The Frick Environmental Center in Pittsburgh, PA, announced that, after more than a year of extensive testing and documentation, it has received the Living Building Challenge (LBC) Certification, one of just 21 buildings in the world to be certified by the LBC. While the Frick Environmental Center was given LEED Platinum certification in November, 2017, intensive work was needed to complete the Living Building Challenge, according to the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and the City of Pittsburgh. To qualify for LBC certification, a building must produce as much energy as it consumes annually, eliminate toxic and harmful chemicals, and collect and treat its own water.
The 16,000-square-foot Center, located on the edge of the 644-acre Frick Park, was completed in 2016. It was designed to use 40% less energy than a typical building size in the region, and runs entirely off energy produced on-site by solar panels as well as from hot and cold air gathered from geothermal wells. The building also treats all of its own stormwater and wastewater on site and reinforces natural patterns of water flow. The roof collects stormwater and directs it into a rain garden and then into Nine-Mile Creek. Rain is also captured by cisterns and barrels, and is used in the building as well as in landscaping. On-site treatment safely disposes of waste water.
Every material used in the new Center was intentional, having first undergone an extensive vetting process, according to the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. All materials were sourced from responsible industries, many recycled or locally produced. Elements like black locust siding and interior furnishings made from locally salvaged wood are a nod to native tree species.
The Living Building Challenge calls itself “the world’s most aspirational standard for green buildings.” It goes beyond LEED requirements, certifying buildings that are net-zero or net-positive energy, are free of toxic chemicals, and lower their energy footprint many times below the generic commercial structure. To be certified under the LBC, projects must meet a series of ambitious performance requirements over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy. There are three types of certification under the Challenge: Living Building Certification, Petal Certification and Zero Energy Building Certification.
The nonprofit Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy partnered with the City of Pittsburgh, architect Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, landscape architect LaQuatra Bonci Associates, and construction manager P.J. Dick Incorporated to qualify the building for LBC certification.