The Library’s New Neighbor, a Living Building

As I walk to work and cross the Panther Hollow bridge, I marvel at the twinkling 1893 glass building just ahead. Phipps Conservatory, a steel and glass Victorian greenhouse, shines in the sunlight, sparkles in the snow. Phipps has been a constant neighbor of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh—Main, since construction began for both complexes the same year, 1893.

Lately I’ve see a confusion of equipment behind Phipps. I noticed earth movers biting into the side of the hill, and assumed the work was an effort to shore up the bluff, since the hill appeared much too steep for a building site.

Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes rendering (from Phipps website)

Phipps website informs me I’m wrong about the steep slope. The land is being reshaped to accomodate the third phase of Phipps expansion project, a 24,350-square-foot education, research and administration complex called the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL).

Pittsburgh boasts 24 LEED-certified buildings, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, currently the highest standard for green buildings. Phipps accepted the Living Building Challenge issued by the Cascadia chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, a program that “defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today and acts to diminish the gap between current limits and ideal solutions.” Phipps describes the Center this way.

Designed and built by the people of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania as an innovation for the world, the Center for Sustainable Landscapes will emerge as a Living Building, exceeding LEED Platinum Certification, by generating all of its own energy with renewable resources and capturing all water used on site.

Construction began in October, 2010 and the project is expected to be completed December, 2011. I wonder how I’ll welcome our new neighbor. A bouquet of winter roses? A box of cookies made with sustainably grown chocolate?



—Julie

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