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May. 28, 2014

Phipps Conservatory’s CSL Closer to Becoming City’s First Certified Net Zero Energy ‘Living Building’

By Adriana Pop, Associate Editor

Emerging as one of the world’s greenest buildings, the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, has recently garnered another landmark achievement, namely the Net Zero Energy Building Certification under the Living Building Challenge.

Administered by the International Living Future Institute since 2006, the program has stricter requirements than the LEED rating system, which focuses more on the idea of building green structures in a sustainable way. The Living Building Challenge, on the other hand, defines a closer measure of sustainability by also assessing the performance of the structure, which aims to achieve a net-zero impact on energy and water usage.

Regarded as the centerpiece of the $23 million Phase III of a multi-year expansion project underway at Phipps, CSL is an approximately 24,350-square-foot education, research and administration facility. Open since 2012, the project features a variety of green design features, including solar photovoltaics and solar hot water collectors, geothermal wells, a vertical axis wind turbine, passive cooling, heating and lighting methods, a lagoon, and a water distillation system, as well as rain gardens and constructed wetlands.

“The CSL was created to serve as a model for how we can work with nature to make our communities healthier, safer and more supportive of life,” says Phipps Executive Director Richard V. Piacentini. “With our Net Zero Energy Building Certification, we are excited to move closer to our goal of becoming a certified Living Building in 2014, showing the world just how inspiring and practical green can be.”  

Phipps’ CSL has already received two of the world’s highest green standards: the Four-Stars Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™) certification for landscapes, which was awarded in November 2013; and LEED® Platinum, which was awarded in September 2013.

In April, Engineering News-Record also recognized CSL as the 2014 Global Best Project Award in the green project category.

Phipps Conservatory’s other green building projects include the first LEED-certified visitor center in a public garden, the first-ever LEED-certified production greenhouses and a tropical forest conservatory that was celebrated as the most energy efficient structure of its kind when it opened in 2006.

Photo credits: phipps.conservatory.org

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