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Center for Sustainable Landscapes

The future of green has arrived! One of Earth’s greenest buildings is now open for you to visit. Read what people are saying about this inspiring new addition to Phipps and learn how you can take a free docent-led tour and see the facility for yourself.

Center for Sustainable Landscapes

Sustainable architecture and landscape design are taking giant steps forward at Phipps with the new Center for Sustainable Landscapes: an innovative model of sustainability for architects, scientists, planners and anyone interested in greener living. In generating all of its own energy, and treating and reusing all water captured on site, this dynamic education, research and administration facility is expected to meet or exceed the world’s three highest green standards: The Living Building Challenge™, for which Net Zero Energy Building Certification was achieved in February 2014, with Full Certification currently being pursued; Four-Stars Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™) certification for landscapes, which was awarded in November 2013; and LEED® Platinum, which was awarded in August 2013. Designed and built by Pennsylvanians to operate as efficiently as a flower, this addition is now part of our guest experience.

The Living Building Challenge

CSL is the centerpiece of the $23 million Phase III of a multi-year expansion project underway at Phipps to upgrade and expand facilities, and to emphasize more green and sustainable building practices and operations. During the planning stages of this project, Phipps accepted the Living Building Challenge issued by International Living Future Institute. The Living Building Challenge attempts to raise the bar and define a closer measure of true sustainability in the built environment.


Revolutionary Energy Efficiency

Revolutionary Energy Efficiency
  • Pursuing ILBI Living Building Challenge certification, the highest performance standard for sustainable building practices
  • LEED® Platinum certified with a score of 63 out of 69 points for a new construction under version 2.2; only one other new building has achieved this level of green building distinction
  • Designed to reduce annual energy usage by at least 50% in comparison to a traditionally-designed building
  • Designed to reduce capacity requirements for HVAC systems and associated infrastructure (power, pipes, ductwork, pumps, etc.) by 30-40%

Integrative Design Process

Integrative Design Process
  • Comprehensive evaluation of end user's operational needs, building's functionality, site, and architectural and engineering systems
  • Workshops with design team and Phipps staff throughout entire design and planning process
  • Video documentation of process for distribution and broadcast

Passive Solar Design

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
  • Brise-soleil screens reduce summer cooling loads
  • Atrium is minimally conditioned and acts as a thermal buffer

Robust Building Envelope

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

Geothermal Heating and Cooling

Geothermal Heating and Cooling
  • A ground-source geothermal HVAC system generates heat and cooling
  • 14 geothermal wells of 510 ft deep boreholes with PEX (crosslinked polyethylene) tubing loops
  • System expected to capture about 70% of its heating and cooling energy from the ground's consistent 55°F (13°C) 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

Rooftop Energy Recovery Unit

Rooftop Energy Recovery Unit
  • Uses ground-source geothermal capacity
  • Economizer cycle provides "free cooling" using outside air when ambient temperatures are cooler and drier than indoor temperatures, without mechanical refrigeration
  • A desiccant energy recovery wheel pre-cools and dehumidifies outside air to reduce cooling loads of hot moist outside air in the summer; 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

Desiccant Dehumidification

Desiccant Dehumidification
  • Desiccant wheel utilizes energy that would otherwise be exhausted to pre-treat temperature and moisture in incoming outside air with minimal energy use and without mechanical refrigeration
  • Reduced moisture levels and humidity control of the air allows for a higher comfortable indoor temperature setpoint of 76°F (24.5°F)
  • Enables economizer feature to provide for free cooling and enhanced natural ventilation
  • Geothermal heat pump system is energized when economizer and desiccant wheel cannot maintain comfort conditions due to extremes in outside weather conditions

Building Management System (BMS)

Building Management System (BMS)
  • Direct Digital Control (DDC) Building Management System will monitor, control, and provide 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
  • Meters and sensors will provide building operating profiles and trend data to monitor energy efficiency on an ongoing basis
  • Favorable temperatures and humidity levels triggers a "night purge" to draw cool, dry outside air through building spaces to cool walls, floors, furniture, and ceilings before being occupied, saving daytime cooling energy

Solar Photovoltaics (PV) and Solar Hot Water Collectors

Solar Photovoltaics (PV) and Solar Water Collectors
  • Renewable energy system generates electricity from the sun
  • Contributes to the net zero energy approach of offsetting 100% of the annual energy consumption of the CSL facility
  • Adjacent facilities building and Special Events Hall roof surfaces provide ideal near-southern orientation for solar PV
  • Building Management System meters and sensors will collect and report on renewable energy generation from solar PV
  • Excess generated energy will serve upper campus electricity needs

Vertical Axis Wind Turbine

Vertical Axis Wind Turbines
  • Renewable energy system generates electricity from wind
  • Contributes to the net zero energy approach of offsetting 100% of the annual energy consumption of the CSL facility
  • Elevation of the site above Panther Hollow may promote favorable conditions for wind generation
  • Building Management System meters and sensors will collect and report on renewable energy generation from a vertical axis wind turbine
  • Excess generated energy will serve upper campus electricity needs

Natural Ventilation

Natural Ventilation
  • 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 78°F (25.5°C) instead of a typical 72°F (22°C) 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 the windows

Demand Controlled Ventilation (DCV)

Demand Controlled Ventilation (DCV)
  • Uses CO2 sensors located in the classroom, conference rooms, and office areas to match the amount of ventilation air required to the occupancy level
  • 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

Minimally Conditioned Atrium

  • 100% passively cooled
  • Passive heating strategies and winter solar collection take advantage of thermal massing in walls, ceilings and floors


  • Extensive daylighting will amplify most spaces
  • 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 will be engaged
  • Occupancy sensors turn off lights in unoccupied rooms

Sustainable Materials

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 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

Sustainable Landscape

Sustainable Landscape
  • Sustainable landscape features all non-invasive, native plants. Click here to view the complete 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

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 8" 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

Rainwater Harvesting
  • Stormwater from upper campus glass roofs and lower site will be captured
  • Stored in a 1,700 gallon underground cistern
  • 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

Lagoon System

Lagoon System
  • Captures stormwater runoff from portions of the site, the CSL roof, the maintenance building roof, and overflow from the underground cisterns
  • Replicates natural water treatment process that occurs in wetlands and marshes
  • Water flows through a 7-step process where plants and their symbiotic root microbes absorb organic and mineral nutrients
  • Water is processed to tertiary non-potable standards, which is comparable to water exiting sewage treatment plant post-treatment
  • Post-treatment water that overflows the lagoon flows into 80,000 gallons of underground rain tank storage

Constructed Wetland

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

Permeable Paving

Permeable Paving
  • Permeable asphalt
  • Allows natural infiltration of site stormwater

Rain Gardens and Bioswales

Rain Gardens and Bioswales
  • Serve ecological and aesthetic functions
  • Capture site stormwater to allow natural infiltration
  • Designed with native plants for year round garden interest
  • Demonstration beds for residential application

Living Building Partners



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