The Diversity of Sustainability and Resilience in Design

Submissions for the 2018 Design Awards

By Maya Henry Posted on September 20, 2018

Forest Hills Municipal Building, Pfaffmann + Associates.  Photo: Ed Massery, Massery Photography Inc.

New for Design Pittsburgh 2018, any built project submitted in another Design Awards category is eligible to also be reviewed for the Excellence in Sustainability + Resiliency award category.  This award recognizes built projects that have successfully integrated sustainable and/or resilient building strategies and practices into the design.

As defined by the AIA Pittsburgh Design Pittsburgh Committee, sustainability envisions the enduring prosperity of all living things, while sustainable design seeks to create communities, buildings, and products that contribute to this vision.  Resilience is the capacity to adapt to changing conditions and to maintain/regain functionality and vitality in the face of stress or disturbance, while resilient design is the intentional design of buildings, landscapes, communities, and regions in response to these vulnerabilities.

Each of these project submissions embodies different elements of sustainability and resiliency, showing the diversity of how communities and architects can create projects with lasting impact.

Forest Hills Municipal Building

Client: Borough of Forest Hills
Architecture Firm: Pfaffman + Associates
Contractor: Volpatt Construction
Engineers: Iams Consulting, Schneider Engineering
Photographer: Massery Photography
Landscape Architect: Common Ground
Consultants: SEECH Industries, EIS Solar, Porter SIPS, Zottola Landscaping, PELLA Windows, Eastern Architectural Products

Forest Hills Borough was once a rural farmed area then became a company town for Westinghouse with settlement intensifying after WWII.  The former Forest Hills Borough Building on Ardmore Boulevard stood as the center for Borough functions since 1922, but faced the limitations of an inefficient and costly energy system and disconnection from the community it serves.

Located on Greensburg Pike, adjacent to the Westinghouse Lodge and Park, this new building consolidates the Borough administrative and council functions, police offices, and the library/community space into one efficient building to serve the needs of the community into the future.

The goal of Council was to achieve a functional municipal services building for fifty years into the future without increasing the tax mill rate. A target cost of $4.5 million was set as a goal and achieved.

Community planning meetings were held to educate residents about high-performance buildings and to refine programmatic needs. The architects conducted a series of workshops to provide hands-on participation in the siting of the building and a better understanding of green building strategies.

The site was evaluated for a passive solar building design and was deemed suitable if the building could be oriented on the property to allow a south-facing roof. A geothermal earth heating and cooling system and PV solar array form the heart of the building systems. Stormwater management with bioswales techniques to control stormwater runoff to the Turtle Creek watershed. The location features direct access to the walkable neighborhood with ease also served by a public transit bus line.

The Parti or organizing principle of the design is a linear hall that connects the primary program elements: Police, Borough Offices, Council Chambers, Community Room, and Library. Each can be operated independently while maintaining security. The glue-laminated timber frame provides a rich framework for the design and is expressed on the exterior at the main entrance portico and extended roof for solar control.

The residents of Forest Hills passion for their forested landscape is expressed both in timber detailing and the recognition of their commitment to global sustainability in an efficient and long-lived civic home.

The Ewing House

Client: Tabatha Ewing
Architecture Firm: Fisher ARCHitecture
Contractor: Cummings Construction
Engineers: House and Building Engineering
Photographer: Eric Fisher, Joey Reid, Fly Over Properties

The Ewing House appears to have been literally carved out of the earth, as though the site had eroded to reveal the building’s shape. Although the first floor is hidden all around by a grassy hill, the house is filled with light throughout the day. A rectangular volume containing the children’s bedrooms floats lightly above the earthen base.

The shape of the home sprang from the idea of creating a central location where Tabitha Ewing, a single mother, could keep an eye on her four young daughters as she worked. The kitchen became the house control center, similar to an all-seeing Panopticon tower. From that central space, the three outdoor courts, along with the den and the living room, are clearly visible.

The roof slope echoes the slope of the surrounding hillside. In contrast, the red exterior metal panels systems and corrugated metal siding stand out from the surrounding forest. Energy costs are extremely low thanks to geothermal wells, radiant heat, and earth-sheltered construction.

