Building type:




Project Status:


Gross Area:

21892 Sqft


LEED v3 BD+C (New Construction) Platinum


LEED v2.2 NC Platinum

Climatic zone:



Thumbnail Center for Sustainable Landscapes / 0 © Denmarsh Photography, Inc
Thumbnail Center for Sustainable Landscapes / 1 © Hawkeye Aerial Photography
Thumbnail Center for Sustainable Landscapes / 2 © Paul g. Wiegman
Thumbnail Center for Sustainable Landscapes / 3 © Denmarsh Photography, Inc
Thumbnail Center for Sustainable Landscapes / 4 © Denmarsh Photography, Inc
Thumbnail Center for Sustainable Landscapes / 5 © Paul g. Wiegman
Thumbnail Center for Sustainable Landscapes / 6 © Denmarsh Photography, Inc


The Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) is truly a world leader in sustainable innovation. The development is the first and only facility of its kind to attain the world’s highest green building and landscape standards:

- Living Building Challenge, the world’s most rigorous green building standard
- LEED® Platinum —the highest achievement awarded by U.S. Green Building Council
- First and only Four Stars Sustainable SITES Initiative™ (SITES™) for landscapes project (pilot)
- First and only WELL Building Platinum project (pilot)

The facility houses ground breaking sustainability research and science education programs, and serves as a key part of the public garden’s immersive visitor experience. In producing all of its own renewable energy, and treating and reusing all water captured on site, the CSL demonstrates the benefits of humanity living in harmony with nature.
The aim of the design team, which was led by Pittsburgh-based architecture firm The Design Alliance Architects was to mimic nature and function as efficiently and elegantly as a flower, highlighting the interconnectedness of the many natural systems at work all around us.

The CSL was designed It has been built to be carbon neutral in its operational phase, and to meet net-energy and net-zero water goals, reducing demand on natural resources and combating climate change. Net-zero energy status on an annual basis, meaning that, over the course of a year, it is expected to produce more energy than it consumes. In its first operational year, the building achieved a 68.7% reduction of energy usage versus traditionally-designed buildings per US Environmental Protection Agency’s Target Finder.


Re-thinking the future sustainability awards, Honorable mention: 2014 public building built

Alliance to save energy: 2014 Innovative star of energy efficiency recipient

Engineering news-record, 2014 Global best projects: green projects category

American society of civil engineers, Pittsburgh section, Winner: 2013 civil engineering sustainability award

Usglass magazine, Winner: 2013 green design award

American institute of architects, Pittsburgh chapter, Winner: 2013 green design citation

Contract inspirations award, Honorable mention: 2013 Built project category

Engineers’ society of western Pennsylvania, 2013 projects of the year awards of distinction: sustainable project of the year

Environmental design + construction excellence in design award, Winner: 2013 institutional / governmental, new construction

European centre for architecture, art, design and urban studies and the Chicago athenaeum museum of architecture and design, Winner: 2013 green good design award

Forest stewardship council award, Winner: 2013 design and build – commercial / institutional category

Interior design best of the year award, Finalist: 2013


Natural ventilation

Shading system

High efficient façade


Rainwater harvesting

Grey Water Recycling

Water-saving sanitary appliances

Low-emitting materials and finishes

High efficient lighting

Environmentally friendly furniture

Smart design (passive design strategies)

Ground Source Heat Pump

Daylighting maximised


The CSL was designed to be carbon neutral in its operational phase, and to meet net-energy and net-zero water goals, reducing demand on natural resources and combating climate change. Net-zero energy status on an annual basis, meaning that, over the course of a year, it is expected to produce more energy than it consumes. In its first operational year, the building achieved a 68.7% reduction of energy usage versus traditionally-designed buildings per US Environmental Protection Agency’s Target Finder.
The overall building energy usage was minimized through passive and active design strategies such as:

- "Outside-In, Passive-First" strategy
- Overall building energy usage minimized through passive design strategies for typical operation
- High performance targets: improved envelope, heating, ventilation and cooling, lighting, power, and water conservation
- Building orientation maximizes northern and southern exposure for 80% daylight autonomy and passive solar controls
- Light shelves, louvers and overhangs minimize summer cooling loads and contribute to building heating in winter
- Brise-soleil screens reduce summer cooling loads
- Atrium is not mechanically heated nor cooled; thermal massing, high-performance operable glazing, solar shading, and phase-change material maintain comfortable temperatures

