Building Design

Unconventional Beauty

From the start, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center was intended to embody the highest standard of sustainability. The planning process began with local foundations funding an international competition. The challenge was to envision a facility which would become a landmark for the city of Pittsburgh, and a leader in environmental resiliency in every aspect of design, construction, and operations.

Of the twenty-five competition submissions, the design by acclaimed architect Rafael Viñoly was unanimously selected for its innovative combination of beauty and green engineering.

Inspired by the Convention Center’s location at the interface between the Allegheny River and downtown Pittsburgh, the building's expansive windows blur the boundaries between its interior and its surroundings, filling the space with natural light. The water feature along 10th Street connects visitors to the vibrant Cultural District and to the Three Rivers Heritage Trail along the waterfront.

The building’s unique curving roof was created with a suspension cable system, echoing the structure of the neighboring 6th, 7th, and 9th Street bridges (the historic “Three Sisters”). These cables replace conventional structural columns in the main halls, allowing the spaces to be naturally lit and saving 400 tons of steel in their construction. The roof’s elegant curve is also the key component of the building’s natural ventilation system, which harnesses the aerodynamics of river breezes for zero-cost cooling.

Additionally, building materials were strategically chosen to minimize environmental impacts. Nearly one tenth of the total building materials used, including steel, aluminum, drywall, and ceiling tiles, was made from post-consumer recycled content. Using recycled building materials saves both natural resources and energy. Processing recycled aluminum, for example, only costs 5% of what it takes to produce aluminum from raw materials. Fifty percent of the new materials produced were within a 500-mile radius of Pittsburgh, thus reducing the carbon footprint.

Stainless steel was chosen as roofing material as a nod to Pittsburgh’s industrial history and because of its high recycled content, but it serves another green function as well. Traditional roof materials absorb solar energy and re-release it as heat, causing densely developed areas to be several degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside—a phenomenon known as the “urban heat island effect.” Using a highly-reflective roof cover prevents this excess heat from accumulating. In fact, our roof radiates seven times less heat energy than would a parking lot of the same size, keeping downtown cooler and air conditioning costs lower.

Shortly after its grand opening in 2003, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center was awarded Gold LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification by the United States Green Building Council, making it the first of its kind and one of the largest green buildings in the world.

The LEED® Platinum Certification (existing building) was initially awarded in 2012 and the DLCC was certified once again in 2017. As LEED evolves, the bar is pushed higher for existing buildings to have more positive environmental outcomes, and much more stringent requirements have been put into place.  The DLCC had continued to put sustainability and healthy buildings at the forefront and in 2022 the DLCC met these new stringent requirements and earned a Gold LEED® certification.