The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, in partnership with the City of Pittsburgh, rebuilt the Environmental Center at Frick Park, with the aim to meet the highest possible 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.
Nitsch Engineering provided sustainable design and consulting services associated with the stormwater/water management systems for the project. At the onset of the project, Nitsch Engineering worked closely with the owner and the design team to develop a unique understanding of the regional and local environmental issues and explored a range of strategies aimed at preserving and restoring the Park’s ecosystem by designing in harmony with nature. Nitsch Engineering prepared planning through schematic-level drawings for the ecological stormwater management and rainwater harvesting systems, and consulted with the Team, including the local civil engineer, to complete the design.
The water management strategy for Frick Park Environmental Center is based on addressing relevant Living Building Challenge imperatives. Nitsch Engineering proposed several low-impact development techniques and integrated management practices to manage site water to align with the ecological water flow imperative and to contribute to the net zero water imperative (the remainder of which is addressed through the plumbing systems).
The approach to managing stormwater is three-fold. First, the project uses permeable paving materials and disconnect impervious surfaces so that the project does not generate direct stormwater run-off from at-grade impervious surfaces. Second, 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. Finally, 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 involves ways to manage wastewater onsite. Proposed 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, shower, dishwasher, and washing machines onsite. Frick Environmental Center is a certified Living Building that has achieved LEED Platinum certification. The project is the recipient of many design awards, including an American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment (COTE) 2019 Top Ten Award.