House That for Going Green?

A new zero-emissions building at Bayer's Robinson campus offers a window to the future of green construction.



Bayer's net zero-emissions EcoCommercial Building, designed by Penn State students, draws power from the sun.

Photo courtesy of Bayer MaterialScience

You can't turn on the TV these days without being bombarded by commercials for corporations that are talking the talk about "going green." But one company with roots in Pittsburgh is walking the walk: Bayer MaterialScience recently unveiled a solar-powered, net zero-energy, net zero-emissions conference center on the campus of its North American headquarters in Robinson.

The teched-out, 800-square-foot structure, called the Bayer EcoCommercial Building, was originally designed by Penn State University students as a residential-housing concept for the U.S. Department of Energy's 2009 Solar Decathlon competition in Washington, D.C. To support the project, Bayer provided the students with its expertise and high-tech, sustainable materials, including energy-saving spray foam insulation, LED interior lighting and eco-friendly floor coatings. (See, Bayer is much more than just "the aspirin company.")

Other local companies, such as PPG Industries and Eaton Corp., collaborated on the project, which gives a glimpse at how our own homes and offices could become "smarter" in the immediate future, reducing our energy bills by harnessing sunlight, eliminating drafts and even self regulating power consumption.

The EcoCommerical Building is tapped into the local power grid and equipped with a device that displays the building's energy consumption in real time. So during summer nights, the building may need to borrow energy from the grid to keep itself cool, but when the sun rises the next day, the solar-panel array on the roof generates excess energy that is "repaid" to the grid. As of press time, Bayer reports that, overall, the EcoCommercial Building has actually produced more energy than it has consumed.

Mark Witman, manager of construction-industry innovation, says Bayer plans to use the space to showcase its materials to architects, engineers, students and companies that are pursuing sustainable construction projects, including Wal-Mart, McDonald's and PNC Financial Services Group.

"Architects want to see things in action," he explains. "You can give them a lot of brochures, but they want to see solutions on a building. This is a proving ground for us."

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Watch: The Terrible Towel and 45 Years of Steelers Nation

Perspectives from Franco Harris to Joe Manganiello.

Yinzers Eating Chicken Wings Are Going to Be on TV

Mt. Washington’s Bigham Tavern is the latest ‘Burgh eatery to host a film crew.

Madeline Bakery and Bistro to Open in Wilkinsburg

The French-inspired bakery will feature croissants, cookies, bread and more.

32 Years Celebrating Pittsburghers of the Year

As we honor the 2017 Pittsburghers of the year, take a look back at the previous honorees and their significant, unforgettable contributions to our city.

Wish a Steeler a Speedy Recovery in a Big Way

An oversized get-well-soon card for Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier is waiting for your signature Downtown.

Watch: Who is Faster on a Zamboni? Crosby or Malkin?

Sid and Geno love to compete, especially against each other. This time, the future Hall-of-Famers climbed aboard Zamboni machines for a race across a parking lot.

2017 Pittsburgher of the Year: Kelly Frey

No one would blame the veteran WTAE anchor if she took time off while undergoing intensive breast cancer treatment. Instead, she chose to use humor and grace to educate and inspire others, all while in the public eye.

Steelers Can't Ease Their Patriots Pain Until January

Much as they’d like to, the Steelers won’t be able to exorcise the ghosts of AFC Championship Games Past, even with a win on Sunday.

Green Medicine: The Business of Medical Marijuana

For many, medical marijuana is a panacea capable of alleviating a wide range of symptoms. As Pennsylvania begins allowing the drug’s medical use, patients are relieved — and business is booming.

Restaurant Review: Casbah Still is Rocking

More than 20 years into its run, Casbah remains one of Pittsburgh’s most relevant restaurants.