Architects: The Design Alliance Architects
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Landscape Architect: Andropogon Associates
Project Year: 2013
Photographs: Courtesy of Denmarsh Photography
From the architect. Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, a global leader in sustainable building practices, has opened the new Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL), one of the world's greenest buildings. The new 24,350-‐square-‐foot structure is the first building project to pursue all three of the highest green architecture and landscape standards: the Living Building Challenge SM, LEED® Platinum and Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™) certification. A model of sustainability for architects, scientists, planners and anyone interested in living greener, this groundbreaking new building was designed to mimic nature and function as elegantly and efficiently as a flower.
The CSL was the most ambitious phase of Phipps’ three-‐part, multi-‐year expansion. During the planning stages of this project, Phipps accepted the Living Building Challenge issued by International Living Future Institute to guide the design and construction of its facility. The Living Building Challenge, the most rigorous performance standard for the built environment, attempts to raise the bar and define a closer measure of true sustainability.
A home-‐base for Phipps’ environmental education, research and administrative efforts, the CSL is a global showcase of innovation. Built to achieve net-‐zero energy consumption, the facility produces all of its own renewable power on site with the aid of solar panels, geothermal wells and a wind turbine, as well as takes advantage of passive cooling, heating and lighting methods. It will also treat and reuse all blackwater and stormwater captured on site, greatly reducing impact on municipal sewage treatment and energy-‐intensive potable water systems. Designed and constructed with local talent and mostly U.S.-‐made materials, the CSL is a triumph of responsibly sourced, environmentally friendly, and healthy materials and practices. From its recycled structural steel and salvaged wood siding to its regionally sourced plants, the CSL is a prime example of Phipps’ commitment to sustainability and intelligent building technologies.
“Phipps is all about beauty and connecting people to nature by highlighting vital relationships between ourselves, plants, health and the planet in everything we do,” says Phipps Executive Director Richard V. Piacentini. “The CSL is the ultimate expression of our systems-‐based way of thinking and acting, to blur the lines between the built and natural environments.”
The CSL is designed to interact with its surroundings as a vital part of its daily operation. As one of a small number of global SITES™ pilot projects, it features a restorative landscape, highlighting native plants and a permaculture demonstration rooftop garden. Other site features include a stormwater lagoon, a solar powered water distillation system, five rain gardens, porous paving, and constructed wetlands that will use plants and natural processes to clean wastewater.
Inside of the CSL and in the demonstration gardens, Phipps will conduct and share the results of research aimed at transforming the way that people relate to nature while serving as an environmental education center that community members can visit. Interpretive signage and an interactive kiosk will greet visitors and guide their exploration of the facility’s inner-‐workings; a Green Gallery on the first floor offers changing photography and art exhibits; and a classroom will serve as the site for Phipps’ programs for children, which are focused on topics like ecology, science, art and healthy living. Guests will also be invited to explore the outdoor environs, which include meandering paths, a boardwalk, a hillside amphitheater, a serene fountain, thriving wildlife habitat, and scenic panoramas of both natural areas and urban cityscapes.