Phipps recommends:
Cornelian Cherry Dogwood


Behind the scenes, Phipps has become one of the world's most energy efficient and sustainable conservatories, serving as a model for visitors and other public gardens. Green building design couple with sustainable operations and practices to create an environment committed to conservation and biodiversity.


Revolutionary Energy Efficiency

  • Pursuing the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building ChallengeTM certification, the highest performance standard for sustainable building practices
  • Achieved Living Building Challenge Net Zero Energy Building Certification in February 2014
  • 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
  • In first operational year, achieved with a 68.7% reduction of energy usage versus traditionally-designed buildings per EPA’s Target Finder
  • Designed to reduce capacity requirements for HVAC systems and associated infrastructure (power, pipes, ductwork, pumps, etc.) by 30-40%

Facilitated Integrated Design Process

  • Comprehensive evaluation of end user's operational needs, building's functionality, site, and architectural and engineering systems
  • Bi-monthly charrette workshops between design team and Phipps staff throughout entire two-year design and planning process
  • Video documentation of process for distribution and broadcast
  • Building in Bloom case study book, the first of its kind for a Living Building Challenge project, published by International Living Future Institute in 2013

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 80% daylight autonomy 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 not mechanically heated nor cooled; thermal massing, high-performance operable glazing, solar shading, and phase-change material maintain comfortable temperatures

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

  • 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

  • Uses ground-source geothermal capacity, modulating between 19.4% and 100% outside air based on need
  • 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 Wheel

  • 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
  • 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)

  • Direct Digital Control (DDC) Building Management System monitors, controls, and provides 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 provide building operating profiles and trend data to monitor energy efficiency on an ongoing basis
  • Favorable temperatures and humidity levels trigger a "night purge" to draw cool, dry outside air through building spaces

Solar Photovoltaics (PVs)

  • 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 collect and report on renewable energy generation from solar PV
  • Excess generated energy serves upper campus electricity needs

Vertical Axis Wind Turbine

  • 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 promotes favorable conditions for wind generation
  • Building Management System meters and sensors collect and report on renewable energy generation from vertical axis wind turbine
  • Excess generated energy serves upper campus electricity needs

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 windows

Demand Controlled Ventilation (DCV)

  • Aircuity system monitors temperature, humidity, CO2, TVOC, particulates and CO in occupied spaces, ensuring high quality air delivery through underfloor and ceiling distribution systems
  • Breathing zone air ventilation rates are 55% above ASHRAE Standards 62.1-2004 requirement
  • 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
  • High-performance operable glazing, solar shading, and phase-change material maintain comfortable temperatures


  • Extensive daylighting amplifies most spaces for 80% daylight autonomy
  • 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
  • All regularly occupied spaces within 15 feet of operable windows to maximize quality of light and air
  • LED task lights provide additional light if necessary

Sustainable Materials

  • Construction waste diverted from landfills through efficient site design, recycling and reuse
  • Sustainable and innovative materials and finishes applied throughout the building and site
  • Rigorous vetting process guided sourcing materials compliant with Living Building Challenge Red List, which identifies for elimination material components that negatively impact the environment and/or people exposed to them
  • 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
  • All interior wood furniture reclaimed and/or FSC certified
  • During construction, 96.74% of construction waste was diverted from disposal.

Sustainable Landscape

  • Pilot project for Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™) certification for landscapes, becoming the first project ever to achieve Four-Stars certification in November 2013
  • 2.9-acre project site was previously a dilapidated brownfield, once used a municipal fueling station, which suffered through decades of environmental devastation
  • Sustainable landscape features over 150 non-invasive, native plant species; view the complete plant list
  • Plants use rain water exclusively for irrigation
  • 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 opportunities

Green Roof

  • Reduces volume of stormwater runoff and pollutants in stormwater runoff
  • Insulates building to reduce HVAC cooling in summer and heating in winter
  • Retains 85% of annual rainfall
  • Extensive green roof design with a 8" soil depth and a variety of plants selected for their medicinal, culinary and biofuel uses
  • Reduces heat island effect
  • Demonstration gardens for residential applications, especially urban landscapes
  • Beautifully landscaped space for an event

Rainwater Harvesting

  • 2.9-acre project site is net zero water, managing all rainfall and treating all sanitary waste on site
  • Site can manage a 10-year storm event (3.3” of rain in 24 hours)
  • A full ½ acre of rooftop runoff – approximately 500,000 gallons – is harvested from upper campus glass roofs and lower site
  • Stored in a 60,000-gallon underground rain tank
  • Rainwater is 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
  • Harvested water is reused to offset conservatory irrigation needs, greatly reducing impact on municipal sewage treatment and energy-intensive potable water systems

