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For Immediate Release: Tues., July 18
Contact: Joe Reed | Senior Director of Communications
412-622-6915, ext. 3801 | 

Phipps Exhibit Staging Center Achieves Full Living Building Challenge Certification
New achievement makes “Living Campus” of three net-zero construction types the first of its kind in the world

Pittsburgh, PA — Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is proud to announce that the Exhibit Staging Center (ESC) has achieved full Living Building Challenge Certification from the International Living Future Institute. The Living Building Challenge, which launched in 2006, is the most rigorous green building standard in the world; to date, just 33 buildings have achieved the standard. The ESC had previously achieved a WELL Health-Safety Rating in September 2020, WELL Platinum in June 2021 and LEED® Platinum in April 2022.

In 2019, Phipps opened the ESC, a retrofit of an old cinder block building that previously served as a City of Pittsburgh public works facility, with a dynamic, modernized design and the ambitious goal of achieving the world’s most rigorous building standard. The building now showcases the latest green building technology, transforming a degraded space on a former brownfield into a place dedicated to the well-being of its occupants and visitors, the site’s ecology and the habitat of native species.

“The Living Building Challenge is the world’s most comprehensive green building standard, one that recognizes the importance of addressing human and environmental health in the built environment,” said Phipps President and CEO Richard V. Piacentini. “It’s provided a new way for how we think about buildings at Phipps, and we’re excited to add a third Living certified structure to our campus.”

“Thanks to Phipps’ pioneering efforts, which build upon their history of plant display excellence to showcase state-of-the-art built environments which reinforce our connection to nature, hundreds of thousands of annual visitors now have access to the inner workings of some of the most responsible buildings in the world," said Jason McLennan, Founder of the Living Building Challenge and Chief Sustainability Officer at Perkins&Will. "It’s fantastic to see them achieve this new milestone, which further cements their reputation as a world leader in the cultural arena’s approach to reconciling our relationship to the natural world.”

The Exhibit Staging Center is part of a three-building Living Campus complex at Phipps which also includes two other groundbreaking buildings:

  • After ten years in operation, the Center for Sustainable Landscapes is still the only building in the world to meet seven of the highest green certifications related to human and environmental health: the Living Building Challenge, the world’s most rigorous green building standard; LEED® Platinum, where it tied for the highest points awarded under version 2.2; WELL Building Platinum, in which it was the first Platinum-certified project; SITES™ Platinum, in which it was the first Platinum-certified project; Net Zero Energy Certification; BREEAM Outstanding In-Use, which it was the first building in the United States to achieve; and Fitwel 3 Stars. 
  • The net-zero energy and Petal Certified Nature Lab at Phipps, constructed in 2015, reinvents the modular classroom concept, daring to imagine a learning space that is net-positive energy, net-zero water, is built with non-toxic materials, includes ample daylighting and natural ventilation and creates a space that fosters inspiration, education and beauty. 

With this new certification, Phipps now hosts three ILFI projects on its site, each showcasing a different construction type: new (CSL), modular (Nature Lab) and retrofit (ESC). The result is the first multi-facility living system of its kind in the world. All three buildings produce more energy than they use from renewable energy produced on site.

The ESC features several workshops, prop storage, an office space a fitness center, a yoga classroom and a meditation room for staff. To enhance the Phipps guest experience, the ESC is 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. An adjacent window looks into the exhibit archive room where statuary, topiaries, props and more from past flower shows are displayed.

For more information on Phipps' commitment to building and operating sustainability while addressing climate change and inspiring its guests to do the same, visit these resources:

Is the Greenest Building in the Pittsburgh?

Phipps: From Treasured Icon to Regenerative Leader:

Watch TEDx: What We Can Learn From an Old Glasshouse:
A look at the evolving way we connect people to nature at Phipps, demonstrate how human and environmental health are inextricably connected, and show that to age gracefully, we must continually reinvent ourselves to evolve with the rest of the world.

For more information on the Living Building Challenge, visit


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 more than half a million visitors annually from around the world. Learn more at