Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes

    In a world where the West Coast is experiencing record drought and the East Coast is going through one of the coldest and longest winters on record, it’s hard to not think about the effect we’re having on the environment. As architects, we’re seeking new ways to use materials that not only fit within a given environment, but either leave no negative influence on the surrounding environment, or better yet, give back to the environment in which it is built.

    In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes does just that. Not only is it a masterfully-designed site, but is the only structure to be given the four highest sustainable building certifications in the world. They’ve received WELL Building Platinum certification (the only site to receive it), LEED Platinum certification, Four Stars Sustainable SITES Initiative™ certification and has been certified a ‘Living Building’ by the International Living Future Institute (one of only four in the world!).

    Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes Mungall

    Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes

    One of the most impressive feats of the center is that it’s net-zero energy, meaning that it produces just as much energy, or more, than it uses. Using sustainable sources of energy like solar (photovoltaic cells), geothermal (geothermal wells) and wind energy, they can passively harvest naturally-produced energy that would otherwise go unused. They have even designed the land to grow native vegetation that naturally filters their water without harmful chemicals or expensive filtration systems.

    Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden

    Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden

    The building is the first of its kind, providing a wondrous example of how we can create something beautiful and sustainable. It’s a fitting addition to the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which is the home to a beautiful Victorian glasshouse that does a great job of connecting its visitors with nature. The welcome center, built in 2005, was also built with energy efficiency in mind, as it is built partially underground.

    It’s an exciting time for architecture. We’re finding new and cheaper ways to use technology that leave less of a negative imprint on the natural world. Ultimately, they help us blend buildings with the surrounding environment both naturally and aesthetically.

    Read the full story at inhabit.com


    The Future of Sustainable Architecture

    Population Growth & Rapid Urbanization

    Protesters urging new leader Leung Chun-ying to step down crowd a street in Hong Kong

    As the world’s population continues to skyrocket (total population jumped from ~1 billion in 1804 to over 7 billion today), space will remain at a premium. The combination of less space for expansion and the new challenges presented by cities’ having to support larger populations will require us to find new and innovative ways to improve the functionality of our buildings. Not only will we need to maximize the space inside the buildings and reduce their impact on the environment, but now is the time to start thinking about how these buildings can both serve its tenants and the surrounding community.

    Solutions in Architecture

    urban skyfarm william mungall

    There have been major and exciting developments in sustainable architecture over the last twenty years. The idea that a building could not only be aesthetically pleasing, but also have a positive environmental footprint is particularly appealing in a world where we regularly hear about potential environmental disasters resulting from climate change.

    An interesting idea for “sustainable architecture” is that of vertical farms, where, instead of floor after floor of offices in a building, you would have tiers of greenery that would synthesize elements of agriculture, architecture, and sustainability to create high-efficiency farms that take up vertical space rather than acres of ground-level space. According to a recent report in Fast Company, this is exactly what is pursued by Aprilli Design Studio, a U.S.-based design atelier, in their Urban Skyfarm project. Their proposed structure would be a complete, self-sustaining ecosystem, complete with wind turbines, hydroponic farming systems, solar panels, a natural rainwater filtration system. The structure would be built using lightweight decks and could host more trees than an urban park.

    According to architects Steve Lee and See Yoon Park, “Vertical farming is not only a great solution to future food shortage problems but a great strategy to to address many environmental problems resulting from urbanization.”