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July 27, 2018

A first for BCJ: Pittsburgh center earns Living Building certification

Photo from Green Building Alliance [enlarge]
Frick Environmental Center provides all its water and energy. Visitors can look out through a veil of rain — called a “water curtain” — during a downpour.

The International Living Future Institute has certified Frick Environmental Center in Pittsburgh as a Living Building.

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy said in a press release that this is the first U.S. municipal building that is free and open to the public to meet this rigorous standard.

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson was the architect and interior designer for the 16,000-square-foot center, which is at the entrance to Frick Park, a 644-acre woodland park on the city's east side.

It is BCJ's first Living Building-certified project, and one of only 21 buildings in the world to achieve the certification.

Completed in 2016, the environmental center has been certified LEED platinum by the U.S. Green Building Council, and won awards from the American Institute of Architects and the Green Building Alliance.

The building provides all its own water and energy through a ground-source geothermal heating and cooling system, natural ventilation, solar panels and a rainwater collection system.

During heavy rains, water from the roof creates a “water curtain.” Visitors can look out through a veil of rain during a downpour. That water is collected and directed into an on-site water management system.

Reclaimed rainwater is used for flushing toilets and irrigation; stormwater runoff from parking areas and lawns is captured; and a wetland absorbs overflow from the rainwater harvesting system.

All waste water is filtered and treated on site before being released on site.

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy oversaw design and development of the environmental center in partnership with the city. The city owns the building and the conservancy runs it, offering environmental classes, events and programs.

The project team included PJ Dick, contractor and construction management; LaQuatra Bonci Associates, landscape architecture/site planning; evolveEA, sustainability; Atelier Ten, environmental design/lighting design; Stacy Levy, principal artist; Bio_Logic Research Group, innovation/environmental research; RAM-TECH Engineers, mechanical engineering; Barber + Hoffman, structural engineering; HF Lenz, civil engineering; and Nitsch Engineering, stormwater management.

Grants and contributions by donors funded the $19 million project.

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