The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh is about to debut a sustainable, net-zero, net-energy modular classroom - the second of its kind in the United States. Designed by Sustainable Education Every Day (SEED) Collaborative, the classrooms feature solar photovoltaic arrays, collect rainwater, use composting toilets and comply with the Living Building Challenge (LBC) standards.
The Phipps SEED classroom follows the same design principles as the one in Seattle, which the SEED Collaborative built for the Perkins School. Both structures offer sustainably restorative learning spaces which produce their own water and energy. Each classroom features photovoltaics, whose number and capacity are pre-calculated to provide for their exact energy needs. Students can track the energy production and consumption through digital monitors and online dashboards to see the impact their behavior has on the data.
Potable water treatment systems are also incorporated into the design. Rainwater is collected on the roof and stored in interior and exterior cisterns, the usage of which can also be monitored. Greywater is fed into a large living wall which also acts as a partition and brings nature into the interior. The exterior walls are made from Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs), which are insulated 30% above code, while triple paned windows and transoms maintain stable indoor temperatures and provide an abundance of natural light and fresh air.