Earth-sheltered homes are resilient. According to the US Department of Energy, they are less susceptible to the impact of extreme outdoor air temperatures than conventional homes and require less outside maintenance.  In addition, plans for most earth-sheltered houses ‘blend’ the building into the landscape more harmoniously than most conventional homes. Earth-sheltered houses can cost less to insure because they offer extra protection against high winds, hailstorms, and natural disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes.

Cincinnati Music Hall Revitalization

Client: Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC)
Architecture Firm: Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goettel (PWWG)
Contractor: Messer Construction Company
Engineers: THP Limited, Inc.; Pennoni Associates, Inc.
Photographer: T. Whitney Cox & GLINTStudios
Affiliated Architect: Martinez + Johnson Architecture
Consultants: Akustiks; Schuler Shook; Bayer Becker; Evergreene Architectural Arts; Judity B. Williams; FRCH

Cincinnati Music Hall Revitalization skillfully balances the restoration and modernization of one of the most architecturally acclaimed multi‐function performance venues in the world, which was recently on the National Trust’s “11 Most Endangered Historic Places.”  

Lasting structural improvements have secured its legacy for generations to come, and the range of outcomes include enhanced experiences for performers and audiences; state‐of‐the‐art amenities; unique accessibility enhancements designed with a large stakeholder group; and fresh, flexible administrative offices.

The project revitalizes a civic landmark inside and out and restores it as the cultural hub of a burgeoning downtown Cincinnati neighborhood.

Breathe Easy: Millvale Air Quality Planning

Client: Millvale Ecodistrict
Architecture Firm: evolve environment :: architecture
Consultants: Advisory Committee

The Breathe Easy project recommends actions and projects to catalyze change at the individual scale, in the borough of Millvale, and in the larger Pittsburgh region.  The Pittsburgh region recently ranked in the worst 4% of US cities for air quality, emphasizing a major health risk. As part of their Ecodistrict Pivot 2.0 Plan, Millvale Borough set the goal to become a “clean air community where people can breathe easy indoors and out”.

Breathe Easy demonstrates how a citizen science research project can utilize expertise in the region to empower residents and produce impactful placemaking strategies.  The action plan includes the following strategies (in addition to several others), that are currently in the implementation phase:

Air Quality Buffer Park
This project proposes a vegetated buffer of evergreens, which can reduce noise and particulate pollution from traffic. An interactive, large-scale art installation visualizes real-time air quality data from local monitors. The park also enhances riverfront access for pedestrians coming from Millvale’s Town Center

Clean Air Hub
The Millvale Library Clean Air Hub will feature an Air Quality Dashboard with air quality data, an air monitor lending library, and will demonstrate good indoor air quality through building improvements.

Air Quality Showcase Park
The Air Quality Showcase Park displays outdoor air pollution mitigation strategies like titanium dioxide coated paving, living walls, and monitoring stations. It also provides an exhibition space for air-related art installations.

Water Tower Beacon
This real-time air quality visualization installation repurposes Millvale’s retired water tower structure and provides a landmark for the entrance to Millvale’s network of hiking trails. This counterpoint to the Buffer Park beacon can reveal differences in air quality between the traffic-adjacent valley and the wooded hillsides.Millvale’s Breathe Easy projects are making an invisible problem visible by integrating placemaking and performance, while contributing to an informed and activated local culture.

Gold 1 Parking Facility

Client: Stadium Authority of the City of Pittsburgh
Architecture Firm: WTW Architects
Contractor: Massaro Construction Group
Engineers: Gateway Engineers; A&A Consultants, Inc; Advantus Engineers; Monaloh Basin Engineers
Photographer: Halkin Mason Photography
Consultants: Walker Parking Consultants, GeoMechanics, Inc.

The Gold 1 Parking facility does double duty as a transportation hub for daily commuters and as an events garage for football and baseball games and concerts at Heinz Field, PNC Park, and Stage AE.

The signature façade, featuring undulating aluminum airfoil-shaped fins, harkens to the rivers that define the city of Pittsburgh.  Accomplishing exemplary levels of sustainability, the design was recognized as the first Parksmart Gold certified facility in the world in 2018.

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