The Pittsburgh region has been dealing with outdoor air quality issues since the heyday of the steel industry. But as architect Nathan St. Germain points out, we spend 95 percent of our time indoors.
And yet we really don’t hear a lot about the indoor air we breathe.
St. Germain’s latest project may well get Pittsburghers thinking about it: His Sewickley-based firm, Studio St. Germain, is working on the renovation and design for a new restaurant, Sewickley Tavern, where air quality is a top priority.
When it opens in early 2020 in the former Bruneaux restaurant space, Sewickley Tavern will be the first restaurant in the world to earn RESET Air Certification, the highest internationally-recognized standard for indoor air quality.
RESET is a performance-based standard that sets limits on the levels of carbon dioxide, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, temperature and relative humidity. Sensors are placed throughout the building to constantly collect air quality data and make adjustments to the air filtration and ventilation systems as necessary.
To confirm the restaurant‘s final certification, RESET officers will visit the building sometime in this spring.
“Indoor air quality impacts our health, comfort and productivity,” St. Germain says.
At Sewickley Tavern, it’s going to be “all about the experience,” he says. “You’re dining and having a fantastic meal. The atmosphere and environment aesthetically are beautiful. Behind that, the indoor air quality is phenomenal.”
The restaurant’s menu from Executive Chef Dave DeVoss, who helmed the kitchen at the now-closed Cocothé, includes modern takes on traditional bar food such as potato skins, burgers and fish and chips. Diners will also find burrata salad, crab cakes and jambalaya on the menu, with the bar serving six to eight different draft beers and a menu of specialty cocktails.
Visitors will also find a space that’s been designed with details like sound in mind: “Indoor noise — according to industry research — is the number one complaint of diners,” says St. Germain.
The new restaurant was designed with “a micro-perforated tin ceiling that also provides additional sound absorption because sound is able to pass through these small micro-perforations,” he says. “But it’s got a classic tin ceiling look to it.”
Noise measuring sensors are also placed throughout the dining room and kitchen.
“If levels start to get higher than what we’ve designed for, we’ll be able to do things and ‘tune the building,’” says St. Germain. “Like what if we turned down the light levels a bit, or turned down the sound system?”
The restaurant also has a number of sustainable features, including solar panels on the roof.
What interests St. Germain about a project like Sewickley Tavern is that “it’s not about how we’re taking care of the building,” he says. “It’s about how the building is taking care of us.”