The 15,600-square-foot Frick Environmental Center (FEC) in Pittsburgh has become one of the 21 buildings in the world to achieve Living Building certification and is the first Living Building in the U.S. that municipally owned and open to the public. Designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, the FEC produces as much energy and water as its consumes annually and it incorporates a wide array of other sustainable features including geothermal heating and cooling, locally sourced non-toxic building materials and daylight dimming controls and sensors.
Built on the same footprint as the original Center, the new building is a gateway to the park. In addition to operating the Center, the Parks Conservancy works to maintain and enhance the surrounding 115 acres of the Frick Nature Reserve.
The FEC runs entirely off of energy provided by the sun and the earth. Designed to use 40% less energy than a building its size in that region, the structure is completely net zero thanks to energy produced on-site through solar panels and hot and cold air gathered from geothermal wells.
Every material used in the FEC was intentional, having first undergone an extensive vetting process. All materials were sourced from responsible industries, many recycled or locally produced. Elements like black locust siding and interior furnishings made from locally salvaged wood are a nod to native tree species.
Water brings the building to life, cascading down an outdoor art ravine on rainy days and used throughout the Center after being captured by cisterns and barrels via the Center’s roof and solar panels. Rain water is used in the building and in the landscape; on-site treatment safely disposes of waste water.