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Boston skyscraper named world’s biggest ​‘Passive House’ office

A new Boston skyscraper has a climate-friendly claim to fame. Last week, it became the largest office space in the world certified to the extremely energy-efficient ​“Passive House” standards — and the first skyscraper in the U.S. to earn the label.

The 812,000-square-foot area for offices at the Winthrop Center, a mixed-use commercial and residential building, requires significantly less energy than similar spaces. Comparable buildings in Boston consume 150% more energy than Winthrop Center’s office space, according to the developer Millennium Partners.

To achieve Passive House performance, the design utilizes high-performing insulation, triple-pane windows and other construction techniques that improve airtightness and minimize thermal-energy losses. The nonprofit research organization Passive House Institute in Germany verified the building’s performance.

The announcement is ​“fantastic news,” said Ken Levenson, executive director of the U.S.-based nonprofit Passive House Network. ​“It’s proof that Passive House [performance] is applicable to many, many” types of buildings — not just homes, as the name suggests. In 2022, the organization deemed the Winthrop Center design, which has taken six years to realize, a trailblazer.

Buildings consume — and waste — vast amounts of energy, making them responsible for about a quarter of emissions globally, according to the International Energy Agency. The trend has yet to improve; in 2022, buildings used about 1 percent more energy than the year before.

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