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."

Hot Reads

Made in Pittsburgh

Made in Pittsburgh

The city of steel always has been known for its industry – what we make. Today, that defining characteristic expands beyond manufacturing into every aspect of modern life: to technology, clothing, home goods and unique food and drink products as well.
Ed Piskor is Pittsburgh's Hip-Hop Historian

Ed Piskor is Pittsburgh's Hip-Hop Historian

While he can walk largely unrecognized in his hometown, comic-book artist Ed Piskor of Munhall continues to win critical acclaim and international fame with “Hip Hop Family Tree,” a series of graphic novels telling the story of hip-hop music.
Review: Sienna Mercato

Review: Sienna Mercato

Matthew Porco, one of our Chefs of the Year, designs the menus at Sienna Mercato's downtown establishments.
Film Noir Fall Fashion

Film Noir Fall Fashion

Fall into autumn with a fashion landscape awash in black, white and nifty shades of gray.

The 412

Bryant McFadden Wants to Talk to You

Bryant McFadden Wants to Talk to You

The former Steelers cornerback joins the 120 Sports team to keep you up to speed on all things sporting.
Celebrate Our 'Up-and-Coming Nightlife City' Status With Pittsburgh Cocktail Week

Celebrate Our 'Up-and-Coming Nightlife City' Status With Pittsburgh Cocktail Week

Raise a glass to another 'Burgh superlative at these awesome cocktail parties.
Pittsburgh is One of the Most Cycling-Friendly U.S. Cities

Pittsburgh is One of the Most Cycling-Friendly U.S. Cities

Bicycling mag ranks the Steel City at No. 21 on its list of 50 metropolises.
Thrival Festival Rocked Bakery Square 2.0

Thrival Festival Rocked Bakery Square 2.0

Relive the two-day event that was part innovation and part musical brilliance.

Hot Reads

Made in Pittsburgh

Made in Pittsburgh

The city of steel always has been known for its industry – what we make. Today, that defining characteristic expands beyond manufacturing into every aspect of modern life: to technology, clothing, home goods and unique food and drink products as well.
Ed Piskor is Pittsburgh's Hip-Hop Historian

Ed Piskor is Pittsburgh's Hip-Hop Historian

While he can walk largely unrecognized in his hometown, comic-book artist Ed Piskor of Munhall continues to win critical acclaim and international fame with “Hip Hop Family Tree,” a series of graphic novels telling the story of hip-hop music.
Review: Sienna Mercato

Review: Sienna Mercato

Matthew Porco, one of our Chefs of the Year, designs the menus at Sienna Mercato's downtown establishments.
An Open Letter to Local Sports Reporters

An Open Letter to Local Sports Reporters

PittGirl has had enough of the criticism of fanatics and asks the media to stop labeling everyone.
Film Noir Fall Fashion

Film Noir Fall Fashion

Fall into autumn with a fashion landscape awash in black, white and nifty shades of gray.
8 Foodie Day Trips (and a Few Weekends, Too)

8 Foodie Day Trips (and a Few Weekends, Too)

Hoping to take a leaf-peeping road trip? Keep food at the top of your priority list and consult our lineup of eight destinations, most within 150 miles of the city.