Expanded David L. Lawrence Convention Center Brings the Future to Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is known internationally for its rebirth through clean air and water policies and its more recent brownfield and riverfront redevelopment projects. The millennium may bring the city additional recognition for its latest environmental accomplishment, a GREEN convention center.

Last year, an international design competition was held for the new expansion of Pittsburgh’s convention center.  The competition was hosted by the Design Commission of Southwestern Pennsylvania (Commission) and the Public Auditorium Authority of Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh (PAA).

After the finalists’ designs were reviewed by the jury, Rafael Viñoly Architects, P.C. and HNTB Corporation emerged as the unanimous winner of the competition.  The Viñoly/HNTB design provided the best aesthetic design and functional floor plan, including many green features such as: incorporation of natural ventilation and light, geothermal cooling via the underground aquifer and routing of “greywater” from sinks and hotel showers to flush toilets.  Further, water flowing on the roof, largely an aesthetic feature to create a shimmering effect, will be applied to cooling the building.

A green approach to design and development was brought to the attention of the Commission and the PAA by Rebecca Flora, a Commission member and executive director of the Green Building Alliance (GBA).  “Green design was easily understood and endorsed by the Commission members, its various committees and the PAA,” Flora states.  “They were all quick to see the market potential and economics of green technology and design.”

The concept of creating a green convention center also garnered the support of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which provided $149 million for the project, stipulating that the new convention center must be green.

Pittsburgh’s foundation community supported the costs associated with the design competition, including technical assistance to the process from Robert Kobet, AIA, director of green building services for Conservation Consultants, Inc., and Vivian Loftness, dean, School of Architecture, Carnegie Mellon University.  These organizations continue to provide assistance to the convention center project team through funds subsequently awarded to GBA by the Heinz Endowments.  Heinz support will also allow GBA to utilize the convention center as an extension of its education program.

Following completion of the convention center, the project team has a goal of receiving a Platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Rating System, the highest possible award.  Tom Kennedy, project executive for the PAA, indicates that “green design is very important to the development of the project.  We are working closely with the Green Building Alliance and all of our design architects to set goals, prioritize and exceed the requirements for a Platinum rating.  One of our objectives is to show that, through an intelligent and comprehensive approach, we can do this within budget and realize significant energy savings.”

One of the most important benefits of greening the convention center is marketability.  “The green features of the Center are already part of our sales pitch and two groups are currently considering holding their conferences in the city partially because of these features,” notes Bob Imperata, executive vice president for the Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau.  “Since these design components are already common in Europe, this type of building is critical to our ability to compete internationally.”

The Center may someday serve as the icon for Pittsburgh’s next Renaissance, keeping with the region’s tradition of environmentalism—this time as it relates to our built environment. The Commission’s vision for the Center is for it to be world-class and serve as “Pittsburgh’s living room.”  It is hoped that the city’s image will be raised by the progressive approach of the Viñoly/HNTB design, which will provide a lasting impression on both outside and local visitors.  The Center should be completed by the fall of 2002.

See more details on the David L. Lawrence Convention Center here.  

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