Pittsburgh Talent on the National Stage: The Projects We Don’t Get to See

At Green Building Alliance, we relish the fact that we get to see, touch, and learn about our region’s high-performing building projects, and share those projects with you! But many practitioners in our region are also working on some inspiring projects in places far from Pittsburgh’s borders. At this event, we’ll learn about what some of our friends in Pittsburgh are working on in other parts of the country – places we may never get to see in person, and innovations that might not yet be on our radar. We’ll learn about a few cool projects, including these:



Pikes Peak Summit House

Pittsburgh transplant Pete Jefferson moved here four years ago from Denver, Colorado and has quickly made Pittsburgh his home. But in addition to gaining a reputation as a go-to green building expert here in Western Pennsylvania, he still engages in high-performing projects around the country as a partner in Omaha-based ME Group (of which Pete heads the Pittsburgh office). One such project is the Summit House on Pikes Peak, near Pete’s old stomping ground. ME Group is overseeing the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing design and building performance modeling for the project (see the rest of the design team here). Pikes Peak is known as “America’s Mountain” and welcomes more than 600,000 visitors each year. It’s a place where all people, regardless of age or ability, can experience the summit of a 14,000 peak. The deterioration of the current Summit house provided an opportunity to engage in a design and construction process that would embrace the harsh conditions of the site, protect the environment, and improve visitor experience.

At 14,115 above sea level, the Pikes Peak Summit House is the highest elevation public building in the country. This project is impressive for a number of reasons, including the fact that it is pursuing both LEED and Living Building Challenge Certification while also being designed to withstand temperatures that sink to 50 below zero and wind speeds reaching 195 miles per hour. As part of Living Building Challenge Certification, the building will be required to achieve Net Positive Energy and Net Positive Water, a major challenge in a state with the toughest water laws in the country (it sits on the Continental Divide). Some other project highlights include:

  • The project anticipates capturing all of the Energy Credits and Water Reduction credits available in the LEED rating system
  • As a Zero Net Energy project, all renewable energy credits are being pursued
  • The challenging project site encourages prefabrication off-site, reducing material waste
  • The harsh environment has led to the exploration of arctic flora and fauna for design inspiration, and incorporated biomimicry throughout the design process


The Hillandale Gateway Development

Brandon Nicholson, founder of NK Architects, moved to Pittsburgh from Seattle five years ago and splits his time between the two cities, as his firm has presence in both places. Brandon has quickly become a fixture in our region’s Passive House community, most recently serving as President of Passive House of Western PA. The Hillandale Gateway development, designed by Nicholson Kovalchick (NK) Architects and Torti Gallas for the Housing Opportunities of Commission of Montgomery County and Duffie Companies, will be one of the largest Passive House communities in North America. The 750,000 SF project includes over 500 units housed in a 10-story tower and 8-story midrise. Also pursuing LEED for Homes Platinum certification, the development will feature a rooftop solar array that fully power the tower (on a Net Zero basis) with solar energy to spare. The development is a mix of senior housing, affordable housing, and market rate units, with 15,000 SF of ground floor retail.

By applying lessons learned from other large-scale Passive House projects, NK Architects has helped guide the project team to a mechanical system design that simplifies and reduces equipment cost, offsetting the extra investment in the Passive House building envelope. Current contractor estimates of the per-unit cost of the project puts Hillandale Gateway at or very near to cost parity with conventional construction.

Event Address: 
33 Terminal Way
Suite 331
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Event Date: 
Wednesday, June 13, 2018 - 3:00pm to 6:00pm
Event Location: 
GBA Office