At 644 acres, Frick Park is the largest historic park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and where visitors are greeted with the first municipal building to embark upon both LEED Platinum and Living Builidng Challenge certifications. The second one, the Living Building Challenge, is as rigorous as it gets. You can find all the standards via a free download of their website, but here are a few of the requirements:
- 100% of the building’s energy needs, on a net annual basis, must be supplied by on-site renewable energy. No combustion is allowed.
- All buildings must process their own wastewater.
- Most projects must integrate opportunities for agriculture
- Encourage “human-powered” mobility. Think encouraging the use of stairs and amble places for folks to walk and ride/store bikes at the facility.
- 100% of water needs must be supplied through precipitation or closed-loop water systems, and must be purified without the use of chemicals.
The second bullet point, that all facilities must process their own wastewater is where PittMoss comes in. We met with Phil Gruszka, Director of Horticulture and Forestry at the Frick Environmental Center, to learn more about the project and the reasons they incorporated PittMoss.
Gruszka detailed the stringent requirements they had to meet to complete the Living Building Challenge, highlighting that all products needed to be heavily vetted. When tackling the issue of treating waste water they extensively researched soils, and concluded that a peat based solution would not meet the requirement because the center was “philosophically opposed to diluting peatlands”, remarked Gruszka. Aside from not relying on peat, the team assessed that the area had a high percolation rate, meaning that there was a lot of water moving through the soil. This meant that a drip system would not properly aerate the soil, threatening the health of the trees and plants in the surrounding the area. This was critical to solve, because the intention of the treatment site would grow to become a green space.
The challenge became finding a sustainable media that allowed for air and water to move through it. They settled on amending sand with PittMoss. PittMoss had the physical properties but Gruszka emphasized that the product “provides surface for cation-exchange” that aids in delivering nutrients to the surrounding plants. Furthermore, the commitment PittMoss has to sourcing material locally to produce the product contributes to the sustainability of the water treatment site. “Anytime we do any work it’s about sustainability, you can not improve the environment of one place by degrading the environment of another,” remarked Gruszka.
Phil Gruszka of the Frick Enviornmental Center explains to Ashley Mariani of PittMoss how they managed the project.
The Frick Environmental Center celebrated their opening on Earth Day, with a crew from PittMoss on hand to create origami pots filled with PittMoss potting soil and seeds for visitors. Fans of green tech were treated to solar panel covered parking lots, geothermal wells for heating and cooling, and a “rain-veil” that is as beautiful as it is resourceful. Today, the center hosts community, family and school programs and serves as a model for sustainable building in Western Pennsylvania. PittMoss was proud to help the center with its important mission of providing a space to learn about and enjoy the environment while contributing to its preservation.
A view of the water treatment area a year after applied. Plants are starting to grow, on course for the goal of turning the area into a green space.
The Pittsburgh Park’s Conservancy put together this great recap of the project. Check it out below and learn more about the Frick Environmental Center here.