Cassell Hall receives Gold LEED Certification

Frank A. Cassell Hall, the first sustainable building on the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg campus, recently received Gold LEED certification from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is the rating system used to designate certification of sustainable buildings. It provides third party verification that projects satisfy prerequisites (required elements or green building strategies) and have earned the appropriate number of points to achieve different levels of certification. LEED rating systems generally have 100 base points plus six Innovation in Design points and four Regional Priority points for a total of 110 points. To achieve a Gold LEED rating, a building has to score between 60 and 79 points.

“In many ways, Cassell Hall is a physical manifestation of the exciting transformation that is on-going at Pitt-Greensburg,” said Sharon P. Smith, president of the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. “We are creating a visionary new model for liberal arts education, one that keeps faith with past traditions of learning while simultaneously reconceiving a liberal arts education for a world of rapid change in which ways of thinking and communicating have been transformed. Cassell Hall articulates perfectly within a beautiful campus, respecting that environment, and reconceiving designs from existing buildings in new ways for new learning purposes and thus bridges past and future.”

Cassell Hall, which started construction in 2011, officially opened for use in August 2012 and was the recipient of the 2012 Master Building Excellence Award for new construction under $10 million. Presented annually, the Building Excellence Awards are the highest and most sought after commercial construction industry awards in the region. The building is named in honor of Frank A. Cassell, PhD, the third president of the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg.

Forty Eighty Architecture designed the building to occupy the steeply sloping hillside along the south bank of Slate Run. The design of the building specifically incorporates aspects of other buildings on campus including the historic Lynch Hall. Rycon Construction, Inc., served as the contractor for the project.

“FortyEighty Architecture is very pleased that Cassell Hall has been awarded LEED Gold Certification for New Construction from the US Green Building Council (USGBC). The USGBC and LEED serves as a national benchmark for the design, construction, and maintenance of high performance green buildings, and this Gold Certification highlights the sustainable strategies that root Cassell Hall into both the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg campus and the western Pennsylvania region,” explained Kent Suhrbier, AIA, LEED AP, principal at FortyEight Architecture.

“While the building was designed to be energy efficient, healthy, and to use its materials wisely, the site’s adjacency to Slate Run required special sensitivity to water use, control and quality,” Suhrbier continued. “We are particularly pleased that Cassell Hall has been awarded all of the available credits for water efficiency and storm water design. By final count, over 32 percent of the materials and components in Cassell Hall come from the western Pennsylvania region, and the project has also been recognized with the maximum available Regional Priority Credits.  I look forward to watching Cassell Hall, its green roofs, and gardens, grow into the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg campus and community for years to come.”

The building was made possible through funding, in part, from various sources, including the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation, which donated the largest gift in the history of the Greensburg campus, the Richard King Mellon Foundation, and the Timken Foundation. Federal funds were also provided through the support of Congressman Tim Murphy.

Cassell Hall is a two-story, 16,500 square-foot building that was designed to realize 30 percent annual energy savings and reduce water usage by 50 percent. A complete explanation of the building’s facilities and features may be found here:

Highlights include:

  • Two green roofs that feed a rainwater harvesting cistern. The cistern provides non-potable grey water for the building’s toilets and is expected to reduce water usage by more than 50 percent. Grey water is returned to the building for flushing of toilets, a drip irrigation system, and service water at the green roofs.
  • The landscaping around the building that is an extension of the natural site and includes native flowers and trees as part of demonstrative rain gardens and storm water bioswales for on-site storm water management. (Native plants require less watering and help to support a healthy ecosystem. Rainwater from the building roof is collected, filtered through natural plantings, and stored in a 5,000 gallon cistern located below parking.)
  • The use of design elements that enhance shading and natural light in order to maximize daylight while minimizing solar heat gain. 
  • Radiant floors will provide an energy efficient way to heat spaces and keep heat low, where the people are.
  • Energy-efficient heat pumps and advanced mechanical systems with multi-zone controls also contribute to energy savings.

The energy savings from these various features allow the building to use more than:

  • 28 percent less energy for heating and cooling than a similar new facility;
  • 50 percent less water than a similar new facility.

Additionally, a minimum of 25 percent recycled materials and 25 percent local and regional materials were used in the buildings construction. Fifty-percent of the scrap material created by the buildings construction was recycled or salvaged. Materials used throughout the building were selected because of being made from recycled material or renewable resources. Materials with low VOC (volatile organic compound) ratings were selected for carpeting, paints, and adhesives in order to minimize indoor air pollutants. The building details and finishes are designed to incorporate and demonstrate materials and finishes that are healthy, recycled, and sourced as locally as possible.

Cassell Hall is the most visible evidence of Pitt-Greensburg’s efforts to be greener. Multiple ongoing recycling projects provide a sustainable way for the campus to dispose of paper, phone books, batteries, printer cartridges, books, and shoes.  At the end of each spring term, students also are encouraged to recycle unopened, nonperishable food, gently used clothing, furniture, and gently used household items for donation to multiple charities in the Greensburg area. Other sustainable campus activities include participation in Pitt’s “Read Green” program and a dynamic recycling committee.

Chartwells, the campus dining service, strives to purchase locally grown organic food when possible and reduce wasted food and water usage by eliminating trays. Its other efforts include Project Green Thumb recycling and composting program and the Trim Trax program to track, measure, and reduce kitchen waste.

Complete details on Pitt-Greensburg’s efforts to become greener may be found at

Publication Date

Friday, April 4, 2014 - 9:45am