and offers inconsistent heat in colder months. And widely ranging occupancy demands, ranging from small meetings to standing-room-only theatrical projections, make delivering fresh air and thermal comfort difficult.
commercial Passive House – Passive House performing arts center
The new Passive House theatre, designed by Richard Fleishman + Partners Architects with Passive House consulting by Passiv Science, will change all that. Built nearly airtight with a superinsulated wall and 8” of geofoam under the foundation, the structure’s advanced envelope will allow the building to achieve excellent thermal comfort at affordable cost. Heat recovery ventilation will provide a 24/7 supply of pre-conditioned fresh air, ensure superior indoor air quality for the space, even during the theatre’s bursts of occupancy.
The Passive House approach will cut energy use by up to 50%. A 75,000-watt solar PV array on the roof will offset much of the remaining energy use.
Which brings us to Near West Theatre’s second motivation for pursuing Passive House: stewardship. The company’s chief operating officer, Hans Holznagel, recently told Crain’s Cleveland Business newspaper:
“Our mission has to do with love, inclusiveness, continuity; ‘environmentalism’ isn’t explicitly one of them, but it’s consistent with what we do… and we love that we’re doing something environmentally friendly.”
Check out this WKYC TV story about the project: