While there may still be people who can’t imagine that the “Steel City,” tarnished once by infamous industrial pollution, could ever be clean and green, Pittsburgh – perhaps better fitted now with an “Emerald City” moniker – is a green building leader and home to one of the greenest buildings in the world: the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL). Located at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, the CSL opens to the public today with self-guided tours as part of a visitor’s experience at Phipps.
The city and the entire 10-county Pittsburgh region of southwestern Pennsylvania are globally recognized for innovation in sustainability and green building techniques and products, as they relate to energy – one of the region’s key economic sectors – and its efficiency. This achievement is in addition to the city’s monumental cleanup of its air and water resources, which began the 1940s.
Pittsburgh’s penchant for green is now showcased in the CSL at Phipps, a facility which houses the organization’s environmental education and research programs. The facility not only produces all of its own renewable energy with solar panels, geothermal wells and a wind turbine, but it also treats and reuses all water captured on site. It is surrounded by a restorative landscape and a green rooftop featuring native plants, and there are a lagoon, rain gardens and constructed wetlands to help visitors better understand and appreciate how delicate nature is, especially in light of humans’ demands on it.
Visitors can explore the CSL via interpretive and interactive signage and kiosks and view a “Green Gallery” of changing photography and art exhibits. In warmer weather, visitors will be able to explore the green outdoors, including meandering paths, a boardwalk, hillside amphitheater, a fountain and wildlife habitats.
Incorporating plenty of innovation and products that are born of the region, the center represents “green Pittsburgh under one roof” and points to how smarter energy usage and reducing the impact of the built environment on Mother Nature can be not only beautiful, but uber-efficient. Phipps officials and other community leaders hope that it will be a model for the world. The facility can demonstrate how possible it is to embrace Living Building architectural and landscapes standards, which go beyond the more familiar Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. And it further positions “Emerald City” Pittsburgh as the go-to place for this advanced thought leadership, as well as for products and services to construct the greenest of buildings.
Read more about the Center for Sustainable Landscapes from the Phipps website, and check out these stories about the CLS and its potential for Pittsburgh, as presented here on ImaginePittsburghNow.com. There’s also a video interview with Living Building Challenge Creator Jason McLennan captured when he visited Pittsburgh last spring.