- Operable windows provide natural ventilation in administrative, educational, and support spaces
- Computational fluid dynamics study determined optimal window location for natural airflow
- An expanded upper comfort temperature setpoint of 25.5°C (78°F) instead of a typical 22°C (72°F) thermostat setpoint maximizes the number of hours of natural ventilation
- Reduces HVAC system fan energy usage
- Notification system alerts building occupants when conditions are appropriate to open windows

- Provides optimal energy efficiency
- Building envelope reduces thermal heating losses and solar cooling loads, and maximizes natural daylighting
- High performance wall and roof insulation reduce winter heat losses and summer heat gains
- High performance, low-e (low-emissivity) windows provide state-of-the-art solar and thermal control and energy efficiency, while admitting maximum daylight

- A ground-source geothermal HVAC system generates heat and cooling
- 14 geothermal wells of 152.4 meters (500 ft) deep boreholes with PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) tubing loops
- System expected to capture about 70% of its heating and cooling energy from the ground's consistent 13°C (55°F) temperature
- Geothermal system works in conjunction with the Rooftop Energy Recovery Unit to provide heating, cooling, ventilation, and dehumidification
- In summer, heat removed from the Heat Pump refrigeration cycle is absorbed by the water circulated in the wells and the cool ground
- In winter, warmth stored over the course of the summer season is recovered from the wells to heat the building spaces

- Uses ground-source geothermal capacity, modulating between 19.4% and 100% outside air based on need
- Economizer cycle provides "free cooling" and enhanced natural ventilation using outside air when ambient temperatures are cooler and drier than indoor temperatures, without mechanical refrigeration
- Desiccant wheel utilizes energy that would otherwise be exhausted pre-cools and dehumidifies outside air to reduce cooling loads of hot moist outside air in the summer with minimal energy use and without mechanical refrigeration; also pre-heats and humidifies incoming cold outside air in winter
- Maximized outside air and a high performance MERV13 air filter provide superior indoor air quality
- UV Lighting included to reduce the potential for microbial growth
- Geothermal heat pump system is energized when economizer and desiccant wheel cannot maintain comfort conditions due to extremes in outside weather conditions

- Direct digital control (DDC) building management system monitors, controls, and provides feedback on various systems for optimal energy efficient operations
- Responds to current conditions, predicts daily ambient temperature and humidity swings based on time of year, and uses past historical weather patterns
- Notification system alerts occupants if temperature, humidity and air quality conditions are favorable for opening windows, while also locking out mechanical systems

- A sun-tracking 125 kW onsite Solar Photovoltaics (PVs) system contributes to the net zero energy approach of offsetting 100% of the annual energy consumption of the CSL facility.
- A vertical axis wind turbine contributes to the net zero energy approach of offsetting 100% of the annual energy consumption of the CSL facility by generating energy with winds as low as 1.9m/s (4.25 mph).

- Aircuity system monitors temperature, humidity, CO2, TVOC, particulates and CO in occupied spaces, ensuring high quality air delivery through underfloor and ceiling distribution systems
- Breathing zone air ventilation rates are 55% above ASHRAE Standards 62.1-2004 requirement
- At less than full building occupancy, the DCV system reduces ventilation air volume, and thus reduces energy required to heat or cool and dehumidify the ventilation air

- 100% passively cooled: passive heating strategies and winter solar collection take advantage of thermal massing in walls, ceilings and floors.
- High-performance operable glazing, solar shading, and phase-change material maintain comfortable temperatures

- Extensive daylighting amplifies most spaces for 80% daylight autonomy
- Light shelves and an interior daylight ceiling "cloud" maximize the depth of daylight penetration into the space
- Ceiling cloud surface and interior finish color schemes provide high reflectance values
- When natural daylight is insufficient, high performance, energy efficient T-5 fluorescent lighting equipped with daylighting sensors, controls, and dimming ballasts are engaged
- Occupancy sensors turn off lights in unoccupied rooms
- All regularly occupied spaces are provided with operable windows to maximize quality of light and air
- LED task lights provide additional light if necessary

