Completed in 2003, the facility was the first convention center to be certified with a Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) award by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for its exceptional environmental performance. In fact, the center also ranks as the largest “green” building in the world, providing architects and building owners with a blueprint for commercial sustainability.
Birdair played a major role in the project’s success, highlighting its capabilities beyond fabric in the field of steel and cable structure design. Working with Rafael Viñoly Architects, P.C., Birdair engineers devised a lightweight tensile system to support the building’s expansive metal roof, which slopes downward towards the waterfront of the Allegheny River, replicating the graceful curves of the city’s many suspension bridges.
This suspension-style roof – anchored by large exterior masts and various gauges of structural steel cable – offers many important benefits to reduce building cost, which is an important component towards green certification.
First, using suspension-bridge technology, Birdair’s engineers and Viñoly created a cost-effective, Spartan canopy that covers the facility with minimal steel components. Next, its sloping shape encourages cross ventilation of the main exhibit area by taking advantage of the river’s natural convection currents which produce fresh air and reduce air conditioning needs. This roofing system also functions as an enormous rain gutter, collecting substantial rain water and snow runoff which is reclaimed for irrigation purposes, reducing potable water consumption by 60 percent.
In keeping with Birdair’s other custom tensile structures, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center optimizes the use of natural daylight, with 75 percent of the building’s 313,000 square feet of exhibit space illuminated naturally as light pours through large glass walls. These light levels are maintained using Birdair’s PTFE Teflon-coated fabric membrane that hangs using vertical structures along the south side of the building’s exterior. This bright translucent material offers occupants and visitors shade and comfort as they enjoy the facility’s many events and attractions.