Phipps Conservatory, Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL)


One Schenley Park Dr

Pittsburgh, PA 15213


Phipps Employees / Researchers

367 persons; 1st: 140, 2nd: 112, 3rd: 115


Classroom / Office / Conference

Education / Administration / Research


24,350 SF

1st: 11,209 SF, 2nd: 11,151 SF, 3rd:  1,990 SF


3 stories

Project Team


Design Team

General Contractor


Other Consultants

Turner Projects Contacts

  • Megan Corrie
  • Kristine Retetagos

Construction Dates

Dec. 2010 - Apr. 2012


$20 million

Project Delivery Method

Lump Sum with the General Contractor

Sustainability Goals

  1. LEED Platinum
  2. Living Building Challenge
  3. SITES Certification for landscapes

Web Resources



Design Development

Photos of Construction

Live Webcam



Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscape is a 3 story buildling with the purpose of classrooms, offices, & laboratories.  It is open to Phipps employees and Carnegie Mellon & Pitt researchers, not the public.

Sustainable architecture and landscape design are taking a giant step forward at Phipps. The new Center for Sustainable Landscapes, scheduled for completion in Spring 2012, will be one of the world's first certified living buildings, a model of sustainability for architects, scientists, planners and anyone interested in living greener. Phipps' dynamic new center for education, research and administration will generate all of its own energy and capture and treat all of its own water on site, meeting or exceeding the three highest green standards: the Living Building Challenge; LEED® Platinum and SITES Certification for landscapes.

Their goal is to be the greenest building in world & to lead by example.  The client pushed to ask questions & challenge design throughout process.  Thus he required an integrated design process.  Their progressive design would not be possible without their integrated team.  

During the design process, everyone was present: owner, CFO, architect, landscape architect, structural engineer, mechanical engineer, water management, process consultant, and energy consultant, all working towards a holistic solution.  This was possible through a meeting called a “charrette":  a collaborative working session that includes all stakeholders, & generates design solutions - which is something the client required.

The final result will honestly be one of the most progressive designs in the world.  A building to set the green standard for the future.  

Project Team Integrated Process:  Case Study


  • IBC 2006
  • Uniform Construction Code (UCC) of Pennsylvania
  • Building Code (2006)
  • Mechanical Code (2006)
  • Plumbing Code (2006)
  • Fire Code (2006)
  • Energy Conservation Construction Code (2006)
  • National Electric Code
  • NFPA-70
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)


“P” Parks District

Historical Requirements

Schenley Park National Register District:  Thus, the design must comply with the compliant architecture of the park.


Building Facade

Facade is a combination of:

  • Salvage barn siding
  • Motorized upper glazing
  • Metal light shelf
  • Operable windows
  • Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete Precast Panels
  • Backup of exterior studs

Robust Building Envelope

  • 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


The following is the weather resistant covering as part of the exterior enclosure.  


  • The white surface of the roof (including the atrium) consists of rigid foam insulation and Thermoplastic PolyOlefin (TPO) .
  • The Green Roof that covers the majority of the roof provides added insulation from outdoor to indoor conditions.


  • Tapered roof directs water to gutters that leads to on-site water treatment for grey water.
  • The Green Roof acts as roofing membrane similar to TPO, but is applied to the concrete, followed by soil, plants.
  • The secondary drainage system consists of overflow scuppers, which are simply holes in the parapet wall.

The NE shaft wall & NE stairs seen on the bottom of the picture is also covered with TPO.



Revolutionary Energy Efficiency

Passive Solar Design

  • "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 effective daylighting and passive solar controls
  • Light shelves, louvers and overhangs minimize summer cooling loads and contribute to building heating in winter
  • Translucent window shades reduce nighttime heat losses
  • Brise-soleil screens and internal shades reduce summer cooling loads and glare from low sun angles
  • Atrium is minimally conditioned and acts as a thermal buffer

Sustainable Materials

  • Construction waste diverted from landfills through efficient site design, recycling and reuse
  • Sustainable and innovative materials and finishes will be applied throughout the building and site
  • Materials include: locally produced low VOC and formaldehyde toxicity, high recycled content, and highly durable with long service lives and ease-of-maintenance
  • Wood salvaged from deconstructed Western Pennsylvania barns for exterior building skin

Sustainable Landscape

  • Sustainable landscape features all non-invasive, native plants. Click here to view the proposed plant list.
  • Plants will use rain water as irrigation - no additional irrigation will be installed
  • A 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 opportunity

