Green Buildings

​Once the hub of the Industrial Revolution, Pittsburgh has emerged as a world leader in the green building movement.

After the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) launched its LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) green building rating system in 1998, three of the first 13 buildings to receive LEED certification were in Greater Pittsburgh.  Since then, the city has consistently ranked high for its number of LEED and other certified green buildings. 

Pittsburgh is home to many green building firsts, including:

  • First LEED Food Bank – Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank
  • First LEED Financial Institution – PNC Firstside Center
  • First LEED Convention Center – David L. Lawrence Convention Center
  • First LEED University Dormitory – Carnegie Mellon University Stever House
  • First LEED Public Arts Facility – Pittsburgh Glass Center
  • First LEED Welcome Center in a Public Garden – Phipps Conservatory Welcome Center
  • First LEED Smithsonian Property – Senator John Heinz History Center
  • First LEED Radio Station – WYEP Radio Station
  • First LEED University Dance Studio – Point Park University Dance Complex

Visit the Green Building Alliance for more information on Pittsburgh's green building initiatives and practices.

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

In 2020, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens' complex of sustainable buildings was awarded a Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. 

Phipps’ sustainable efforts have reached a new level of excellence with the construction of three of the greenest buildings in the world on its campus: the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL, opened in 2012) which is also the only building in the world to achieve five of the highest certifications for green construction (Living Building Challenge, LEED Platinum, WELL Platinum, SITES Platinum and BREEAM Outstanding in Use); the Nature Lab at Phipps (2015); and the Exhibit Staging Center (ESC, 2019). Pending the ESC’s successful completion of the Living Building Challenge’s year-long performance period, Phipps will have three Living Future Institute-certified buildings on a single site, each representing a unique use and construction type — new, modular and adaptive reuse — and demonstrating the potential of integrated, regenerative design.

To learn more about Phipps commitment to human and environmental health through buildings, operations, programs and research, visit

David L. Lawrence Convention Center

The David L. Lawrence Convention Center is a significant symbol of the "new" Pittsburgh Region. As Pittsburgh continues to revolutionize into a regional destination place, this landmark building has become the cornerstone of the transformation. On the cutting edge of design, this innovative structure connects the urban city to the waterfront overlooking the Allegheny River.

The Convention Center boasts breath-taking views of the North Shore and Downtown Pittsburgh from the concourses, balconies and terraces, and is the only 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 and world's largest "green" building, the Center 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 convention center'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, including Thomas Bell's Out of This Furnace; John Edgar Wideman's Homewood Trilogy, Damballah, Hiding Place, and Sent for You Yesterday; and Annie Dillard's An American Childhood. The texts scroll 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For Pittsburgh is the artist's largest LED project in the United States.

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.

PPG Paints Arena

The home of National Hockey League's Pittsburgh Penguins is the first LEED® Gold certified major sports venue in the country. The venue seats 18,087 people in honor of team captain Sidney Crosby's No. 87. The Center uses 40% less water consumption by volume and thanks in part to natural lighting and high-efficiency ventilation, boasts a 31% reduction in energy consumption.

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-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. The daylit interiors afford 90% of the occupants with an outdoor view. The urban infill site is adjacent to a bike trail and a light rail transit stop and has helped to revitalize the Downtown area.

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 sustainability and energy efficiency 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 stormwater 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.

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This building was one of the most interesting places I had the pleasure of visiting this past year. The Energy Innovation Center is a transformed warehouse building that is now a cluster of different entities and organizations working side by side with similar goals. Here you can find Green Tech Research Labs, University-industry collaborations, business incubators and more all in one institution. This building to me represents the city’s capacity to move past old industries that will not return. The ‘Steel City’ aims to move past its reputation as a manufacturing-based economy of the 1900’s by creating a world-class technology hub. The lesson here I believe is that to progress as a society we must accept change. Knowledge-based economies and investing into new technologies is the future of wealth and the cities willing to invest into this market space first will succeed. What industries do you believe are the future? Artificial Intelligence? Green Energy? Blockchain/Cryptocurrency? Let me know in the comments. #energy #innovation #economy #development #urbanplanning #green #Pittsburgh

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