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

Top 10

Top 10

Your 10 best bets for October.
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.
Ed Piskor is Pittsburgh's Hip-Hop Historian

Ed Piskor is Pittsburgh's Hip-Hop Historian

Comic-book artist Ed Piskor continues to win critical acclaim and international fame with his “Hip Hop Family Tree” series of graphic novels.
Review: Istanbul Sofra

Review: Istanbul Sofra

Head to Istanbul Sofra, one of Regent Square’s new additions, for assorted lamb dishes, vegetarian starters and well-executed desserts.

The 412

NPR Blog Team Tries, Critiques Primanti Bros. Sandwich

NPR Blog Team Tries, Critiques Primanti Bros. Sandwich

The group behind the station's Sandwich Monday blog series orders the iconic sandwich and writes a review.
Pittsburgh Has 'America's Ugliest Accent'

Pittsburgh Has 'America's Ugliest Accent'

The results of the Gawker poll are in: We’re No. 1.
'Yinzer Goosebumps' Series Parodies the Horrors of 'Burgh Life

'Yinzer Goosebumps' Series Parodies the Horrors of 'Burgh Life

The great Benstonium is at again with this set of faux book covers.
The Great Pittsburgh Protractor Mystery

The Great Pittsburgh Protractor Mystery

Hundreds of protractors have been placed throughout the city. No one seems to know why.

Hot Reads

Top 10

Top 10

Your 10 best bets for October.
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.
Ed Piskor is Pittsburgh's Hip-Hop Historian

Ed Piskor is Pittsburgh's Hip-Hop Historian

Comic-book artist Ed Piskor continues to win critical acclaim and international fame with his “Hip Hop Family Tree” series of graphic novels.
Review: Istanbul Sofra

Review: Istanbul Sofra

Head to Istanbul Sofra, one of Regent Square’s new additions, for assorted lamb dishes, vegetarian starters and well-executed desserts.
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.