Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden | U.S. Green Building Council
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LEED BD+C: New Construction v2 - LEED 2.0

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden


Last certified on: Feb 07, 2006
(Awaiting performance data)

"The Welcome Center, a structure designed to meaningfully reflect our deep commitment to connecting people with plants and healing the Earth, provided us with the perfect opportunity to spread the word about the importance of conservation and create future change...[all while] preserving this classic example of Victorian architecture."

When Phipps Conservatory opened in 1893, it was the largest glasshouse in the United States. Today, the structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places,and celebrating it as one of Pittsburgh's crown jewels remains an integral part of the organization's work. In developing a master plan for expansion in the late 1990s,preserving this classic example of Victorian architecture was an important consideration. As Phipps moved forward, LEED certification,which aligned with the public garden's mission to connect people with nature, also became a priority.

In pursuing LEED, Phipps targeted phase one of the master plan, which called for the replacement of a visitor entrance constructed in the 1960s with a beautiful new Welcome Center that would further enhance the guest experience and mesh better with the design of the 19th century glass house. The resulting 12,465-square-footfacility opened in March 2005 and, in 2006, achieved LEED Silver. This Welcome Center now houses a number of visitor amenities including an admissions area, a gift shop, a café, an art gallery, and restrooms.

Featuring a design that complements the original Lord and Burnham conservatory and does not obstruct the historic view of the structure from the front lawn, the Welcome Center is partially situated underground, increasing its energy efficiency. Other key features include:

  • An HVAC system that only conditions the air where people congregate;
  • A vented dome that provides natural ventilation and allows hot air to escape;
  • Fritted glass on the dome and windows that filters natural daylight into interior spaces;
  • A green roof that covers most of the building and incorporates a demonstration garden with sustainable plants that do not require pesticides or irrigation;
  • No- or low-VOC paints, adhesives, carpet, and substrates;
  • Locally-mined limestone, as well as recycled steel and glass; and
  • Water-efficient fixtures.

Certifying the new Welcome Center inspired Phipps to not only make building enhancements that did not earn LEED points, but also to make major changes in operations and future construction plans. Operations adjustments included adding a snow melt system to the front walkway that uses waste heat; incorporating a geo-block parking system;and removing the irrigation system in the front lawn (even in areas outside of LEED boundaries),in addition to caring for it organically. Phipps was also prompted to develop state-of-the-art Production Greenhouses that have since received LEED for Existing Buildings Platinum certification; a Tropical Forest Conservatory that is among the most energy-efficient structures of its kind;and the Center for Sustainable Landscapes, which has been designed and built to meet or exceed the Living Building Challenge, LEED Platinum, and SITES certification for landscapes.


Site Context

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens sits adjacent to the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History on nine and a half acres in historic Schenley Park, a 440-acre recreation area in the heart of Pittsburgh's Oakland district. Situated 30 feet above a former Department of Public Works yard (a brownfield that is being restored as part of a current expansion project) and 70 feet above two ravines and Panther Hollow Lake, the Phipps campus comprises a number of buildings, including the 43,500-square-foot original conservatory (1893); a12,465-square-foot earth-sheltered LEED Silver Welcome Center (2005); 36,000 square feet of LEED for Existing Buildings Platinum certified Production Greenhouse space (2006); a 12,000-square-foot Tropical Forest Conservatory (2006); a 3,000-square-foot Special Events Hall (2006); a 5,000-square-foot lecture hall (1901); and a 24,350-square-foot education, research and administration center designed and built to meet or exceed LEED Platinum, the Living Building Challenge, and SITES certification for landscapes (scheduled for completion in summer 2012).

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Project details
12,465 sf
Feb 07, 2006
Walk Score®
Data Reporting
Energy Update
Water Update
Transportation Update
Waste Update
Human Experience Update

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