Finch Cambridge

Cambridge, MA
Passive House Certified Affordable Housing

Completed as part of MassCEC’s Passive House Design challenge grant program, HRI’s Finch Cambridge is a prototype for new, affordable multifamily Passive House construction. This project was an early “proof of concept” of Passive House applied to 100 units of affordable housing. Petersen Engineering performed the Passive House WUFI modeling for this project and is engineer of record for the mechanical systems.


Setting a new precedent in affordable multifamily housing for architects, engineers, contractors, governing bodies, owners and developers.


Finch is an early example of the Commonwealth’s commitment to dramatically decreasing energy use in large, affordable housing projects. “Firsts” always make for challenging projects, especially when collaborating among the various consultants and disciplines. Petersen Engineering worked closely with the architect, owner, and contractor to meet the Passive House certification requirements, and presented at several building tours during construction, sharing design techniques and lessons learned.

Heating and air conditioning for Finch Cambridge are provided by variable refrigerant flow (VRF) air source heat pump (ASHP) systems that allow for a simultaneous heating and cooling system with no fossil fuels. The ventilation system is comprised of highly efficient central rooftop energy recovery ventilators with tempered supply in the winter and summertime removal of humidity from ventilation air at the source. Domestic hot water is supplied by a central gas-fired plant.


Tenants moved in starting in July 2020. Feedback from residents has been overwhelmingly positive. With an added construction cost premium of less than 2%, through the first 8 months of full occupancy the building has a projected annual energy use intensity (EUI) of 30 kBtu per square foot, 65% more efficient than the 2016 national average for multifamily buildings. The project has become a template for designing affordable Passive House multifamily buildings.


2020 PRISM Award: Best Affordable Community

Finch Cambridge Photo and Rendering Credits
Rendering credits: ICON Architecture, Inc.
Photo credits: Anthony Crisafulli

Project Details


HRI (Homeowners Rehab, Inc.)


ICON Architecture



Services Provided by Petersen Engineering

MEP/FP Services, Passive House modeling

Petersen Team Members
Chuck Dudas, PE, Hung Ming (Jason) Ngai, PE, James Petersen, PE