Walkabout: City to showcase climate action plan


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Some people still deny climate change because there are always people who deny the tough stuff of science. Others don't deny it but think people don't cause it. The good news is that more people are deciding that, regardless, we can and should live smarter on the Earth. As of next spring, the city will showcase the climate action plan it initiated in 2006 with the Green Building Alliance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2023 -- the sixth floor of the City-County Building.

Two teams of five interior architecture students at Chatham University tied in winning a competition to turn the sixth-floor lobby into Green Central, a hub of information about the city's action-plan projects and resources to help residents develop their own.

Green Central will provide pamphlets, posters, resource guides, educational information, photos, program applications and an interactive display. Visitors will be able to use a computer to find details about the city's sustainability programs and how households and businesses can use them as models. The city's climate action plan offers guidelines to government, business, institutions and residents on how to make changes in their buildings and lifestyles to use less energy.

"Green Central is a great opportunity to share all the ways our city works to be one of the cleanest and greenest in the country," Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said.

This will be the city government's first such resource center to promote choices that are sustainable for future life. Saving energy is at the root of the green movement and at the heart of the solution to climate change. It has been gratifying to see this movement spread across all sectors in the past decade or so and more people understanding the importance of taking action to reverse climate change.

The people who have always gotten it are educated, and institutions of higher learning are increasingly preparing students to consider sustainable solutions across disciplines.

Of the five Chatham students, Melissa Estrada's entry was a mural to cover a 100-foot-long corridor. The mural will illustrate Pittsburgh's transformation on a timeline from the turn of the 20th century to today. She said she has developed a love for sustainable design and an interest in facilities management while a student at Chatham. She designed her mural based on research into the history of the city and the City-County Building.

The other team -- Eva Mueller, Pia Naiditch, Laura Ralich and Ella Thompson -- designed custom-made recycling bins that evoke the roots of a tree and will have transparent sides to show recycled items. Collecting waste in the city's single-stream collection, the bins will also be for hard-to-recycle items such as batteries and cell phones.

Kathy Hrabovsky, an instructor in the interior architecture program at Chatham, said the students' work was done on their own time. "I coached them through the process," she said. "It's wonderful that the city partners with local universities to give students this kind of opportunity to apply what we teach in the classroom and studio -- artful design, technical skills, community collaboration, and an understanding of project budgeting and coordination -- in a real-world situation."

Aftyn Giles, the city's sustainability coordinator, worked with the teams and has invited the students to be part of the installation process, Ms. Hrabovsky said.

Two teams from the University of Pittsburgh also competed. Scoring was based on whether the materials and installation would come in under a $25,000 budget. Sustainable materials, recycling elements, interactive elements and appearance also were factors in the scoring.

The project will be paid for by the mayor's Green Trust Fund.

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Diana Nelson Jones: djones@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1626. Read her blog City Walkabout at www.post-gazette.com/citywalk. First Published September 4, 2012 4:15 AM


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