Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 66.51
Liaison Aurora Sharrard
Submission Date Feb. 28, 2021

STARS v2.2

University of Pittsburgh
OP-9: Landscape Management

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 0.86 / 2.00 Will Mitchell
Senior Manager of Custodial Services
Facilities Management
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Total campus area:
145 Acres

Figures required to calculate the total area of managed grounds:
Area (double-counting is not allowed)
Area managed organically, without the use of inorganic fertilizers and chemical pesticides, fungicides and herbicides 0 Acres
Area managed in accordance with an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program that uses selected chemicals only when needed 125 Acres
Area managed using conventional, chemical-based landscape management practices 20 Acres
Total area of managed grounds 145 Acres

A brief description of any land excluded from the area of managed grounds:

Pitt's urban campus "land" excludes building footprints and impervious surfaces and outdoor synthetic field surfaces.

Percentage of grounds managed organically:

A brief description of the organic landscape management program:

On April 5, 2017 the University of Pittsburgh published its Sustainable Landscape Design Guidelines, which were created with Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (as consultant). The University’s Sustainable Landscape Design Guidelines address design criteria such as plant selection (native and adaptable only), minimizing hardscape and using permeable materials, stormwater management, habitat, biodiversity, and all other ecosystem services. The guidelines are consistent with the University's achievement of having the Head of Grounds and several landscape personnel achieving Sustainable Landcare Accreditation and are Division S of the University’s larger Design Guidelines.
Read Division S: https://www.fm.pitt.edu/sites/default/files/pictures/Design_Manual/DIVISION-S.pdf


The 2018 Pitt Sustainability Plan fully embraced and embedded the Sustainable Landscape Design Guidelines it is Landscape and Ecology impact area and goals. Specific goals in this area include:

• Maintaining 75% of landscaped areas in accordance with Northeast Organic Farming Association Standards by 2025, ensuring a healthy environment for plants and pollinators alike.
• Adhere to Pitt’s Sustainable Landscape Design Guidelines for all new landscape designs.
• Replacing 15% of lawn area with indigenous and adapted plant species by 2030.
• Increasing tree canopy 50% by 2030

Learn more: https://www.sustainable.pitt.edu/impacts/landscape-and-ecology/

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (Pitt's neighbor in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood) established its Sustainable Landcare Accreditation to provide educational resources for landscape and lawn care professionals. Accredited professionals must attend a three-day accreditation course, pass an exam, pledge to provide sustainable land care according to the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) Standards for Organic Land Care, and attend a minimum level of relevant landscaping education every two years.

As a result of both the Sustainable Landscape Design Guidelines and the Pitt Sustainability Plan, the University has been incorporating more organic products into its landscaping operations. An assortment of new products are regularly evaluated for effectiveness, with the most successful products incorporated into our standard maintenance procedures. Organic products such as compost, mulches, and mushroom manure are used in flower beds to enhance the nutrient value of the soil. Very little synthetic fertilizer is used on campus, and opportunities such as compost teas are being explored to further reduce the use of these products.

Many Pitt hillsides have been planted with trees, shrubs, and groundcovers to reduce stormwater runoff and mowing requirements -- and several large concrete areas have been replaced with green space.

A concerted effort has been made in recent years to increase the quantity of perennials, native, and drought-tolerant plants, using more native plants that require less watering and maintenance.

All landscape waste is composted off-site, and mulching lawnmowers are used to return nutrients to the soil through grass clippings. All mulch used on campus is made from recycled natural materials and is purchased from the same vendor who takes the University's landscape materials for composting.

Irrigation is limited and (where necessary) is provided only during optimal times to reduce water usage. The few irrigation systems on campus have been outfitted with rain sensors that are activated according to the moisture levels in the soil. This not only reduces the amount of water used for irrigation by only irrigating when necessary, but helps to reduce rain run off resulting from saturated soils.

The University also has been adding new drop spreaders for the application of snow melting materials on sidewalks. The spreaders do a much better job of applying materials more directly to sidewalks than the older rotary spreaders, thereby reducing the amount of overcast materials getting into soils and impacting plants and lawns. Due to these practices, during Winter 2015/16, the University realized an estimated 50% reduction in the amount of materials required during normal snow and ice events.

Percentage of grounds managed in accordance with an IPM program:

A copy of the IPM plan or program:
A brief description of the IPM program:

As documented in Credit IN-29, the University of Pittsburgh has two external Integrated Pest Management (IPM) vendors, BOTH of whom hold the GreenPro certification, which recognizes pest management companies committed to providing commercial and residential customers with reduced risk, comprehensive and effective pest control services. Documentation of the IPM plan for one of those providers is attached.

A brief description of the institution's approach to plant stewardship:

The University of Pittsburgh has made a concerted effort to increase the use of native and ecologically appropriate, low maintenance plants, following an approved plant list in the Sustainable Landscape Design Guidelines (SLDG). The University does not purchase any plant materials from the SLDG invasive plant list and designs landscapes for appropriately sized plants that will require limited maintenance.

