“The new Frick Environmental Center embodies the best of Pittsburgh in both its respect for the past and its visionary design. The practical aspects of the center will creatively serve a diverse community, while its cutting-edge design is in step with our city’s place at the leading edge of the green building movement.”
The Frick Environmental Center, the first municipally-owned, free and open to the public, Living Building Challenge-targeted project in existence, is a world-class center for experiential environmental education. A joint venture between the City of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, the new Environmental Center acts as a gateway to Frick Park and embodies the “neighborhood to nature” ideal that served as inspiration for its formation more than 80 years ago.
The Frick Environmental Center includes restored historic gatehouses and fountain; visitor parking; a service barn; extensive landscaping and ecological restoration; and the new Environmental Center. The entrance to the site leads to a formal allée of native trees and plantings. The new building, nestled into a sloping hillside, is approached via a walkway and bridge. The building’s exterior, clad in locally and sustainably harvested black locust, blends with the surrounding woods, evoking a tree house quality. Inside, full-height wood windows emanate warmth and allow for expansive views of the park from the elevation of the tree canopy. The 15,600-square-foot facility features a public living room and gallery; classrooms for K-12 environmental education programs; and offices, storage, and support space for staff.
To meet Living Building and LEED Platinum challenges, this project will achieve on-site net zero energy and net zero water. Inspired by the clients’ mission to educate and engage, the project incorporates many of its sustainable features as interactive elements in the building and site design, providing children and families with hands-on environmental education, and fulfilling the Environmental Center’s role as a “living classroom.”