Lagoon System

  • Captures stormwater runoff from portions of the site and the Tropical Forest Conservatory Roof
  • Replicates natural water treatment process that occurs in wetlands and marshes
  • Water flows through fountains and a lagoon where plants and their symbiotic root microbes absorb organic and mineral nutrients
  • Water is processed to tertiary non-potable standards
  • Post-treatment water that overflows the lagoon flows into underground rain tank storage

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
  • Excess treated sanitary water redirected to Epiphany solar distillation system, which uses solar energy to distill the water to pharmaceutical grade for use in watering orchids

Rain Gardens and Bioswales

  • Five rain gardens 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

Permeable Paving

  • Permeable asphalt
  • Allows natural infiltration of site stormwater

Welcome Center

First LEED® certified visitor center in a public garden

  • A high performance building
  • Energy efficient
  • Water efficient
  • Improved indoor environmental quality
  • Local and sustainable construction material
  • Sustainable site development

Energy Efficiency

Energy Efficiency
  • Computer simulations used in design process to effectively design the mechanical systems and daylighting controls
  • Insulated and low-e glass used throughout
  • Fritted glass in the dome further reduces heat transfer
  • High and low window vents tied into cooling system
  • Green roof insulates to cool building in summer and minimize heating needs in winter

High-efficiency Bathroom Fixtures

High-efficiency bathroom fixtures
  • Low-flow toilets use 1.5 gallons of water per flush
  • Waterless urinals in men's restroom - each can save as much as 67,000 gallons of water per year
  • Automatic sensor faucets use only 0.5 gallons of water per minute

Café Phipps

Café at Phipps
  • Features local, organic, sustainable and vegetarian foods
  • Natural light in an underground space
  • Compostable vegetable starch-based food serviceware
  • Biodegradable recycled paper products
  • Café pre-consumer organic waste is composted through Agrecycle, with a portion returning to Phipps for use in gardens
  • Café post-consumer organic waste is composted off site


  • Composting program for all pre- and post-consumer food and food serviceware waste
  • Serves as an effective soil amendment
  • Keeps waste out of landfills and minimizes water, soil and air contaminated with landfill use
  • Phipps offers classes and free public programs on composting


Drought resistant grass
  • Drought-resistant, organically managed lawn reduces water consumption
  • Efficient drip irrigation system in entrance beds
  • Sustainable plant beds feature plants with non-invasive habits, high disease and insect resistance, and requiring minimal water and pesticides. No supplemental irrigation is needed
  • Open grid parking area maximizes permeable surface area

Green Rooftops

Green rooftops
  • Planted with drought-resistant endophytic-enhanced grass and sustainable plant beds
  • Retain about 50 percent of rainfall in the water table instead of being channeled into the sewer system
  • Keep the building cool and reduce the heat island effect caused by wide areas of concrete and pavement
  • Last three times as long as standard roofs because temperature variations are reduced and exposure to harmful UV radiation is eliminated

Low- and No-VOCs

  • Low-volatile organic compound materials were used in construction, creating a safer work environment
  • Environmentally-friendly paints, adhesives, sealants, carpets, and woods are used throughout the facility


  • Refrigeration and fire suppression systems use no Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) or halons, which contribute to ozone depletion

Recycled, Reused and Local Building Materials

  • 8.5% of the materials contain post-consumer and post-industrial recycled content
  • Recycled materials include: steel, aluminum and glass in the skylight, concrete rebar in the walls, floor and roof, steel studs, dry wall, and ceiling tile
  • 24% of the materials were manufactured regionally within 500 miles
  • Local materials include: steel, concrete, limestone, block and bricks; of these materials, 22% were extracted, harvested or recovered within 500 miles
  • Leftover materials donated to Construction Junction, a Pittsburgh-based retail store for used and surplus building materials

Smart Lighting

  • Designed to maximize interior daylight and reduce need for artificial lighting
  • Outside lights point downward, thus reducing night sky pollution

Renewable Energy

  • 100% of Phipps' electricity is either produced on site with solar and wind, or offset by Renewable Energy Credits
  • Does not deplete natural resources or create hazardous waste
  • Visit our website to purchase renewable energy credits and carbon offsets for your home or travel

Tropical Forest Conservatory

Advanced Computer Control

Advanced computer control used at Phipps' Tropical Forest Conservatory
  • Anticipatory computer controlled weather and temperature reacting system
  • Maximum energy efficiency
  • Smoother, more uniform growing conditions
  • Better plant quality and uniformity
  • Precise equipment control and advanced data recording system

Earth Tubes

Earth tubes at Phipps
  • Passive cooling replaces need for HVAC
  • Six 24" diameter, 300' long concrete tubes are installed at 15 feet below grade, where the temperature is a steady 55° F (13°C) year round
  • Hot outside air cools as it travels through the underground tubes and into the conservatory
  • Vacuum created by hot air exiting the roof vents pulls the cooled air into conservatory using no electricity

