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.

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 vermicomposted and later used 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

Integrated Pest Management

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

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 offsite renewable resources
  • 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
  • Totally 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

Energy Blankets

Energy blankets
  • 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
  • North sloping roof 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 root zone heating for plants allows for lower ambient air temperature
  • 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
  • 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 interior air is never warmer 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 bulbs (CFLs), motions 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
  • Project Green Heart teams Phipps with local nurseries to educate consumers and promote sustainable plants
  • Phipps' Recommended Top 10 Sustainable Plants features 10 plants each year chosen for their low maintenance requirements
  • 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 in the children's Discovery Garden and at the Phipps Garden Center

Sustainable Maintenance

Sustainable Maintenance
  • Waste heat condensate channeled under Welcome Center sidewalk melts snow
  • Potassium chloride is used as a deicer 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
  • Recycling of cardboard, paper, glass, plastic, aluminum, fluorescent bulbs, batteries, hard-to-recycle and construction materials
  • Abitibi Paper Recycling program provides bins for staff and community
  • 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

Sustainable Purchasing

Sustainable Purchasing
  • Purchasing preference is given to sustainably harvested and produced 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