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 Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Pittsburgh's Top 10 in April

Pittsburgh's Top 10 in April

The 10 best things to do in April in Pittsburgh.
20 Great Biking & Hiking Trails in Western Pennsylvania

20 Great Biking & Hiking Trails in Western Pennsylvania

Each trail has been lovingly constructed and maintained, using old infrastructure to reconnect disparate communities.
A Superior Strategy? Kevin Sousa's Big Bet on Braddock

A Superior Strategy? Kevin Sousa's Big Bet on Braddock

Pittsburgh chef Kevin Sousa will draw on a fierce work ethic, community goodwill and faith in his own vision for Superior Motors, the progressive American spot he plans to open this year.
Getting Better Over Time: PNC Park at 15

Getting Better Over Time: PNC Park at 15

Adoration for PNC Park is near-universal. But would the park be the cherished baseball palace it is today if a few early proposals instead had become reality?
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Feed the Meter from your Phone? There May Soon be an App for That

Feed the Meter from your Phone? There May Soon be an App for That

But the plan from the Pittsburgh Parking Authority may have some strings attached.
Just Released: Trailer for Jake Gyllenhaal's New Movie Shot in Pittsburgh

Just Released: Trailer for Jake Gyllenhaal's New Movie Shot in Pittsburgh

The boxing drama "Southpaw" is set to arrive in theaters in late July.
Pittsburgh’s Billy Gardell Hosts ‘Monopoly’ Game Show

Pittsburgh’s Billy Gardell Hosts ‘Monopoly’ Game Show

The “Monopoly Millionaire’s Club” premieres this weekend.
Cutch Cuts the Locks

Cutch Cuts the Locks

The Pirates outfielder cut his hair for the first time in eight years.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Pittsburgh's Top 10 in April

Pittsburgh's Top 10 in April

The 10 best things to do in April in Pittsburgh.
20 Great Biking & Hiking Trails in Western Pennsylvania

20 Great Biking & Hiking Trails in Western Pennsylvania

Each trail has been lovingly constructed and maintained, using old infrastructure to reconnect disparate communities.
A Superior Strategy? Kevin Sousa's Big Bet on Braddock

A Superior Strategy? Kevin Sousa's Big Bet on Braddock

Pittsburgh chef Kevin Sousa will draw on a fierce work ethic, community goodwill and faith in his own vision for Superior Motors, the progressive American spot he plans to open this year.
Getting Better Over Time: PNC Park at 15

Getting Better Over Time: PNC Park at 15

Adoration for PNC Park is near-universal. But would the park be the cherished baseball palace it is today if a few early proposals instead had become reality?
PittGirl: Preparing for a World Series Toast

PittGirl: Preparing for a World Series Toast

Thanks to her husband believing in "happy wife, happy life," PittGirl has the perfect wine to celebrate the Pirates' ultimate victory.
Pittsburgh's Top 10 Things to Do in March

Pittsburgh's Top 10 Things to Do in March

Your 10 best bets for this month.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module