by Audrey Buck

Phipps Conservatory

Right before I sat down to right this post, I had just come from ARCH 131S, my first year architecture studio course. It is only the second week of school, and I already know it’s going to be a very grueling class; the professor is challenging, and the assignments are continuously time consuming. I have no right to complain, though, because I knew this would be the case when I decided to pursue the career of an architect. I realize that for the rest of my life I will be slaving over designs and throwing my heart and soul into projects that will potentially be rejected and fail. Why did I choose this career path with a seemingly turbulent future? I decided to become an architect because I knew that I could make the world a cleaner, safer, more sustainable place to be with my buildings. People like Rolf Disch, Jean Nouvell, and Frank Loyd Wright ( have inspired me with their green buildings, and I want to use this blog to inspire you.

I hope to use this blog to share some intriguing, sustainable, and perhaps fantastical works of architecture. Every building that I focus on will have one thing in common; each design will be LEED certified. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certification is a standard created by the U.S. Green Building Council that challenges architects and designers to think outside of the box ( In order to be LEED certified, a project must meet a set of standards, and depending on how many prerequisites are met, the project is assigned a level of certification: certified, silver, gold, and platinum. The first building I wish to highlight is not far from Penn State and was granted LEED silver certification in 2006. The name of the project is The Phipps Conservatory Welcome Center.

Phipps Conservatory opened in 1893 and the welcome center is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. The conservatory has always had a strong commitment to protecting the earth, so when the time came for the welcome center to be revamped and expanded, it seemed necessary that the building meet LEED standards. The new welcome center was completed in May of 2005. The now 12,465 square-foot building houses admissions area, gift shops, bathrooms, and a cafe. A special feature of the building is that parts of it lie underground. This element was added to the design for two reasons: one, so as not to block the view of the frount lawn from the Lord and Burnham conservatory, and two, to increase the center’s energy efficiency. Even though it is partially situated underground, the building does not lack natural light. The large glass dome lets in plenty of sunlight and allows for natural ventilation. The photo above showcases the beautiful green roof that covers the majority of the top of the center.

My favorite part of the welcome center that I believe to be most innovative is the heating, cooling, and air conditioning (HVAC) system they have in place. Phipps Conservatory uses a system that only heats or cools areas where people gather. They realized that it wasn’t necessary to waste precious energy on moderating temperatures in little used spaces and instead focused their energy (powered by 100% wind power, of course) on in-use conference rooms, bathrooms, and offices. Imagine what a difference that idea would make if it became the standard building model. Phipps conservatory saved up to 40% in energy costs by putting this system in place. For more information about the different sustainable features included in this design visit

What do you think is the most impressive part of the center? Is sustainable design something that should be done more often in historical renovations? Do you think that it’s more important for a building to be beautiful and preserved or environmentally friendly?

2 Responses to “Phipps Conservatory”

  1. cxp5292

    After reading your RCL post, I can tell that you are very passionate about conserving the environment and I like how that theme was seen throughout both posts. You obviously did a lot of research for your post and I found it very informative and interesting. I liked that you explained how the building was energy efficient instead of just spewing out facts without giving context. Your links were all very relevant and enhanced my understanding of the topic. Good Job.

  2. dvr5279

    Amazing post! It is very obvious that you are passionate about this topic which makes sense cause it is a Passion Post haha, but still I think that with this post you are able to address an audience that doesn’t have to include just architect majors and architecture fans. I am an Econ major, and I’m not very knowledgeable with architecture, but you describe everything very thoroughly, and I enjoyed reading your post very much.

Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar