While many people still associate Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with the steel industry, todays Pittsburgh is a center for technological innovation. As one of the first cities to sign on to the Paris Climate Accord, Pittsburgh has become a leader in sustainable development. Historically, Pittsburgh has been a cultural center with renowned art institutions including the Warhol Museum and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. At the intersection of science and the arts is a burgeoning maker community producing hand and machine-made goods and small batch products. Studio M will provide a creative focal point for this community with retail outlets, production spaces and housing in a new riverfront neighborhood emerging from a former industrial site. The purpose of Studio M was to design a building to promote sustainability and wellness and be a template for future sustainable projects in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Once a coal and steel city, it is now a center of technology and sustainable industry. Studio M seeks to exemplify this in its design. The Shou Sugi Ban facade of the building speaks to the coal industry’s past and the buildings that were coated with ash and soot in the 80’s. The interior contrasts this with high ceilings and a light wooden interior. As a representation of Pittsburgh’s new role as a leader in sustainable urbanism and to symbolize a break with the steel industry of the city’s past, cross laminated timber (CLT) is used as the primary building system. CLT is relatively new to North America, but is emerging as an efficient, sustainable building system – particularly for mid-rise structures.
While the CLT structure was essential for creating a more sustainable building, and sequestering carbon - other sustainable measures were also implemented. Pittsburgh’s mild climate provides multiple opportunities to integrate different sustainable solutions. The roofscape and constructed wetland are equipped with a network of Photovoltaic (PV) panels responsible for generating 292, 599 KWH of energy per year. The roof also contains a system of greenroofs, which act as water purifiers as well as insulators for the building and PV panels. The greenroof cools the PV panels and building in the summer and insulates during the winter. The building’s form was rotated to maximize southern exposure and to create programmatic green spaces. The long and narrow central volume has been maximized to allow cross ventilation breezes to cool the space. The top service floor has a solar greenhouse that uses building HVAC heat and a glazed roof to passively sustain inside plants. The exterior walls, have been clad with an innovative double skinned facade system as well as triple pane Zola windows allowing the building to both breathe as well as maximize heat retention and durability.
Measure 1: Design for Integration
The buildings ground footprint has been reduced to mitigate flooding by lifting the main building volume off the ground. The building’s form was rotated to maximize southern exposure and create programmatic green spaces. The long and narrow central volume has been maximized to allow cross ventilation breezes to cool the space. Because Pittsburgh’s climate demands both heating and cooling systems to achieve thermal comfort. As a homage to the coal industry, and buildings that were coated with ash and soot in the 80’s, the building exterior is clad with fire blackened cedar Shou Sugi Bahn. The interior contrasts this with large ceilings and bright CLT wood walls, beams and columns. The top service floor has a solar greenhouse that uses building HVAC heat and a glazed roof to passively sustain inside plants. The roofscape, and constructed wetland, is equipped with a network of Photovoltaics. The roof also contains a system of greenroofs, which act as water purifiers as well as insulators for the building and PV panels. The greenroof cools the panels and the building in the summer and insulates it during the window. The exterior walls, have been clad with an innovative double skinned facade system as well as triple pane Zola windows. This allows the building to both breathe as well as maximizes heat retention and durability.
Measure 2: Design for Community
Much of the industrial infrastructure from the 1820’s onward still exists today and the result is a very strong heat island effect and a scarcity of greenspace. A constructed wetland has been proposed, along the constructed wetland is a boardwalk with different learning stations to educate locals showcasing the sustainable design precedents. The City of Pittsburgh, has proposed a tramline along the length of Smallman Street providing added mobility to the residents and shoppers. The strip district has become a diverse cultural destination. To promote international foods, a third of the maker space has been portioned into culinary space. Rather than competing with culinary businesses in the area, there is an exciting opportunity to work with local businesses to market their products more effectively in an accessible and inviting area.
Measure 3: Design for Ecology
The current site is an impermeable slab of concrete, the new proposal allows for 72% of the site to be greenscaped. It is also proposed that within vacant areas of the strip district, 450 trees and 34 acres of greenspace be planted. This will have significant benefits of reducing flood damage as well as offsetting more than 29,000 tonnes of carbon and reducing the heat island effect.
Measure 4: Design for Water
Pittsburgh’s current stormwater and sewage system operate using the same pipe system. During periods of severe rainfall, untreated sewage and stormwater can run directly into local rivers. A three phase system has been designed to manage the building and site’s waste water. Multiple bioswales will filter rain runoff and excess water to be collected in a large containment tank under the site that contains black water. Filtered wastewater will be pumped to a constructed wetland treatment system across the street; and, the purified water will be reintroduced into the Allegheny River. A secondary system has been implemented to deal with grey water. The rooftop is equipped with a greenroof that filters rainwater to be collected in a grey water cistern. The grey water is then redistributed to plants and toilets as needed. Excess cleaned grey water is sent offsite with treated black water and reintroduced to the river in the case of an oversupply of water.
Measure 5: Design for Economy
The buildings unique program, with three main components – maker space, culinary and grocery space, and residential space creates a unique market that is designed to cater to the needs of locals within the area. Selling local culinary arts and crafts also supports the opportunity to promote the local economy within the space. Using sustainable resources and building practices also allows for a reduced budget. Recycled timber is suggested for the interior finishings and boardwalk along the constructed wetland.
Measure 6: Design for Energy
Pittsburgh’s mild climate provides multiple opportunities to integrate different sustainable solutions. The buildings rooftop and constructed PV array are responsible for generating over 292,599 KWH of energy per year. A ground-source geothermal HVAC system to generates heating and cooling is located sub building. This system works in conjunction with the rooftop energy unit to provide heating, cooling, ventilation, and dehumidification. In the summer the heat removed from the refrigeration cycle is absorbed by the water circulated in the wells and the cool ground.
Measure 7: Design for Wellness
Using Insight, and Ladybug the building was reoriented to maximize lighting in residential, mixed-use and other spaces. Passive ventilation straggles are also important to the health of the residents and breathability of the building. Most of the buildings surface area is equipped with a double facade - fresh air enters the building through the buildings outer facade and circulates through the interior. In narrow areas, the building has also been designed to support cross ventilation cooling and circulating air in central zones.
Measure 8: Design for Resources
Studio M’s primary building material is Mass Timber, implementing a Post and Beam Glulam system with CLT flooring and walls. The building’s mass timber construction technique, is able to sequester over 980 Metric Tonnes of Carbon. Due to Pittsburgh’s unique location, most of the wood is harvested in state reducing transport cost and carbon footprint.
Measure 9: Design for Change
Since the site is located in the range of the Allegheny flood zone, the building footprint has been reduced to mitigate flood damage. The high ceilings on the first floor also allow expensive machinery from the maker space to be lifted away from damaging flood water. The middle volume of the building, where the makers, public, and residents all coexist has also been lifted entirely off the ground to avoid any sort of flooding. The open plan of the building is designed with long life loose fit in mind.
Measure 10: Design for Discovery
In order to create a building that successfully integrates design, the planning phase is critical. Learning how tools like Ladybug, Insight, and Honeybee inform the design have been invaluable learning opportunities which can now be utilized in future design processes.