Students visit Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens:

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Last week the cohort took a trip to Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Oakland to learn more about its sustainability initiatives. Jason Wirick, an alumnus of the MBA, Sustainability program hosted the class. Jason is currently the Director of Facilities and Sustainability at Phipps.

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens has been a Pittsburgh attraction since 1893. Its greenhouses and gardens attract many visitors a year. Phipps is a strong advocate of green-building practices and sustainable gardening. Some if its key green initiatives include:

-LEED Silver certification of Welcome Center
-Green Restaurant Association certified cafe
-On-Site renewable energy generation.
-Geothermal heating and cooling
-Sustainable landscaping
-Water efficiency

Additionally, the new Center for Sustainable Landscape, schedule for completion this spring, is expected to be one of the world’s first certified living buildings.

Jason discussed the benefits and challenges of being an industry leader in green buildings. It has been designed to meet or exceed the three highest green standards: the Living Building Challenge; LEED® Platinum and SITES Certification for landscapes.

Jason spoke to the difficulty in finding products that meet building codes as well as Living Building /LEED criteria. For example, commercial doors and cabinets have chemicals on the Living Building Red List due to their environmental harm and air quality issues. Flame retardant drapes and blinds are other examples of materials that pose problems. Jason talked about the importance of working with the Living Building Challenge as well as commercial manufacturers to let them know there is a need for these products.

Jason’s presentation and tour were both a welcomed break from the classroom and also helped prepare the cohort for one of our projects this semester. Our class will complete a Green Building project focusing on our own building at Duquesne, Rockwell Hall.

For more information about Phipps, please visit


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