Phipps' Center for Sustainable Landscapes


Pittsburgh, PA
United States

Project Size
2.9 acres
Project type
Open Space- Garden
Site Context
Former Land Use
Terrestrial Biome
Temperate Broadleaf & Mixed Forests
Project overview

In 2012, Phipps opened the 24,350-square-foot Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL), the world’s first and only facility to meet four of the highest green building standards: Living Building Challenge™, WELL Building Platinum, Four-Stars Sustainable SITES™ (2019 SITES v2 Platinum) and LEED® Platinum. The research, education and administration facility meets net-positive energy use with renewable energy produced on site, captures all stormwater (3.25 million gallons/year), treats all sanitary water, and uses 70% less energy than a conventional office building. Its design blurs the line between built and natural environments; the sun, earth and wind are used to light, heat and cool the interior, plants clean wastewater for reuse, and every occupied space affords views of nature. The CSL site is nothing short of an ecological rebirth. Previously, the 2.9-acre site was a City of Pittsburgh Public Works Yard, entirely paved over and portions classified as a brownfield due to leaking USTs. There were no existing natural land covers or ecosystems to preserve or protect. The site can now manage a 95th percentile storm event using soil and vegetation based systems, and features 1.5-acres of new green space with over 100 native plant species. From open meadows to oak woodlands, to water’s edge and wetland plantings, a range of ecosystems are represented on-site that respond to the dramatic changes in topography. The biodiverse plantings provide food, shelter and nesting opportunities to endemic wildlife and also help link the site’s landscape to neighboring 450-acre Schenley Park, Pittsburgh’s second-largest green space. Central to the CSL landscape is a 4,000 sf lagoon that is fed by conservatory roof runoff and populated with native fish and turtles. A visitor to the CSL can learn about the beauty and benefits of native plant communities, green infrastructure and its role in improving local water quality, and also see the wildlife, both terrestrial and aquatic, that the site’s regenerative landscape is designed to preserve and protect. These features of the CSL landscape are open to the public, providing opportunities to promote sustainability awareness through educational programming and interpretive elements as part of a garden experience visited by more than half a million people annually. The CSL was joined by Phipps’ Living Building Petal-certified Nature Lab in 2015, and Phipps has recently completed additions and renovations to the 10,600 SF Exhibit Staging Center, a former public works building, completing a Living Campus showcasing net-zero energy in new, modular and adaptive reuse projects. Phipps’ green innovations have received more than 90 professional awards since 2007.