A Whole-Building, Integrated Approach for Designing a High-Performance, Net-Zero-Energy and Net-Zero-Water Building

  • Richard V. PiacentiniEmail author
Conference paper


The Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is a 2,262 m2 educational, research, and administrative services facility set on an 11,736 m2 site. Performing 70% more efficiently than a typical building and achieving an energy use intensity of 18 (2.98 kWh/m2/year), it operates at net-positive energy and captures and treats all of its sanitary and storm water. It is the world’s first building to attain Living Building Challenge, LEED Platinum, Four Stars Sustainable SITES, and WELL Platinum certifications.

The CSL is the result of a whole-building, integrated, outside-in, passive-first design process guided by ecological planning principles. Two years of bimonthly design charrettes brought together team members involved in every phase of the project to capitalize on collective wisdom, shorten feedback loops, augment system synergies, minimize compromises and costs, and exceed net-zero-energy and net-zero-water performance.

Operations are enhanced by collaborating with the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University on original research in the CSL related to building performance. Both Universities receive real-time data from thousands of control points from the building automation and water reuse systems. Engaging staff with feedback from this research allows Phipps to continually improve the CSL’s performance.


Energy High performance green buildings Integrative design LEED Living Building Challenge Net-positive energy Net-zero energy Net-zero water 



Chris Minnerly, The Design Alliance; John Boecker and Marcus Sheffer, 7group; Alan Traugott, CJL Engineering; José Almiñana, Andropogon Associates; John Buck, Civil and Environmental Consultants; Emily Kalnicky, PhD., Joe Reed, and Jason Wirick, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Phipps Conservatory and Botanical GardensPittsburghUSA

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