Sustainable Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh has undergone one of the most dramatic environmental transformations in American history, and now has more green square footage than any other city, much of which has been built on former brownfield sites. It's fitting that Pittsburgh, the birthplace of renowned environmentalist Rachel Carson, is today a national leader in the environmental movement and a green model for cities all over the globe. Here are some highlights of Pittsburgh's green renaissance.

David L. Lawrence Convention Center

The David L. Lawrence Convention Center (DLCC) is a significant symbol of the "new" Pittsburgh Region. The DLCC boasts breath-taking views of the North Shore and Downtown Pittsburgh from the concourses, balconies and terraces, and was the first convention center in the world with LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications of GOLD in new construction and PLATINUM in existing building, by the U.S. Green Building Council. As the first "green" convention center, the DLCC capitalized on its environmentally smart structure by utilizing natural daylight and natural ventilation to light and heat the building, and incorporating a water reclamation system which reduces potable water use.

Stretching across the DLCC's swooping roofline are 688 feet of blue light-emitting diode (LED) tubes. Jenny Holzer created this kinetic display titled For Pittsburgh to present important books that tell compelling stories about Pittsburgh. The texts scroll 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

One of Earth's greenest buildings is in Pittsburgh. Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens' Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) is an innovative model of sustainability, generating all of its own energy, and treating and reusing all water captured on site. The education, research and administration building has earned a LEED® Platinum certification and SITES Certification for landscapes project.

PPG Paints Arena

The home of National Hockey League's Pittsburgh Penguins is the first LEED® Gold certified arena in the NHL. The venue seats 18,387 people in honor of team captain Sidney Crosby's No. 87. 

Children's Museum of Pittsburgh

The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh is an architectural masterpiece. In 2006, the Children's Museum received the Silver LEED® certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, making it the largest Silver LEED-certified museum in the country.

The Museum also received the 2006 American Institute of Architects Honor Award for Architecture. Design Architect Koning Eizenberg Architecture of Santa Monica, California and Executive Architect Perkins Eastman of Pittsburgh received this honor for excellence in architecture which is considered the highest recognition of works in the field-for the Museum's 2004 expansion.

PNC Firstside Center

This five-story Silver LEED® certified building establishes PNC as a corporate leader in green building. An innovative hybrid system of air distribution improves energy efficiency, comfort and maintenance. The system includes a raised floor that also makes the workspace flexible to reconfigure. Firstside Center was built using 90 percent recycled steel, 72 percent recycled carpeting and 100 percent of the hard floor surfaces were made from recycled material as well. The urban infill site is adjacent to a bike trail and a light rail transit stop and has helped to revitalize the Downtown area.

Carnegie Science Center's PPG Science Pavilion

The new expansion to the Science Center opened in June, 2018 and is a

48,000-square-foot space that ushers in a new era of enhanced STEM programs, state-of-the-art exhibits, and public exploration of science and technology at the North Shore destination. The building is LEED Gold certified by the United States Green Building Council. This means the U.S. Green Building Council has recognized that PPG Science Pavilion is a healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green building. The building is coated with multiple PPG products, including PPG PAINTS™ SPEEDHIDE® interior paint, MEGASEAL™ epoxy by PPG, and more. Carnegie Science Center's PPG Science Pavilion serves as an example of sustainable building practices.

Energy Innovation Center

This 200,000 square foot building is located in the Lower Hill District and houses a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting clean and sustainable energy. Built in 1930, the Energy Innovation Center (EIC) has LEED Platinum certification and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as well as the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation's list of Historic Landmarks. Originally the Connelley Trade School, the building was redesigned according to the standards of sustainable development, water savings and indoor environmental quality while maintaining its historic elements. It is now a home for workforce development programs, green technology research laboratories and other community projects, such as the Penn State Center's creation of tree wells for storm water management. Utilizing energy efficient techniques such as ice storage for cooling and an automatic zone control system which reduces energy consumption, the EIC is emerging as a leader in technological innovation.