During construction & renovation projects, the University installs fencing around the root zones of trees and shrubs and does not permit construction activities in those areas. If necessary, trees and shrubs are removed and stored, then replaced at the end of the project or installed in alternate locations on campus.

As noted above, new drop spreaders have significantly reduced the amount of snow melting materials required to clear sidewalks by eliminating overspray, resulting in less impact to surrounding plants and lawns.

The University is working on a more detailed tree maintenance program to better document and improve campus tree management and has been working to plant additional trees in many areas.

As part of the Campus Master Plan process in 2017-18, Pitt completed two separate tree inventories logging the health and structural condition of all trees, which are embedded in both the Campus and Institutional Master Plans – and the basis for the work of the Campus Tree Advisory Committee, which is a subcommittee of the Chancellor’s Advisory Council on Sustainability. The diverse and interdisciplinary Campus Tree Advisory Committee works to help maintain the beauty of the campus landscape, while protecting the environment and fostering conservation efforts within the community. Its goals are to:

• Coordinate efforts across the university to reach the institutional goal of increasing the tree canopy on campus 50% by 2030
• Develop a Campus Tree Care Plan to establish planting & maintenance practices that are conducive to healthy tree populations
• Lead the University’s application for Tree Campus USA certification through the Arbor Day Foundation

Learn more about Pitt’s Tree Committee: https://www.sustainable.pitt.edu/campus-tree-advisory-committee/

Pitt’s Pittsburgh campus achieved its Bee Campus certification in 2020 and hopes to achieve Tree Campus certification in 2021. This work is guided by the Pollinator Habitat Advisory Committee (a subcommittee of the Chancellor’s Advisory Council on Sustainability), which works to help make our campus environment more supportive of healthy, native pollinator populations. The Committee’s primary goals are to: 1) Create and advise on the implementation a Campus Pollinator Habitat Plan, which sets guidelines for plant choices and landscaping practices; and 2) Lead the University’s annual Bee Campus USA application through the Xerces Society.

Though not applicable to this application, Pitt’s Bradford campus is already Tree Campus USA certified – and in 2019, the Pitt Johnstown campus was the first Pennsylvania University Designated as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary by Audubon International.
Learn more about Pitt Johnstown’s Audubon Sanctuary designation: https://www.pittwire.pitt.edu/accolades/pitt-johnstown-pennsylvanias-first-campus-audubon-cooperative-sanctuary

A brief description of the institution's approach to hydrology and water use:

The University of Pittsburgh is committed to responsible consumption of potable and nonpotable water sources and use best-practice stormwater management and reuse on campus. The 2018 Pitt Sustainability Plan lays out a number of goals in that regard, including:

• Strive toward a water neutral campus, with a 3% reduction
in water use by 2020 from 2017 baseline.
• Embrace the 2030 District goals of 50% reduction below the district average in water use intensity (consumption per square foot) by 2030 and establish design standards and operational practices to achieve them.
• Reduce impervious surfaces by 20% by 2030 from 2017 baseline.
• Divert 25% of stormwater from remaining impervious surfaces to rain gardens, bioswales, rainwater harvesting tanks, or other green stormwater infrastructure or reuse by 2030.

The University of Pittsburgh 9 green roofs in eight campus locations of various types distributed across campus to HELP reduce stormwater runoff and lessen the impact on the City of Pittsburgh's aging stormwater system. These include:
• Green Roofs: Benedum Hall and Falk School
• Pollinator Patios: Barco Law, Hillman Library, Nordenberg Hall, and Posvar Hall
• Partial Roof Plantings: Forbes Hall, Posvar Hall, Schenley Quad
Several new buildings under design and construction are also expected to have green roofs.

The University also has 9 rain gardens across campus to help detain and absorb excess rainwater, enabling it to naturally infiltrate into and nourish the soil, while helping mitigate Pittsburgh’s combined sewer overflow (CSO) issues. Students often help Ground design and construct rain gardens – and sites have been evaluated for additional installations.
• Bigelow Boulevard includes a series of rain gardens.
• Cathedral Rain Garden – Is very visible, located on the Cathedral lawn between Heinz Chapel and the log cabin. A new lawn was installed and was designed with specialized materials and a drainage system to drain directly to the new rain garden. Bioswales were constructed as part of a new construction project to provide natural drainage to the site.
• Petersen Events Center Rain Gardens – This location now features 4 different rain gardens; 1 was the University’s first rain garden, which came to fruition form ideas initiated by students; it now also hosts a solitary bee house.
• Salk Hall Annex Rain Garden
• Sutherland Hall Rain Gardens - Expanded to include 2 rain gardens in 2020.

