The Greenest Building in the World

In honor of Green Building Week, we have searched high and low to showcase one of the greenest buildings in the world -and on a recent press trip to Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, we may have found a winner.

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens may be known for its glass Victorian greenhouse built in the late 1800s, or even as the location where President Obama hosted the G-20 summit in 2009. But the real piece de resistance that puts the Conservatory on the map is their new Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL).

The CSL is primarily home to many of the administrative, educational, and research offices associated with Phipps, however parts of the building are open to the public and there are plans in the works to connect the building’s indoor space to the outdoors by means of artwork and sound installations.

So why does this building rank among the greenest in the world? For one, the facility is expected to meet or exceed three of the world’s highest green standards. So far the facility has achieved LEED Platinum status, the highest of the US Green Building Council’s certifications. Beyond LEED certification, the CSL is striving to achieve the Sustainable Sites Initiative SITES certification for landscapes. The CSL is currently in the process of obtaining state permits and will find out in October if they have achieved 4-star status which has yet to be achieved by any other project. Finally, the CSL is involved with the Living Building Challenge. Projects that achieve this level of performance must document net zero energy, which defines the most advanced measures of sustainability in the built environment.

So what actually makes this building so green?

Besides the typical grey water technologies, green roofs, rain gardens, and permeable asphalt that we typically see with other LEED certified buildings the Conservatory showcases some new technologies that are sure to impress and serve as a model for the future of sustainable buildings.

Phipps first boasts about their reuse of water resources and claims that they will offset seven million gallons of potable water a year to water their plants by capturing and treating it on site. One technology that they use to achieve this is the Epiphany Solar Water system. Atop one of the buildings roofs, sit six satellite dishes, which collect and treat processed sanitary water, which gets stored and used for the Conservatory’s orchids.

On the alternative energy front, the CSL is home to not only photovoltaic solar panels and a vertical axis wind turbine, but the building is passively heated and cooled with the aid of 14 geothermal wells buried underground.

Inside the building, highlights include light shelves that reflect light throughout the building, and hand-picked furnishings that guarantee the most locally-sourced and eco-friendly products (like reclaimed Pennsylvania barn wood).

The CSL at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens reigns supreme when it comes to being the greenest of the green and should be celebrated this week as a top contender for the world’s most sustainable buildings. To find out more about the Center for Sustainable Landscapes, check out Phipps Conservatory.

Article by Allison Winter, appearing courtesy Environmental News Network.

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