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Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes Achieves SITES Platinum Certification

Along with the landscape, the CSL’s green roof provides an excellent habitat for local birds, bees and butterflies, which are now regularly seen on the site. / Image credit: Paul G. Wiegman

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) is the first project in the world to be certified at the Platinum level under the Sustainable SITES Initiative (SITES) v2 Rating System. Owned and administered by Green Business Certification (GBCI), SITES is the most comprehensive program for designing, developing and maintaining sustainable landscapes.

Previously certified as a Four-Star project through the pilot version of SITES in 2013, the CSL continues to set new records as the first project to be certified as SITES Platinum. In order to achieve SITES v2 certification, the CSL needed to meet the new requirements of the SITES v2 Rating System, which builds on the prior SITES 2009 pilot rating system. Phipps decided to pursue certification under v2 to make sure they were still focused on and promoting the highest level of sustainability related to the landscape.

The CSL is a 24,350-square foot education, research, and administration facility on a 2.9-acre landscape. Recognized as one of the greenest projects in the world, the CSL site is nothing short of an ecological rebirth. Previously, the 2.9-acre site was a City of Pittsburgh Public Works Yard, entirely paved over and portions classified as a brownfield. The CSL is now net-zero energy and net-zero water, producing all of its energy renewably and managing all storm and sanitary on-site. In addition to SITES, the CSL has also met three of the highest green buildings standards: The Living Building Challenge™, LEED® Platinum, and WELL™ Platinum certification.

The site can also manage a 10-year storm event using soil and vegetation based systems and features 1.5-acres of new green space with over 100 native plant species. From open meadows to oak woodlands, to water’s edge and wetland plantings, a range of ecosystems is represented on-site that respond to the dramatic changes in topography. The biodiverse plantings provide food, shelter and nesting opportunities to endemic wildlife. Central to the CSL landscape, is a 4,000-square foot lagoon that is fed by conservatory roof runoff and populated with native fish and turtles.

Utilized daily as Phipps’ education, research, and administration hub, the CSL serves to increase awareness of the interconnection between people, nature and the built environment, and to promote sustainable systems thinking. With a design that seamlessly integrates into the guest experience at Phipps — a 125-year-old institution with nearly 500,000 annual visitors — the CSL is uniquely positioned to showcase renewable energy technologies, conservation strategies, water treatment and sustainable landscaping to a broad audience. A visitor to the CSL can learn about the beauty and benefits of native plant communities, green infrastructure and its role in improving local water quality, and also see the wildlife, both terrestrial and aquatic, that the site’s regenerative landscape is designed to preserve and protect. 

Learn more about the CSL’s use of SITES. 

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