Group 7 Created with Sketch.
Group 3 Copy Created with Sketch.
People standing around and describing the Geothermal System in a retrofit house
10/23/23, 6pm - 8pm
Center for Architecture

Guidance for Emerging Sustainable Design Warriors: Passive House Case Studies and a Net Zero Green Economy offers a deep dive through three case studies based on Passive House Principles. The studies demonstrate net-zero achievements and sustainable entrepreneurship strategies that can inform public policy in order to create meaningful and achievable incentives for “net-zero zip codes” that will serve as green economic zones.

Keynote speaker Andreas Benzing, co-founder of New York Passive House, will present his latest passive house project and will provide insights on post development opportunities, emerging short-term innovations, and long-term possibilities instrumental in achieving decarbonized development and cities.

Dennis Ramdahin, Founder of Vihara Foundation and a Green Building Professional and Climate Finance Engineer, will be joined by collaborators Chester Birchwood and Itai Kaitano of BK Climate Solutions, a hydronic mechanical contracting firm that specializes in leading edge systems powered by renewables. They will present two homes in Brooklyn: The Park Slope House and The Von Mueller House.

The mechanical system of The Park Slope House, an 1880’s house renovation, uniquely utilized a prototype German Air to Water heat pump system provided by Dimplex Germany and Taco United States for the mechanical system which consists of hydronic radiant floor and AC/dehumidification. This rigorous implementation, built to match Passive House standards, resulted in a no-compromise, energy-cost-free home with high interior comfort, improved air quality, and a remarkable carbon footprint reduction. The home and installation has been featured in trade publications such as HVACR Contractors Magazine, and is scheduled to receive additional editorial coverage detailing modern air to water heat pump installations and sustainable building techniques.

The Von Mueller House is an ongoing collaboration between the building owner and the Vihara Foundation’s Super Energy Efficiency Building Initiative for Climate Action (SEEBICA). SEEBICA aims to deliver a scalable net-zero community housing retrofit—a model being designed for urban cities to achieve high-performance residential sector building energy efficiency at scale. This is achieved through solar photovoltaic, shallow field geothermal heat pump heating and cooling, rainwater harvesting, provisioning for salt water battery energy storage, mechanical ventilation, a green wall for food production and summer solar heat gain reduction, onsite composting and gardening and optimized utility efficiency.

Ramdahin will also discuss the potential for community scale energy efficiency, green finance innovation, and job creation and economic upliftment of low-income communities via energy efficiency and sustainable building design.

Join us for a tour of both houses on Saturday, November 5.

As the voice of the new generation of architects and sustainable design warriors, moderator Gioia Montana Connell will steer the conversation to consider what is possible within the spectrum of Passive House and hybrid innovations. We’ll explore how to achieve optimum building performance that eliminates load demand upon local infrastructure to result in net-zero zip codes that in turn result in green economic zone opportunities for individual home owners

Andreas Benzing,
 Co-Founder, New York Passive House; Architect, Benzing Architects; Part-Time Assistant Professor, Columbia University and Parsons School of Design

Miguel Angel Baltierra, Assoc. AIA, LEED BD+C, PMP, CAHP, AAAE CM,
 Director, Sustainable Strategies for the Universe
Chester Birchwood, Heating and Ventilation Engineer, Renewable Energy Engineer, and Managing Director, HVAC Kings LLC; Partner, BK Climate Solutions
Itai Kaitano, Founder, BK Climate Solutions
Dennis Ramdahin, Founder, Vihara Foundation; Green Building Professional and Climate Finance Engineer

Gioia Montana Connell, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP BD+C, WEDG Associate, Built Ecology Consultant, WSP

About the Speakers:
Miguel Angel Baltierra has been writing about architecture and urban design since 1985. From 2011 to 2018 he hosted the AIA New York Oculus Podcast while also serving on the AIANY Oculus Committee. His writing has appeared in ArchNewsNow, Architectural Record, International Design Magazine, and The Taiwan Review. Baltierra also served as Arts Editor for L.A. Architect Magazine, published by AIA Los Angeles. He was an editor and / or contributor to Westfourth Architecture: Bucharest Calls New York, Espirtu Digital / Digital Spirit: Fernando Salicrup, Homage Alma Boricua, XXX Aniversario, and Towards a Sustainable Urban Environment in South East Asia 1993, among others. Baltierra attended the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, California State Polytechnic University at Pomona, and the George Washington University School of Business.

