For Immediate Release: Fri., April 26

Contact: Julie LaBar | Director of Marketing and Communications
412/622-6915, ext. 3801 ǀ jlabar@phipps.conservatory.org


Phipps Conservatory Prepares to Debut the Exhibit Staging Center, Showcasing Three of the Greenest Buildings in the World on a Single Site
Press conference, Big Green Block Party celebration event and public tours planned for the opening

Pittsburgh, PA — Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens continues to progress forward for next month’s opening of the Exhibit Staging Center (ESC), a state-of-the-art facility which is being masterfully transformed from a dilapidated public works garage into a building of groundbreaking sustainability. Upon completion, Phipps will showcase a first-of-its-kind nexus featuring revolutionary green buildings of three different construction types — new (Center for Sustainable Landscapes), modular (Nature Lab) and existing (ESC), serving as a model to inspire guests from around the world.

Maintenance staff and grounds crew, a group whose well-being is often overlooked, will be the primary occupants of the ESC, which is designed to ensure that the health and well-being of all staff members is a top priority. To enhance the guest experience, the ESC will be open to visitors for a unique behind-the-scenes look at the Conservatory’s past and future flower shows. Guests can enter a vestibule to view future display props being constructed, and an adjacent window will provide a look into the Phipps Vault, where historic topiaries and props from past shows will be displayed. With additional features including a yoga studio and fitness room, Phipps’ ESC will set the standard for healthy existing buildings, debuting as one of the greenest structures of its kind. 

“We look forward to sharing the experience of visiting three of the greenest buildings in the world with our guests,” stated Phipps President and CEO Richard Piacentini. “As people spend the majority of their time indoors, each building type — new, modular and existing — demonstrates the critical connection between human and environmental health and the potential that every building holds to improve our lives.”

This former public works building was a typical industrial facility of the 1960s, complete with block wall masonry, a flat roof and no windows, and was in no way sustainable in its design. Phipps committed to adaptive re-use of the space through a collaborative, holistic process, with a design team led by FortyEighty Architecture, resulting in a dynamic, modernized structure with the goal of achieving three of the world’s most rigorous building standard certifications: Living Building Challenge, LEED® Platinum and WELL Platinum. Upon completion of the ESC and successful fulfillment of the Living Building Challenge’s one-year performance period, Phipps will have three Living Buildings on its site, emerging as the first multi-facility living system of its kind in the world.

ESC Sustainable Highlights:

  • The ESC’s project site, a remediated brownfield, has been restored as a safe environment for people, plants and animals. 
  • Biophilic design elements and art celebrating the bonds between humans and nature add to the healthy impacts of the building on occupants and guests. 
  • The ESC’s vegetative living wall further enhances the building’s biophilic connection.
  • The facility is designed to generate all of the energy it uses each year and capture and manage all stormwater that falls onsite. 
  • With geothermal wells buried into the ground, the building is able to efficiently heat and cool the facility by harnessing the natural energy from the earth’s consistent 55-degree internal temperature.
  • The roof of the ESC is home to photovoltaic solar panels, which capture the sun’s energy to convert to electricity.
  • The DC Difference: Direct current (DC) electricity is the form of electricity collected by solar panels and stored by their batteries, but most American buildings use alternating current (AC). In conventional settings, a device called a solar inverter is converts the DC electricity from solar panels into AC, wasting 10 – 15% of solar energy in the process of converting to AC and then back to DC again to power LED light bulbs. The ESC breaks this wasteful convention by using direct DC from the solar panels and batteries to all of the lights in the building. 
  • The lagoon adjacent to the ESC is used to store rainwater and replicate the natural treatment processes of marshes and wetlands on site.
  • Chemical-free sanitary water is recycled and treated through a constructed wetland that uses natural plants and microbes, as well as sand filters and UV lights.
  • A green roof over the ESC’s vestibule helps manage stormwater. 
  • The use of Declare label products, along with the avoidance of Living Building Red List materials, means the building is free from many of the toxic chemicals typically found in building materials.

ESC project partners working with Phipps: FortyEighty Architecture, Common Ground, Iams Consulting, LLC, Studio Phipps, Massaro Corporation, Shepley Bulfinch, Building Performance Architecture, CJL Engineering and 7group.

Media representatives are invited for a preview and tour of the facility at the ESC Press Conference to be held on Tues., May 14 at Phipps from 10 a.m. – noon. To R.S.V.P., contact Julie LaBar, Director of Marketing and Communications, at jlabar@phipps.conservatory.org or 412/638-6008.

To celebrate the grand opening of Phipps’ newest green building, the public is invited to attend Phipps’ Big Green Block Party event to be held on Thurs., May 16 from 7:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.  Guests will enjoy a festive evening of outdoor revelry, delicious vegan and vegetarian bites, sustainably crafted beverages, live entertainment and more. Tickets are $85 which includes all food and drink. Get tickets at phipps.conservatory.org, call 412/651-5281 or email rsvp@phipps.conservatory.org

For more information on Phipps’ sustainability leadership and commitment, visit phipps.conservatory.org/green-innovation.

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About Phipps: Founded in 1893, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, PA is a globally recognized green leader with a mission to inspire and educate all with the beauty and importance of plants; to advance sustainability and promote human and environmental well-being through action and research; and to celebrate its historic glasshouse. Encompassing 15 acres including a historic 14-room glasshouse, 23 distinct indoor and outdoor gardens and industry-leading sustainable architecture and operations, Phipps attracts nearly half a million visitors annually from around the world. Learn more at  phipps.conservatory.org.

Photo © Paul g. Wiegman