“Imagine the beauty of humanity living in harmony with nature.” This is the goal behind the ongoing work to raise the bar of sustainability in architecture at The Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) and other projects at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

Continue reading below
Our Featured Videos
purple flowers in front of brown brick and glass building

The conservatory offers a closed-circle campus that, over the course of a year, produces more energy than it consumes through a combination of geothermal and wind systems along with solar panels. In fact, it ranks as the most energy-efficient conservatory in the world. It achieves this title through effective use of natural lighting, venting, earth tubes and fogging systems to cool and light the space without reliance on energy.

Related: An off-grid home in South Africa features a conservatory for fully enjoying nature

yellow flowers in front of huge tan conservatory building
mother and children walking down steps surrounded by plants on both sides

In addition to generating excessive energy, the project treats all water onsite for both human and landscaping needs. It collects rainwater as well as filtering water captured through natural landscaping, a lagoon system and permeable paving. 

native plants in front of glass greenhouse building
teacher and students looking into a lagoon

Throughout the process of updating the campus, the goal has been to set an example of what is possible in innovative, passive design. As a result, the project meets qualifications for six of the most desired certifications in green design. These include the Living Building Challenge, LEED Platinum, First SITES™ Platinum and First WELL Building Platinum as well as the achievement of the first certified BREEAM Outstanding In-Use Building in the United States award. The conservatory has also earned a Fitwel three-star rating.

tan desks and colorful chairs inside a classroom
white lobby area with plants on walls

The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens invites visitors to wander through the campus, taking in the rain gardens, lagoon and atrium with lush greenery and native plants throughout. In fact, the conservatory has an obligation to promote green building practices with a central focus on merging human activities and nature in a sustainable way. According to a conservatory officials, “As Phipps’ education, research and administration facility, the CSL is an integral part of the Phipps visitor experience as a ‘living museum,’ focusing attention on the important intersection between the built and natural environments, and demonstrating that human and environmental health are inextricably connected.”

+ Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Images via Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

roof of building covered in plants and solar panels
aerial view of Phipps Conservatory campus with botanical gardens and solar-powered buildings