Green Roof

  • Reduces volume of stormwater runoff and pollutants in stormwater runoff
  • Insulates building to reduce HVAC cooling in summer and heating in winter
  • Extensive green roof design with a 6" soil depth and a variety of plants, including edibles and ornamentals
  • Reduces heat island effect
  • Demonstration gardens for residential applications, especially urban landscapes
  • Beautifully landscaped space for an event

Rainwater Harvesting

  • Stormwater from upper campus glass roofs and lower site will be captured
  • Stored in two 1,700 gallon underground cisterns
  • Rainwater will be 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
  • Greatly reduces impact on municipal sewage treatment and energy-intensive potable water systems

Constructed Wetland

  • 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

Part 1 (above) Submitted 8.26.11

Part 2 (below) Submitted 1.17.12



A geothermal ground-source closed-loop system satisfies 70% of CSL’s heating and cooling loads. Geothermal wells, bored into the ground sink, create a ground source heat exchanger by remaining at a consistent temperature of 57 °F. In winter, warmth stored over the course of the summer season is recovered from the wells to heat the building spaces. In summer, heat removed from the heat pump refrigeration cycle is absorbed by the water circulated in the wells and the cool ground.

A 12,400 cfm capacity rooftop energy recovery unit supports the geothermal system in heating, cooling, ventilating, and dehumidification.  A desiccant wheel in the energy recovery unit pre-cools and dehumidifies outside air to reduce cooling loads by removing the humidity from warmer incoming air. Air is distributed throughout the majority of the building (offices, classrooms, conference rooms) through an under floor air distribution variable air volume (VAV) with baseboard diffusers. This system was chosen to reduce duct costs while accommodating for fluctuations in occupancies throughout the day.


Due to CSL’s close proximity to the existing Phipps Conservatory; a 600 amp 3 phase electrical service connects this new building directly to the third floor with existing adjacent facilities.  Standard voltages of 120/208 and 277/480 are distributed as needed throughout the building via the raised access floor system.  CSL also strives to be a net-zero building with respect to electricity use.  A vertical axis wind turbine as well as 36kW solar panel arrays contribute both to building electricity demands as well as supplying back to Duquense Light’s grid.  


The Center for Sustainable Landscapes uses a variety of lighting methods including national daylighting, fluorescent lighting, and energy efficient LEDs. The typical fixture is a 4’ T8 or T540 direct/indirect with high efficiency ecosystem dimming ballasts.  Dynamic light shelves along the facade control the natural daylighting into the spaces.  There are also occupancy sensors in the offices that help save energy during unoccupied periods.


The primary structural building material for the CSL is structural steel.  The substructure consists of cast-in-place concrete with a 12” concrete wall reinforcement and 30” diameter concrete column reinforcement.  Beam sizes consist primarily of types W12 and W16 made of ASTM A992 steel with a yield strength of 50 ksi.  Column sizes consist primarily of HSS 4x4 and HSS 6x6 shapes made with ASTM A500 Grade B with a yield strength of 36 ksi.  In addition, CSL is unique in that it is being constructed against a steeply sloped hill.


The project delivery method is a lump sum contract with Turner Construction as the construction manager.  Construction of the Center for Sustainable Landscapes began in December of 2010 and is scheduled to be complete in April 2012 with a total cost of $20 million.

A separate contract was created between the controls manufacturer and the owner, which is completely detached from the contractor.


Fire Protection

The Center for Sustainable Landscapes comprises of active and passive system as appropriate.   Primary fire construction type is defined by Construction Type 2B.  The fire protection system has an 8” fire service entrance with a double check detector assembly before it reaches a 60 HP, 1000 GPM fire pump.  All standpipes are located within the stairwells.


An hydraulic elevator is located in the northeast corner of building spanning from the first to third floors.


The Center for Sustainable Landscapes telecommunication system is a series of CAT-6 cables distributed from the main electrical room on the first floor for individual floor distribution.  The CAT-6 cables end at wall-mounted outlets that are designated as telephone or Ethernet connections. There are also WiFi access points mounted in the ceiling throughout the building.

The audio-visual system contains a combination of projectors and speaker system integrated into each classroom and conference room.  

The security for the Center for Sustainable Landscapes is comprised of a series of cameras strategically placed throughout the building as well as magnetic swipe card access to specific rooms of the building.  Security cameras are placed at each entrance of the building and in the stairwells.

Special Systems/ Uses

The Center for Sustainable Landscapes will be used as a living laboratory for research throughout its life.  Software with algorithms for a direct digital controls system will be used to optimize the performance of the building.  Advanced controls and metering will be led by Carnegie Mellon University.