Andreas Benzing is licensed to practice Architecture in New York State, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Germany, and became a Certified Passive House Designer in 2009. He is a distinguished faculty member and Part-Time Assistant Professor at Columbia University and Parsons School of Design, teaching Environmental Design and Design Studio to the next generation of architects. He is a co-founder of New York Passive House and cultivated a deep commitment to Passive House while serving as President and Executive Director. Benzing received the prestigious Urban Green Council’s National 2015 EBie Award “Power to the People” in recognition of the greatest percentage reduction in building energy use.

Chester Birchwood Heating and Ventilation engineer; Renewable Energy Engineer, Managing Director of HVAC Kings LLC and a partner in B.K Climate Solutions. Birchwood studied at Brooklyn College and got interested in the field of Mechanical Engineering. He started from boiler installation and design to HVAC while working for multiple firms. In 1996, he became certified by the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association. He has worked on and installed hydronic heat pumps. His work also includes installation of solar-thermal for multifamily buildings, including experimental solar-thermal assisted cooling in different places, such as the FDNY garage at Randall’s Island. His knowledge of solar, HVAC, and electrical controls system design has bought him to the Von Mueller Green House Project.

Gioia Montana Connell is a design professional whose passion for place-based design has directed her career in architecture, planning, and sustainability consulting. As Built Ecology Consultant at WSP, she currently works across the portfolio, master planning, and building scales leading strategy, analytics, and sustainable building and Net Zero certifications for federal projects and industrial developers. Her current work builds on prior consulting and in-house experience in architecture at Roche Dinkeloo and in planning at Vita Nuova, as well as her own consulting practice GMCC. She has worked with communities, cities, and startups from across the globe on climate-resilient and nature-based solutions from New York to California and Ecuador to Sweden, with partners from Yale to the United Nations.

Itai Kaitano is the founder of BK Climate Solutions, a hydronic mechanical contracting firm that specializes in leading edge systems powered by renewables. As an entrepreneur, dedicated to viable energy-efficient HVAC design, he pioneered the installation of New York City’s first modern residential integrated air-to-water heat pump radiant system, which has been featured in numerous national trade publications. Leveraging project management expertise and a dedication to energy efficiency, he is the project manager on the innovative Von Muller Green House project. His goal is to optimize and simplify residential mechanical systems to help redefine green building, with a focus on cost efficiency, comfort and health. Itai was born in Zimbabwe and lives with his family in Brooklyn, in a restored 1880’s deep-energy, retrofitted brownstone.

Dennis Ramdahin is a whole-system design sustainable master planner and climate finance engineer with global engagement in poverty alleviation and climate mitigation. He is the founder of Vihara Foundation, and COO of Justice for Women International (currently executing “smart-city” development in Africa and India). Ramdahin pioneered the first Office of Sustainability in New York State government (2003), with heavy focus on energy master planning, green building design, energy life cycle financial modeling. In 2006-07, Ramdahin served as sustainable lead on the US Air Force greening military base exercise, where he developed the “Total Life Cycle Energy-Economic-Carbon Financial Decision Making Model”.

Link to Livestream:

Organized by
AIA New York
People standing around and describing the Geothermal System in a retrofit house
10/23/23, 6pm - 8pm
Center for Architecture
Group 6 Created with Sketch.


Our website has detected that you are using a browser that will prevent you from accessing certain features. An upgrade is recommended to experience. Use the links below to upgrade your exisiting browser.