Energy Blankets

Energy blankets
  • Fogging system for evaporative cooling
  • Prevent convective and radiant heat loss
  • Provide shade in summer and thermal insulation in winter
  • Guided electronically by weather station link
  • Argus computer controlled

Radical Roof Design

Radical roof design
  • Tall south-facing wall allows for insulated double-pane roof glass
  • Half of the 12,000 sf roof opens to eliminate the "greenhouse effect"
  • Vents are Argus computer controlled

Symbiotic Heating Systems

symbiotic heating system
  • Radiant floor heat for visitors
  • Thermal massing interior concrete walls collect solar energy and release the heat at night
  • Green roof over support facilities

Production Greenhouse

Energy Efficiency

Energy Efficiency
  • LEED-EBOM Platinum certified, the first greenhouse to achieve LEED certification
  • State of the art open-roof design allows temperature and ventilation control
  • Anticipatory computer controlled weather and temperature reacting system by Argus Controls
  • Open roof allows escape of hot air so that in warmer months, interior air stays cooler than exterior air
  • Heated through economical radiant floor heating system

Energy Blankets and Shade Cloths

Energy blankets
  • Energy blankets prevent convective and radiant heat loss
  • Shade cloths respond to the natural sunlight and cloud cover
  • Guided electronically by weather station link and Argus

Water Filtration and Efficiency

Water filtration
  • Reverse osmosis system filters water, balances pH levels and reduces fluoride
  • Future plans include water capture and reuse for greenhouse irrigation



Energy Efficiency
  • Energy reduction strategies are integrated into all conservatory architecture and operations
  • Energy Star compliant equipment (appliances, computers, etc.) are continually phased in
  • Compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs and LED lights, motion sensors and individual task lamps provide lighting throughout the Conservatory and offices
  • Computers and electronics are set to energy saving modes during working hours, and turned off and unplugged at night

Sustainable Landscapes

sustainable landscapes
  • Phipps' Recommended Top 10 Sustainable Plants features 10 plants each year chosen for their low maintenance requirements; Phipps then teams with local nurseries to educate consumers and promote these plants
  • Educational classes, certificate programs and public programs for adults, professionals, children and school groups include topics on sustainable landscape and greener living practices
  • Integrated Pest Management is coupled with supplemental target applications of soaps and oils throughout the conservatory, outdoors gardens and lawn
  • Sustainable plant beds and organically-managed lawn provide green roof vegetation atop the Welcome Center
  • Front lawn is underplanted with Alcoa Geoblock® recycled plastic permeable parking grid
  • Front lawn grass variety is drought-resistant and endophytic-enhanced; it does not require supplemental irrigation, and is amended with compost yearly

Water Efficiency

Water Efficiency
  • High efficiency plumbing fixtures reduce water usage
  • Recirculating ponds, drip irrigation and water metering programs maximize water efficiency
  • Rain barrels are installed on the CSL green roof, in the children's Discovery Garden and at the Phipps Garden Center

Integrated Pest Management

Integrated Pest Management
  • Conservatory-wide program uses an array of complementary methods:
    • Natural predators and parasites
    • Pest-resistant plant varieties
    • Cultural practices
    • Biological controls
    • Various physical techniques
    • Strategic use of least toxic pesticide

Sustainable Maintenance

Sustainable Maintenance
  • Waste heat condensate channeled under Welcome Center sidewalk melts snow
  • Potassium chloride and calcium magnesium acetate are used as deicers in winter instead of salt in areas other than the Welcome Center front walk
  • Chemical-free pressure washing is used throughout the Conservatory
  • Oil from equipment is recycled
  • 90% of cleaning products and paper supplies are GreenSeal approved

Material Reuse and Recycling

Material Reuse and Recycling
  • All plant material from flower shows and landscape is composted
  • Café Phipps composts all pre and post-consumer food waste
  • Recycling of cardboard, paper, glass, plastic, aluminum, fluorescent bulbs, batteries, hard-to-recycle and construction materials
  • Many exhibit materials are reused or recycled, in whole or part
  • Children's projects are created out of reusable and recycled materials
  • A compost bin is prominent in the children's Discovery Garden
  • Bottled water is banned from the entire facility; filtered water and reusable bottles are offered

Local and Sustainable Purchasing

Sustainable Purchasing
  • Purchasing preference is given to sustainably harvested and produced, recycled, FSC-certified products
  • Non-toxic materials are used for signage, including soy-based inks with UV protection
  • All paper contains recycled content, with preference given to 100% recycled and Forest Stewardship Council products
  • Recycled, unbleached paper towels are provided in manually operated towel dispensers
  • Non-antibacterial soap is used throughout facility
  • The Shop at Phipps offers sustainable, fair trade and organic products
  • Growing Greener Events offers sustainable special events programming