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  Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens Welcome Center, Page 26Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens Welcome Center

One PPG Place, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

620 Liberty Avenue, 27th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Total Square Feet: 11,454
Construction Period: Feb 2004 to Feb 2005

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Atlantic Engineering Services - 650 Smithfield Street, #1200, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
ELECTRICAL & MECHANICAL ENGINEER: Lovorn Engineering - 6585 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
ENERGY CONSULTANT & COMMISSIONING AGENT: Architectural Energy Corporation - 2540 Frontier Avenue, Boulder, CO 80301
COST ESTIMATOR: Crawford Consulting Services - 239 Highland Avenue, East Pittsburgh, PA 15112

Richard Piacentini, Executive Director of Phipps Conservatory, thinks IKM Architects have created "probably the most dramatic and beautiful entrance to a conservatory in the country." As immediate past president of the American Public Garden Association, Piacentini should know.

The architects' design challenge: How to place 11,000 square feet of new lobby, ticketing, gift shop and cafe spaces in front of a 7,600 square foot, historic landmark glass house built in 1893. IKM's design studies showed that building a large visitor center in front of the Palm Court would obscure views of the graceful structure from most vantage points.

Instead, IKM explored a solution that placed the new visitor amenities in a partially earth-sheltered structure. Site analysis showed that the existing visitor entrance - a non-descript, stone clad "box" built in the 1960's-was an almost imperceptible seven feet above the curbside entrance. What if, instead of gently sloping up to the entrance, the walkway sloped down to create 14 feet of usable space below ground? Given the distance to the front entrance, IKM was able to create a gentle slope of 5 percent or less, ensuring a fully accessible entrance.

The benefits of an earth-sheltered visitor center extend beyond the aesthetic and historical. During concept design, IKM determined that placing most of the new space below grade would save as much as 40 to 50 percent in annual energy costs compared to an above grade building. Although LEED(R)s scoring methodology does not recognize the fundamental savings achieved by building in the earth instead of on it, computer simulations show that the completed design reduces energy costs by an additional 22 percent when compared to a baseline, ASHRAE compliant, similarly earth-sheltered building.

A 34-foot high glass dome crowns the Welcome Center. The dome, which evokes the geometry of the historic glass houses, provides daylight to the visitor lobby and ticketing areas below and a dramatic ascent to the conservatory beyond. The dome incorporates fritted, laminated, insulated glass to control glare and heat. In addition, a state-of-the-art control system automatically opens and closes operable windows at two levels to release stratified air and induce natural ventilation. Creating a high quality indoor environment for Phipps's 180,000 annual visitors was a guiding principle. In addition to ample daylight and views to the outside from the main public spaces, IKM selected low or no VOC paints, adhesives, carpet and other materials. To ensure a healthy and clean indoor environment following construction, Phipps committed to a complete, two-week building flush out prior to opening.

The new Welcome Center at Phipps Conservatory demonstrates that an environmentally friendly, sustainable design can be created in ways sympathetic to an historic setting. Writing in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, architecture critic Patricia Lowry concluded that "one thing is certain: at last Phipps has the entrance it has so long deserved."

The IKM Project Team included: Principal- in-Charge: Mike Marcu, AIA; Additional Principals: Alan Fishman, AIA; Bob Moro, AIA; Project Manager: Joel Bernard, AIA; Project Designers: Sonny Sanjari, LEED AP; Jim Taylor, AIA, LEED AP; Project Team: Bob Bailey, AIA, CSI; George Bedo, AIA; Mark Brandfass; Margaret Cannell, RA; Sandy Closson, NCIDQ; Kemo Crawford, AIA; Xiaofang Luo; Jen Pavlik, NCIDQ; Luis Segarra; Julie Wagner, LEED AP.

DIV 07:
Living Membrane: American Hydrotech; Glass Dome: LinEl Signature.
DIV 08: Metal Door: Amweld; Aluminum Doors: Tubelite; Aluminum Windows: Wausau.

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