APPLICATIONS / Constructed Wetland

Phipps Conservatory Center for Sustainable Landscapes

The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens was originally a gift to the City of Pittsburgh by Henry W. Phipps, who was one of Andrew Carnegie’s partners in the steel industry. When it opened in 1893, it was a place of instruction and community enjoyment.Today, the Phipps Conservatory – Center for Sustainable Landscapes is a national attraction that inspires over 250,000 visitors each year as one of the greenest buildings and public gardens in the world.

Expanded Shale (ESCS) media was used extensively in the lagoon wetland to help treat all site stormwater and sanitary water from the building.Rain gardens and rooftop gardens also using ESCS media capture and filter all the stormwater for the site.None of the rainwater leaves the site.

The 24,350 square-foot Center for Sustainable Landscapes is located on a 2.65 acre former brownfield site on a steep slope behind the Conservatory.It represents a successful cleanup that has been transformed into a net-zero water and net-zero energy facility, with rainwater irrigation and non-invasive native plantings. The Center generates its own energy with solar panels, a wind turbine, and 14 geothermal wells.The landscaping features native plants found naturally within a 200-mile radius of the Center.

Some Project achievements for the Center of Sustainable Landscapes include:

  • Living Building Challenge™ …only the seventh building in the world to achieve full certification,the most rigorous standard for green buildings
  • LEED® Platinum…tied for the highest points awarded under version 2.2
  • First and only Four Stars Sustainable SITES Initiative™ for landscape project
  • First and only WELL Building Platinum project

In addition to filtering pollutants and insulating the building with ESCS, the green roof also produces edible plants that can be harvested for use in educational programming or at Café Phipps.All storm water is treated on-site and discharges to the lagoon wetland and are stored and purified through natural processes in underwater layers of planted ESCS.

Not only does this project represent the successful design and construction of a truly unique and sustainable environment but through its creative use of ESCS throughout the site exemplifies the breadth and scope of ESCS uses in storm water treatment and landscaping applications.

Owner: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Pittsburgh, PA

Architect: The Design Alliance Architects

Landscape Architect: Andropogon Associates, Philadelphia, PA

Partnering Organizations: Carnegie Mellon University, Cascadia Green Building Council, Chatham University, Duquesne University, Green Building Alliance, International Living Future InstituteSM, National Energy Technology Laboratory, Penn State University, The Sustainable Sites Initiative™ and the University of Pittsburgh

ESCS Supplier: DiGeronimo Aggregates, LLC

Photo Gallery

  • Native plants growing in ESCS media.
  • Native plants growing in ESCS media.
  • Aquatic plants growing in ESCS media.