Let’s Talk About Parks: Can A Building Really Breathe?

APR 4, 2017 

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Breathing is a natural necessary act for most living things. The intake of air into lungs and the expulsion of it is evident in endless variations in our city parks, from the squirrels racing across a budding dogwood tree limb in Riverview Park, to the red-tailed hawk swooshing overhead in Schenley Plaza. Spring peepers are prodigiously good breathers, as the balloon-like vocal sac in their throat and their high-pitched trill dramatically illustrate. Trees — often called the earth’s lungs — also breathe in their own way, soaking in carbon dioxide through their leaves and emitting life-giving oxygen. Likewise, plants such as grass, witch hazel and the emerald shoots of perennials sprouting at the Highland Park Entry Garden take in air and release oxygen, helping clean our air so we can breathe freely.

Some buildings have systems in place to allow air to be taken in, filtered and expelled. Plains Native Americans constructed tipis — or teepees — that enabled air intake and expulsion. These conical shaped structures had air intake doorways and an upper adjustable collar opening on the windward side to allow smoke from internal cooking and heating to escape. Farmers throughout the world long ago perfected the art of air ventilation and transfer in their barns. Many barns have siding that has tiny open spaces between planks so fresh air can enter. This design allows deeply stacked crops such as hay and straw to release heat so fire, condensation and chemical imbalances are avoided. In Pittsburgh’s Frick Park, you can experience one of the world’s most technologically advanced buildings as it breathes... Read the full article