Learn more about green roofs & rain gardens: https://www.sustainable.pitt.edu/what-pitt-is-doing/pollinators-at-pitt/

Learn more about 2021 Bigelow Boulevard Reopening Transformation, including above and below ground stormwater amenities: https://www.sustainable.pitt.edu/bigelow-boulevard-transformation

A natural underground aquifer was discovered during construction of a campus building -- and an access point was built into the project to allow access to the untreated water. The water is collected into a specially designed truck power by solar -- and is used in summer months for watering flowerbeds and hanging baskets.

The small number of irrigation systems on campus are being outfitted with rain sensors designed to operate only when soil conditions dictate. This will not only reduce the amount of water used for irrigation, but will also reduce run off from saturated soils. Since the publication of the Sustainability Plan in December 2017, all new projects consider green stormwater infrastructure and rainwater reuse first, including the collection of roof runoff for reuse as cooling tower or boiler makeup water -- as well as irrigation. While new irrigation systems are discouraged, all new irrigation systems are installed with rain stations that suspend the automatic irrigation cycle if it is raining or has sufficiently rained.

As further documented under OP-22, The University of Pittsburgh completed its Stormwater Master Plan in January 2021 (the document is awaiting final approval). Pitt’s Stormwater Masterplan sets forth stormwater requirements (including many sustainable and green landscaping and green stormwater infrastructure recommendations for all parts of our Pittsburgh campus). Given that Pitt’s Pittsburgh campus has a wide variety of specific conditions (hillside, dense urban, or green space), recommendations vary widely based on their context. All Pitt campus building and infrastructure projects moving forward will be required to abide by the recommendations in the Pitt Stormwater Master Plan and tailor them to each project. Additionally, all Pitt building and infrastructure projects currently in design have already taken the new recommendations and incorporated them into their scope of work.

2019 summary highlighting some of the stormwater strategies at play for projects on Pitt’s Pittsburgh campus: https://www.sustainable.pitt.edu/building-strategies/

2021 Bigelow Boulevard Reopening Transformation, including above and below ground stormwater amenities: https://www.sustainable.pitt.edu/bigelow-boulevard-transformation/

A brief description of the institution's approach to landscape materials management and waste minimization:

All landscape materials removed from campus are picked up by a local contractor for composting. This contractor also serves as the University's vendor for mulch, compost, soils, and other materials. As a result, it is very possible that the materials sent by the University for composting come back to campus as soil amendments for campus landscaping.

The University is also changing from recycled mulch to shredded bark or leaf mulch (which is free from contaminated woods and dyes). Mulching lawnmowers are used, dropping clippings back on the lawns to reduce landscape waste.

The University also uses a locally made progress called "Pitt Moss" (not related to the University, but a great name :) as a growing medium in flower planters. Pitt Moss is a 100% recycled product that retains more moisture than traditional potting soil.

A brief description of the institution's approach to energy-efficient landscape design:

The University of Pittsburgh has very limited accent lighting on campus, which we have been working to reduce over the years. For campus safety, standard outdoor lighting has set lumens, but Facilities Management has been upgrading all outdoor lighting to LEDs over the past couple of years.

Regarding landscaping equipment, Pitt has been phasing in alternative fuel equipment (including electric and propane) to reduce the University's reliance on gas and diesel -fueled equipment. Of the Pitt Grounds’ ~200 pieces of equipment, 25 were electric in 2020 (22%), up from only 9 in 2014. Additionally, Grounds owns 6 pieces of propane equipment – and continues to evaluate new opportunities, both to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also noise.

In addition, we have been working to reduce the number of non-native plant species across campus -- and use untreated groundwater from an underground aquifer to water flower beds and hanging baskets on campus (with a solar powered pump). To reduce mowing requirements, runoff, and erosion, low maintenance trees, shrubs, and groundcovers have been planted in many areas. Additionally, 9 green roofs and 9 rain gardens have been installed to reduce the impact on Pittsburgh's aging stormwater infrastructure. Low-impact ice and snow melting materials are also used.

A brief description of other sustainable landscape management practices employed by the institution:

The University has also purchased new drop spreaders for the application of snow melting materials on sidewalks. The spreaders do a much better job of applying materials more directly to sidewalks than the older rotary spreaders, thereby reducing the amount of over-cast materials getting into soils and impacting plants and lawns. During Winter 2015/16, the University realized an estimated 50% reduction in the amount of materials required during normal snow and ice events.

Website URL where information about the institution’s sustainable landscape management program is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

The building footprint and undeveloped land data is not currently available, but the University's urban campus is very dense with a very limited amount of undeveloped land. We have entered estimates for these areas.

University of Pittsburgh's Sustainable Landscape Design Guidelines:

Pitt's Institutional Master Plan (February 2021 under review by City of Pittsburgh): https://www.campusplan.pitt.edu/sites/default/files/PittIMP-SUBMISSION%20FOR%20PLANNING%20COMMISSION%20REVIEW%20FEB%202021.pdf

Pollinators at Pitt: https://www.sustainable.pitt.edu/what-pitt-is-doing/pollinators-at-pitt/

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.