Phipps’ Building — One of Only 11 “Living Buildings” On Earth


Richard Piacentini, Executive Director of Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens

Richard Piacentini, Executive Director of Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens

What does Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes’ accreditation as a “Living Building” mean? Is Oakland the perfect place for something like this?
“Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes is in the heart of Oakland and at the heart of the international green building movement. The building project has been recognized by news media from Asia, Europe and North and South America. It has won more than 60 prestigious national and international awards and hundreds of people in the building and design industry visit Oakland each year to learn best practices for their projects and research.”

“The CSL design and construction team, comprised of professionals from Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania, including researchers from Oakland based Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, set out to build the greenest building in the world, starting with successfully achieving the Living Building Challenge certification, which is the most rigorous standards-based green building certification. The building is net zero energy and water, which means it makes more energy than it uses and captures and treats all of its storm and sanitary water on site. The Center for Sustainable Landscapes is one of only 11 “Living Buildings” in the world, and it the only one to also meet LEED Platinum, 4 Stars Sustainable SITES and Platinum WELL Building certification, and it is right here in Oakland.”
This is obviously a big deal! How does this “Living Building” accreditation make you feel?
“We are proud of the great team that not only helped us to achieve the Living Building Challenge, but also for having the first and only Four Stars Sustainable SITES Initiative™ (SITES™) for landscapes project and the first and only WELL Building Platinum project (pilot), which is based on how buildings effect human health, in addition to tying for the highest points ever awarded under version 2.2 for LEED® Platinum. It is not a stretch to say that we are changing the way the world thinks about building projects and what can be achieved. It is very exciting.”
Do you feel a project like this will inspire other organizations? What does the future look like on sustainability?
“Hundreds of organizations in this country and across the world are now pursuing Living Building Certification. We have also seen other organizations in Pittsburgh step up to meet the challenge. This summer, we are working to achieve Living Building Challenge certification for our modular SEED classroom and we will be starting construction on our Exhibit Staging Center, which will be renovated to meet Living and WELL Building standards. This means two things – that we have the talent and technology to create these type of buildings in Pittsburgh now and that it can be achieved in new, modular and renovation building projects. We are at a major crossroad with sustainability. We are now focused on being regenerative and adding value instead of just trying to be less bad. We are also recognizing that human and environmental health are inextricably connected and that the most important place to address this intersection is where most of us spend 90% of our lives, in buildings.”

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