Pittsburgh’s Piatt Place a Model in Green Evolution

Piatt Place, a mixed-use destination with 60 upscale residential condominiums in downtown Pittsburgh, is green to the bone. Completed by Millcraft Industries in 2009, the property is a shining example of how a non-green building can be reincarnated with a sustainable structural material to become a model of green development, and how it can help revitalize a city.

Pittsburgh—Piatt Place, a mixed-use destination with 60 upscale residential condominiums in downtown Pittsburgh, is green to the bone. Completed by Millcraft Industries in 2009, the property is a shining example of how a non-green building can be reincarnated with a sustainable structural material—cold-formed steel—to become a model of green development, and how it can help revitalize a city.

Located at 301 Fifth Ave. in downtown Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle, the building that is now home to Piatt Place originally opened its doors as a four-story structure that served as the home of the Lazarus department store until 2004. In order for Millcraft to reinvent the site as Piatt Place, an endeavor designed by the architectural firm Strada, the developer needed to add three floors to the building to accommodate the condominiums, 180,000 square feet of Class A office space and 50,000 square feet of restaurant and retail offerings. Making the new incarnation of the former Lazarus building sustainable was a high priority; cold-formed steel played a large role in that process.

“Because the steel is so light, they were able to install those three stories on top,” Mark Nowak, president of the Steel Framing Alliance, tells MHN. “And they had to use noncombustible materials so it’s really the lightest non-combustible material you can find out there for structural purposes. They even put those three stories on top and did not have to make significant changes as far as beefing up columns. From the engineers’ discussions with us, they really had to do minimal changes even to the foundations to carry the loads. So, from a sustainability standpoint, it allowed them to use the existing building in a very cost-effective manner.”

CFS has become a popular alternative to heavier, traditional construction materials for erecting structures between four and nine stories in height. It’s lightweight, but strong. Its cost is generally lower than comparable materials and it also allows for a reduction in the construction timeline, given that the CFS product is pre-panelized off site. The material was the perfect choice for the greening of the building that would become Piatt Place.

“I would call cold-formed steel one of the most sustainable materials you could select for this type of application where you’re looking at reusing an existing building and expanding it,” Nowak says. “It still has a lot of other sustainable attributes. It’s the only material that you can reuse over and over and over again, and it doesn’t lose its ability to be turned into a product that’s every bit as good as the new products available. It’s infinitely recyclable.”

Since it made its debut, Piatt Place has served as a catalyst for downtown Pittsburgh’s renaissance as a lively live-work-play destination—with a flair for environmental friendliness. “By itself it’s an example of how to effectively reuse an older building, how to update it and use it in a productive manner, but it also fits in really well with the city’s whole approach to trying to be on the leading edge,” Nowak notes. “Pittsburgh was one of the first cities that first gravitated toward using [the U.S. Green Building Council’s] LEED requirements. They seem to be focused on some of the green technologies. I just think Piatt Place fits in well with their emphasis on looking green jobs and green construction as they move forward.”