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First Building Achieves WELL Platinum Certification

December 9, 2014 | 2 comments

The first building to achieve the WELL Platinum Pilot Certification from the International WELL Building Institute has been identified: the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh.

This facility was also the first to meet the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge, achieving Net Zero Energy Certification. (Not to mention its LEED Platinum and Four-Stars Sustainable Sites Initiative certification.)

How did they do it? The Center for Sustainable Landscapes focused on an integrated design process that involved evaluation of end-users’ needs, along with charrettes between the project team and staff throughout the process.

The building incorporates processes that harness the power of what nature offers: sunlight, rain, wind, and vegetation.

How CSL Uses the Sun

  • Passive solar design maximizes northern and southern exposure
  • Thermal massing and low-e glazing help maintain temperatures
  • Solar PV roofs generate electricity from the sun; excess generated energy serves upper campus electricity needs
  • Occupied spaces are located within 15 feet of operable windows to maximize light and air quality

How CSL Uses Insulation from the Ground

  • Ground-source geothermal HVAC, including 14 geothermal wells, generates heating and cooling
  • Geothermal system works with a rooftop energy recovery unit to provide heating, cooling, ventilation, and dehumidification
  • Heat removed from the heat pump refrigeration cycle is absorbed by water circulated in the wells and the cool ground
  • Warmth stored during the summer is recovered from the wells to heat the building

How CSL Uses Insulation Wind & Air

  • Operable windows provide natural ventilation
  • Onsite turbines generate electricity from wind; excess generated energy serves upper campus electricity needs

How CSL Uses Vegetation

  • Reduce the heat island effect and insulate the building via a garden roof that decreases HVAC cooling in summer and heating in winter
  • Sustainable landscaping with more than 150 non-invasive, native plant species
  • Biophilic art that uses nature to increase productivity

How CSL Uses Rainwater & Stormwater

  • A garden roof retains 85% of annual Pittsburg rainfall
  • Approximately 500,000 gallons of rooftop runoff is harvested for reuse
  • Five rain gardens capture stormwater; permeable asphalt allows natural stormwater infiltration
  • Greywater system disinfects and filters water for reuse
  • Lagoon system replicates natural water treatment processes seen in wetlands and marshes

Through measures like these, the Center for Sustainable Landscapes achieved a 68.7% reduction in energy usage as compared to traditionally designed buildings, and a 30% to 40% reduction in capacity requirements for HVAC systems and infrastructure (power, pipes, ductwork, etc.).

As part of the WELL Building Standards’ goals to turn indoor spaces into environments that passively work to improve health, the building also offers:

  • Good indoor air quality, with low levels of volatile substances, particulate matter, and inorganic gasses
  • Good water quality, void of harmful impurities and contaminants
  • Healthy humidity levels to facilitate comfort, IAQ, and prevention of harmful biological growth
  • Sun and glare control
  • Activity-based and circadian lighting that reduce eyestrain and reinforce natural patterns of the human circadian rhythm
  • An ergonomic environment, with sit/stand desks and ergonomically designed chairs
  • Chemical-free cleaning plan to reduce bio-loads, pests, allergens, and odors

Does the idea of a “healthy” building appeal to you? How does your building passively improve the health of your building occupants?


  1. James Chappell
    December 13, 2014

    How does your ideal building stack up for electromagnetic radiation? You are promoting “healthy” building but most buildings create ill health with pulsed fields from wiring and devices. Even though the ill effects of emissions are well documented and the technology to control these effects is understood, your bullet points don’t mention any steps to reduce the Hertzian environment.

  2. Vista
    December 17, 2014

    James, thanks for your comment. You bring up an interesting point. It doesn’t appear as if the WELL Certification addresses this issue as part of its building certification process.

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