When the Center for Sustainable Landscapes, or CSL, officially opened to the public this past spring, it was one of the largest buildings designed to achieve Living Building status in the United States. The tri-level, 24,350-square-foot garden, education, administrative, and research center at the historic Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, should also earn LEED Platinum and SITES certifications. Although construction on the CSL began in 2010, its idea was conceived five years earlier in a conversation that took place 2,500 miles away.
Richard Piacentini, Phipps’s executive director, was at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Denver, Colorado, in November 2006. The conservatory had recently completed construction on its 12,000-square-foot Tropical Forest Conservatory, a passively cooled greenhouse and changing exhibit space with an open-roof system and dozens of other cutting-edge green technologies. At the time, the Phipps team was “really trying to understand how the environment interacts with buildings,” Piacentini says, “and, more importantly, how buildings interact with the environment.”