- During construction, 96.74% of construction waste was diverted from landfills through efficient site design, recycling and reuse
- Sustainable and innovative materials and finishes applied throughout the building and site
- Rigorous vetting process guided sourcing materials compliant with Living Building Challenge Red List, which identifies for elimination material components that negatively impact the environment and/or people exposed to them
- Materials include those that are locally produced, low VOC and formaldehyde free; have high recycled content; and are highly durable with long service lives and ease-of-maintenance
- Wood salvaged from deconstructed Western Pennsylvania barns for exterior building skin
- All interior wood furniture reclaimed and/or FSC certified

- Pilot project for Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™) certification for landscapes, becoming the first project ever to achieve Four-Stars certification in November 2013
- 2.9-acre project site was previously a dilapidated brownfield, once used a municipal fueling station, which suffered through decades of environmental devastation
- Sustainable landscape features over 150 non-invasive, native plant species; view the complete plant list
- Plants use rain water exclusively for irrigation
- Walking trail and boardwalk lead through a variety of landscape communities including wetland, rain garden, water's edge, shade garden, lowland hardwood slope, successional slope, oak woodland and upland groves
- Restores natural landscape function, provides wildlife habitat, and offers educational opportunities

- Reduces volume of stormwater runoff and pollutants in stormwater runoff
- Insulates building to reduce HVAC cooling in summer and heating in winter
- Retains 85% of annual rainfall
- Extensive green roof design with a 8" soil depth and a variety of plants selected for their medicinal, culinary and biofuel uses
- Reduces heat island effect

- 2.9-acre project site is net zero water, managing all rainfall and treating all sanitary waste on site
- Site can manage a 10-year storm event (83mm of rain in 24 hours)
- A full ½ acre of rooftop runoff – approximately 1,900,000 litres (500,000 gallons) – is harvested from upper campus glass roofs and lower site
- Stored in a 228,000 litres (60,000-gallon) underground rain tank
- Rainwater is used for toilet flushing, as well as interior irrigation and maintenance as required
- Ultralow flow plumbing fixtures include waterless urinals and dual-flush toilets for water conservation
- Harvested water is reused to offset conservatory irrigation needs, greatly reducing impact on municipal sewage treatment and energy-intensive potable water systems
- A lagoon system captures stormwater runoff from portions of the site and the Tropical Forest Conservatory roof, replicating natural water treatment process that occurs in wetlands and marshes. Water is then processed to tertiary non-potable standards
Permeable paving and asphalt allow natural infiltration of site stormwater.

- Treat all sanitary water from CSL and adjacent maintenance building
- Subsurface flow constructed wetland system
- 2-stage wetland treatment cell system
- Sand filtration provides additional treatment of the wetland effluent
- Ultraviolet process disinfects water to gray water standards
- Greatly reduces impact on municipal sewage treatment and energy-intensive potable water systems
- Excess treated sanitary water redirected to Epiphany solar distillation system, which uses solar energy to distill the water to pharmaceutical grade for use in watering orchids


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Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens



The Design Alliance Architects


The Design Alliance Architects , Andropogon Associates


Energy consultant:

7group, LLC

Green certification consultant:


Lighting consultant:

7group, LLC


Massaro Corporation

Specialist consultant:

Civil & Environmental Consultants , CJL Engineering , H.F. Lenz , Kolano Design , Pitchford Diversified , Sundrive , Indevco , Vermeulens Cost Consultants

Structural Engineer:

Atlantic Engineering Services


Sub contractor:

Allegheny Installations , Allied Waste , Aquascape , Automated Logic , Berner International , Brayman Construction , Tom Brown Contracting , Burns and Scalo , Compu-Site , Continental Building Systems; , S.A. Comunale , Definis Mechanical Contractors , D-M Products , Dubin and Company , Energy Independent Solutions , Engineered Products , Epiphany Solar Water Systems , A. Folino Construction , Franco , Franklin Interiors , Giffin Interior & Fixture , Glass House Renovation Services , Hanlon Electric , Ionadi Corporation , Lutron Electronics , Marshall Elevator , Massaro Industries , Mats Inc. , A.G. Mauro , Mele Landscaping Contractors , Mendel Steel , Noralco Corporation , TD Patrinos Painting & Contracting , PPG Industries , Saints Painting , J.C. Schultz Interiors , SSM Industries , Spectra Contract Flooring , Tri-State Lockers & Shelving , Western Pennsylvania Geothermal Heating and Cooling


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