Center for Sustainable Landscapes

Designers: Andropogon, The Design Alliance Architects, Others | City: Pittsburgh, PA | Project Type: sustainable infrastructure, stormwater management, solar, geothermal, wetlands, green roof, wind power, net zero energy, net zero water
Date Visited: 09.14.12
Location: 700 Frank Curto Drive Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Size: 24,350 sq. ft complex on 2.65 acres
Cost: $23.5 million
Official Opening Date: TBD

Even though the Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes was scheduled to open in Spring 2012, it was still under construction by the time I arrived in Pittsburgh. The $23.5 million project faced many setbacks due to the economic downturn. When it does finally open, the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) will be one of the greenest buildings in the world and meet three of the most demanding green building standards in the U.S.: LEED Platinum, the Living Building Challenge, and the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES).

I’m actually pretty upset that they weren’t open when I came, but I guess this is just a sign that I’ll be coming back to Pittsburgh in the future–a lot of other parks in the city are also under construction. During my visit to Phipps Conservatory, I snuck into the construction site to snap a few photos.

Site Plan by Andropogon

Although CSL won’t be certified until it’s successfully operated for at least one year, its laundry list of sustainable initiatives makes it likely to succeed.

With net zero energy and water usage, the Center for Sustainable Landscapes will operate off the utility grid. The site plans to generate all of its own energy using a vertical axis wind turbine, 378 photovoltaic rooftop solar panels (125 solar panels on the ground), and 14 geothermal wells, which will use geothermal energy to heat and cool the building. All water on site will also be captured, treated, and used on site through stormwater management features such as green roofs, lagoons, constructed wetlands, rain gardens, permeable paved surfaces and a water distillation system. Water use is expected to be offset by 7 million gallons.

Reading about these green initiatives reminded me of my Site Design studio at university. During my junior year, we had been introduced to low impact development and stormwater management strategies and, with a limitless budget, plastered our sites with as many green walls, green roofs, wind turbines, wetlands, and solar farms as possible. It was a carbon negative dream come true.

Upon completion, the Center for Sustainable Landscapes will be carbon net-zero.

The $23.5 million budget, which was funded by local and national foundations and Phipps Conservatory donors, includes:

– $1.5 million dedicated to building and grounds
– $14.5 million dedicated to the hard and soft costs of the CSL
– $4 million dedicated to research endowment
– $3.5 million dedicated to landscape site work and education demonstration projects
– $500,000 for the solar photovoltaic (pv) system
(credit: CSL Fact Sheet)

Though this hefty price tag does cost more upfront, the CSL will recoup its costs and save in maintenance and operations in the long run. For instance, the CSL building is projected to use 80% less than the annual energy consumed by an average office building of the same size, not to mention its many environmental benefits that range from habitat creation to onsite storm water management. For a closer look at the onsite water systems, seeĀ here.

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