Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was recently awarded Living Building certification for its Center for Sustainable Landscapes facility. Now, the organization is hoping to follow suit with a new on-site classroom. The SEEDclassroom is only one of two of its kind in the US.
Gizmag featured the SEEDclassroom concept back in 2013, prior to any having being installed anywhere. The first installation took place in May last year at the Perkins School in Seattle. Ric Cochrane of the SEEDcollaborative, which designed the classroom, tells Gizmag that the Perkins School installation is on target to achieve Living Building certification. A mandatory indoor air quality test is due to take place in May, with energy and water systems monitoring set to begin in June.
The SEEDclassroom structure itself is designed to be self-sustaining, easily transportable and modular. It is aimed at being a sustainable, inspiring and healthy space for education.
Among the features of the classroom are a design that allows for abundant natural daylight and exposed systems that encourage engagement and inquiry from students. The SEEDcollaborative is clear that the classrooms are not just spaces for book-learning, but are opportunities for hands-on and experiential learning in themselves.
The SEEDclassroom is designed to consume both net-zero water and net-zero energy. Solar panels will generate all of the electricity required. A green wall treats grey water, and rainwater is collected and filtered for use in the building. Sanitary water, meanwhile, is treated in constructed wetlands.
Phipps plans to use the SEEDclassroom as a space to host some of its current programs, as well as for new programs that will include field trips for learning about how the building works. Children as young as two right through to adults will use the space.
"One important initiative we think we can bring to the table is exposure," says executive director of Phipps Richard Piacentini to Gizmag. "This is not a classroom that is tucked away at a facility where only the teachers and students who use it get to experience it. This building is part of our campus and the visitor experience which reaches over 350,000 visitors each year."
The SEEDclassroom is not yet Living Building certified, but Phipps says it has every intention of achieving certification. In order to do so, the performance of the classroom must be monitored for a full 12 months.
The classroom was installed at Phipps on March 17th. The interior needs decorating and a green wall will be added, whilst decking and landscaping will be added outside. It is expected to be ready for use from April 25th.