Frick Environmental Center

The Frick Environmental Center is one of the greenest buildings in the world. A welcome facility, education hub and gateway to Frick Park, the center is free and open to the public. The cutting-edge facility enhances visitor experience and inspires learning. 

Pittsburgh Botanic Garden

Pittsburgh Botanic Garden has transformed 460 acres of abandoned mining land into the fifth largest botanic garden in the U.S. Visitors can enjoy three miles of trails with a one-mile ADA-accessible trail, a play-and-discover area for families, lotus pond, dogwood meadows and a historic farmstead featuring a log cabin and apple orchard from the 1700s. Located 10 miles west of the city, the Garden includes 18 distinct gardens, diverse woodland experiences, a visitor's center, an amphitheater for outdoor concerts and performances, a celebration center to accommodate weddings and corporate events and a center for botanic research.

Natural Resources

Pittsburgh has eliminated its infamous smoke problem and has invested in restoring our rivers and trails. We helped nurse our beloved rivers back to health and have created some of the most popular outdoor recreational areas in the eastern United States. For example, Western Pennsylvania has become one of the nation's best examples of the rails-to-trails conversion, with hundreds of miles of rail trails, including the Great Allegheny Passage. This trail links Pittsburgh with Washington, D.C., and stands out as one of the country's great trail systems. Check out the extensive trail information below and begin your own outdoor urban adventure!

Hiking Trails

There are over 700 sets of steps within Pittsburgh's city limits, totaling 24,090 vertical feet. The highest concentration of city steps is in the South Side Slopes neighborhood which holds its annual StepTrek event in October that allows walkers to climb the many steps in the slopes while benefiting step maintenance in the area. Many of these steps are considered part of the local transit system, and are a great way to start exploring the city on foot.

Take your exploration to the next level by delighting in the beauty of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County on one of the diverse hiking trails that stretch through 24-miles of the city. The Three Rivers Heritage Trail System is a 37-mile trail and greenway system that goes through Downtown Pittsburgh running along both sides of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers.  The trail connects Downtown to adjacent neighborhoods including Oakland, the North Shore, the South Side and the Strip District.

Biking Trails

Pittsburgh's unique topographic blend of steep, winding hills and flat river areas makes it one of the best cities for cycling enthusiasts. Looking for an urban cycling adventure? Check out the Eliza Furnace Trail, a part of the larger Three Rivers Heritage Trail that runs through the city and offers many bike rack sites for easy storage. Need a lift to your next trail?  Pittsburgh's bike-friendly public transit operator, the Port Authority, allows riders many options to store their bikes while taking a ride to their next destination.

Perhaps you crave a more scenic route with a ride that winds through 19 miles of Pittsburgh Steel history and along the Steel Valley section of the Great Allegheny Passage - the 335-mile trail connecting Washington, D.C., to Pittsburgh.  Mountain bikers, be sure to check out the Pittsburgh Off-Road Cyclists for more information on great trails and Pittsburgh’s thriving mountain bike community. 

If you forgot your bike at home, Golden Triangle Bike has it covered with bike rentals and maps to take you across the city or along the Great Allegheny Passage.

Water Trails

The three rivers that meet in Pittsburgh are clean and accessible waters that have become a stunning icon of Pittsburgh's environmental transformation which allow you to experience the city from a new vantage point.  Kayak Pittsburgh lets you paddle down the Allegheny River and take in the city sites of Downtown and the North Shore from the water, providing a unique view of the skyline.  Row up one of the United States only North flowing rivers, the Monongahela with Three Rivers Rowing which offers free learn-to-row and paddle days.

Spend an afternoon boating from one of the several marinas in Allegheny County along the three rivers  offering river access as well as dining and boat maintenance. Station Square on the South Shore offers public docks at Bessemer Court for easy river access to Downtown shopping and dining. Also within the city limits are four public boat launches, one on the Monongahela River in the South Side and three along the Allegheny River. Pittsburgh's 38.3 miles of river shoreline within the city limits offers ample space for fishing and Western Pennsylvania’s state parks abound with well-stocked lakes and streams.