Of the twenty-five competitions submissions, the design by acclaimed architect Rafael Viñoly was unanimously selected for its innovative combination of beauty and green engineering.
Inspired by the Convention Center’s location at the interface between the Allegheny River and downtown Pittsburgh, the building's expansive windows blur the boundaries between its interior and its surroundings, filling the space with natural light. The water feature along 10th Street connects visitors to the vibrant Cultural District and to the Three Rivers Heritage Trail along the waterfront.
The building’s unique curving roof was created with a suspension cable system, echoing the structure of the neighboring 6th, 7th, and 9th Street bridges (the historic “Three Sisters”). These cables replace conventional structural columns in the main halls, allowing the spaces to be naturally lit and saving 400 tons of steel in their construction. The roof’s elegant curve is also the key component of the building’s natural ventilation system, which harnesses the aerodynamics of river breezes for zero-cost cooling.
Additionally, building materials were strategically chosen to minimize environmental impacts. Nearly one tenth of the total building materials used, including steel, aluminum, drywall, and ceiling tiles, was made from post-consumer recycled content. Using recycled building materials saves both natural resources and energy. Processing recycled aluminum, for example, only costs 5% of what it takes to produce aluminum from raw materials. 50% of the new materials produced were within a 500 mile radius of Pittsburgh, thus reducing the carbon footprint.
Stainless steel was chosen as roofing material as a nod to Pittsburgh’s industrial history and because of its high recycled content, but it serves another green function as well. Traditional roof materials absorb solar energy and re-release it as heat, causing densely developed areas to be several degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside—a phenomenon known as the “urban heat island effect.” Using a highly-reflective roof cover prevents this excess heat from accumulating. In fact, our roof radiates seven times less heat energy than would a parking lot of the same size, keeping downtown cooler and air conditioning costs lower.
Shortly after its grand opening in 2003, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center was awarded Gold LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification by the United States Green Building Council, making it the first of its kind and one of the largest green buildings in the world.
Then in 2012, the building was awarded Platinum LEED® under Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance.