Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Pittsburgh, United States

Completed December 2012, the 24,350 sq ft Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) provides both a home for administrative/classroom functions and a tool to further the institution’s mission “to advance sustainability and promote human and environmental well-being through action and research”.

High project goals included the commitment to meet three building evaluation systems: LEED Platinum (achieved); the Living Building Challenge (in process); and the Sustainable Sites Initiative (in process).

The CSL’s conceptual design strategy builds on an indoor and outdoor relationship by developing a series of sequences and views that tie garden spaces to the building interior. The building is nestled into the surroundings and takes advantage of site lines, changes in elevations and relationships to building, landscape and campus. Garden pathways ramp and step down through a newly created slope that connects 3 levels.

Daylighting/Ventilation: The building responds to its solar orientation by aligning the majority of occupied spaces toward the south. Interior light shelves placed above view windows and below transom windows bounce light deep into the building’s center. Exterior southern sun shades block high summer sun angles while permitting sun to penetrate into the building during winter.

Net Zero Energy: Strong passive design strategies lead to reductions in mechanical/electrical system sizes. The heating/cooling system is powered by photovoltaic cells mounted on campus building roofs and supplemented by a wind turbine and geothermal wells. The roof top unit delivers conditioned air via an underfloor air system.

Net Zero Water: Captured rainwater from existing roofs is stored for reuse for irrigation and non-potable uses. This water is pumped back to campus and used for irrigation in the Production Greenhouse and other conservatory spaces. CSL Sanitary discharge is treated and reused to flush toilets. Building discharge is treated by running it through a constructed wetland, a series of underground sand filters, and finally ultraviolet light.

Materials: Products that contain Formaldehyde, Polyvinyl Chloride, Mercury and other problematic compounds were eliminated. Local materials were used. Heavier materials were acquired within a shorter radius of the project site. Focus wasplaced on using products with high recycled content and also salvaged materials.

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