Environmental Center at Frick Park

Pittsburgh, PA
Key Elements
  • Sustainable stormwater management 
  • Net positive water goal 
  • Living Building certified and LEED Platinum 

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy (PPC), in partnership with the City of Pittsburgh, rebuilt the Environmental Center at Frick Park to meet the highest standards for green design of both the built environment and the landscape, while simultaneously honoring the rich historic design of the park and the needs of current users.  

At the onset of the project, Nitsch worked closely with PPC, the sustainability consultant, architect, and landscape architect to develop a unique understanding of the regional and local environmental issues on the 2.5-acre site, and explored a range of strategies aimed at preserving and restoring the Park’s ecosystem by designing in harmony with nature. Nitsch collaborated closely with the landscape architect to develop the site water strategy and ecological stormwater concepts. 

The water management strategy for Frick Park Environmental Center is based on addressing the Living Building Challenge Petal for water. Nitsch proposed several low-impact development techniques and integrated management practices to manage site water to contribute to the goal of net positive water. The approach to managing stormwater is three-fold: 

  1. The project uses permeable paving materials and disconnects impervious surfaces so that the project does not generate direct stormwater run-off from at-grade impervious surfaces.  
  2. The project harvests rooftop run-off from the Environmental Center and Barn, as well as excess run-off from the landscape, for reuse for the building and site. 
  3. Excess water is retained onsite in a newly created ecological zone, with a baseflow/overflow connection to the existing stream to mimic the existing conditions. 

The project also includes ways to manage wastewater onsite. Solutions include composting toilets to manage blackwater in the building, and a constructed wastewater wetland with a sand filter to manage greywater from the sinks, showers, dishwashers, and washing machines onsite. 

As a result of the design, the project earned Living Building certification and LEED Platinum rating. 

Key Collaborators 

Owner: Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy 
Architect: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson 
Landscape Architect: LaQuatra Bonci Associates 
Sustainability Consultant: Atelier Ten