Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh is home to what is arguably one of the greenest buildings in the country: the Center for Sustainable Landscapes, a recently completed facility for research and educational programs on the campus of the 119-year-old Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. The center, known as the CSL, is aiming for a trio of certifications. In addition to LEED Platinum, the project is one of 150 taking part in the Sustainable Sites Initiative'a pilot program intended to encourage ecologically sensitive landscape-design practices. Phipps and the CSL team hope to achieve four stars, the highest rating possible. But they have even bigger aspirations. They are targeting Living Building status, a designation with tough-to-satisfy requirements such as net-zero-energy and net-zero-water performance.

The $12 million CSL is just the latest piece of a multiphase green expansion program that began after the nonprofit Phipps Conservatory Inc. signed a 100-year lease, taking over management of the city-owned garden in 1993. 'Phipps had the potential to be more successful and become a national tourist attraction,' explains Richard Piacentini, the conservatory's executive director.

The new management's first capital project was a LEED Silver'certified visitors' reception wing that opened in 2005. The next year it completed two more: a 36,000-square-foot production greenhouse, with a computer-controlled roof venting system, and the Tropical Forest Conservatory, cooled passively with underground earth tubes.

For the CSL, the garden's most ambitious project to date, designers developed a 'synthetic solution' in which the 24,000-square-foot structure and its 2.65-acre site work as one, explains Chris Minnerly, principal at The Design Alliance, the building's architect. The building steps down with the steeply sloping terrain and has its long axis oriented east-west to minimize solar gain. Its thermally robust envelope includes a skin of wood reclaimed from dismantled Pennsylvania barns. Photovoltaic panels, a vertical-axis wind turbine, and geothermal wells will satisfy energy needs.

The landscape, which was still under construction at press time, will include water features, native plant materials, and rain gardens. The scheme will do more than merely look good, says Jos' Almi'ana, a principal at Andropogon, which did the project's landscape architecture. 'It will perform.'

One of the roles the landscape will play is helping the project meet Living Building water requirements. The CSL and its environs will manage stormwater and treat wastewater. It will put these sources to use for toilet flushing and to offset the significant irrigation demands of the conservatory's greenhouses.

A collection of orchids, for example, will be watered with the outflow from sinks and toilets, but only after the effluent is cleansed in a multistep treatment process that includes a traditional septic system and a constructed wetland containing plants such as cattails and rushes. A solar-distillation system will provide final purification.

A separate system will collect rainwater from the CSL's green roof and the roofs of neighboring buildings, directing it to a lagoon where hydrophytes (plants that thrive when submerged in water) will help remove the small amount of impurities found in roof runoff. After UV treatment, the water will be allowed to slowly filter into the ground or will be stored in cisterns for various nonpotable uses.

The lagoon will provide a habitat for fish and insects and, along with the constructed wetland, will transform the normally hidden, workaday processes of stormwater and wastewater management into landscape amenities. These water features are also an example of the 'systems thinking' that inspired the project, says Piacentini. At the CSL, 'the waste of one process benefits another.'

Completion Date: September 2012

Gross square footage: 24,350

Cost: withheld


Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

The Design Alliance Architects
2400 Henry W. Oliver Building
535 Smithfield Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
412-261-0660 (t)

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
L. Christian Minnerly, AIA, LEED AP
Principal in Charge/Design Architect

John Palmer
Technical Coordinator/Construction Administrator

Shannon Beisel, NCIDQ, LEED AP
Project Interior Designer

Brandon Dorsey
Systems Modeling Technician

Paul Kane, RA

(continued on next page)
Dave Parker, AIA, LEED AP

Ryan Cole
Architectural Intern

Interior designer:
The Design Alliance Architects

Civil and Environmental Consultants: Civil and Environmental Engineering
CJL Engineering: MEP Engineering
Atlantic Engineering Services: Structural

Landscape: Andropogon

Evolve EA: Sustainability, LEED and LBC Consulting
7Group: LEED and Performance Modeling Consulting
Massaro Corporation: Pre Construction Services and Estimating
Vermeulens: Construction Estimating
Carnegie Mellon University: Peer Review
University of Pittsburgh: Peer Review
Green Building Alliance: Research Assistance
Oculus Technologies: Information Management

General contractor: Turner Construction Company

Renderer: The Design Alliance Architects

CAD system, project management, or other software used:
Revit; AutoCAD



Structural system
Concrete and steel frame

Exterior cladding

Metal/glass curtain wall: Kawneer: 1600 Curtainwall
PPG: insulated glass units
Rainscreen (terra cotta, composite, etc.): Reclaimed Barn Siding, The Quaker Barn Company
Precast concrete: GFRC, Arc Limited
Moisture barrier: Tyvek Commercial Wrap


Built-up roofing: Carlisle’s Sure-Weld TPO Fleeceback Roofing System

Other: Green Roof
American Hydrotech


Metal frame: Kawneer Tri-Fab VG 451


Glass: PPG: insulated glass units
Skylights: Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope


Entrances: Kawneer: 1600 Curtainwall
Metal doors: Steelcraft
Wood doors: Salvaged wood doors.
Sliding doors: Nanawall SL70


Locksets: Best Lock Corp.
Closers: Dor-O-Matic
Exit devices: Falcon Lock
Pulls: Rockwood

Interior finishes

Acoustical ceilings: Armstrong Ultima Tegular
Suspension grid:Armstrong Prelude XL
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Giffin Interior and Fixture
Paints and stains:PPG
Solid surfacing: Corian
Special surfacing: GFRC worksurface – reception desk.
Floor and wall tile (cite where used): Crossville
Resilient flooring: Armstong Bio Based Migrations
Carpet: Tandus
Raised flooring: Tate Access Floor System
Special interior finishes unique to this project:
Acoustical plaster ceiling: Fellert


Office furniture: Herman Miller Canvas
Reception furniture:
Fixed seating: Herman Miller Aeron and Mirra
Chairs:see above
Tables: Herman Miller


Task lighting: Herman Miller LUXO
Exterior: Beta-Calco, Gormley Farrington, American Light Pole
Dimming System or other lighting controls: Lutron


Elevators/Escalators: ThyssenKrupp


Kohler Water closets, Urinals and Lavatories
Elkay Drinking fountains
Elkay Sinks
Chicago Faucets

Energy management or building automation system: AutomatedLogic
Photovoltaic system: SolarWorld

Other unique products that contribute to sustainability:
Phase Change Energy Solutions
Brae Rainwater Harvesting Solutions
Berner International Corp.
Aquascape Lagoon System
Tangarie Gale 10 Wind Turbine