The Cutting-Edge of Sustainable Design: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

02 July, 2019

Among the most sustainable facilities in the world, Pittsburgh’s Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens has connected people to nature for over 125 years. One campus building, the Center for Sustainable Landscapes, is ILFI Living Building Certified, LEED Platinum, SITES Platinum and WELL Building Platinum — the first project ever to achieve the highest level of these four major sustainable certifications.

Now, Phipps is embarking on another highly sustainable project. Currently in design, the Garden Center at Mellon Park project is again pursuing the ILFI Living Building Challenge, the most rigorous green building standard in the world. And to get there, they’re using a fully integrated, biophilic design approach.

Biophilic design bridges the gap between buildings and nature.

In order to incorporate this concept from day one, the project uses an integrated design approach where the entire design team and project stakeholders participate in multiple, all-day workshops to experience the whole design process together. Each consultant and stakeholder is intimately involved in the overall design and systems of the project. With this approach, every teammate is empowered to offer insight and ideas to overcome project challenges collectively.

One of the goals of the Living Building Challenge is to design a facility that encompasses net-zero water – capturing and treating all on-site wastewater for reuse or on-lot treatment and disposal. Bohler’s team is providing the stormwater management design for the project utilizing a “treat it where it falls” approach.

Rather than funneling runoff to one large containment area, stormwater is addressed throughout the site with porous pavement, rain gardens, and a surface water feature that functions as both an aesthetic focal point and final infiltration gallery at the lowest point on the site. The challenge with this approach is connecting each area to the others; if one spot gets overwhelmed, it allows the water to flow to the next area while keeping the stormwater story visible to the public.

While the Garden Center project is still in the schematic design phase, check out the video below for a sneak peek at the proposed building and for more information on the integrated design process.

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