Smart buildings: Old or new, Pittsburgh's structures can save energy
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At Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Oakland, they know a thing or two about being green. Phipps has made such a commitment in recent years to responsible energy and resource use that its newly opened Center for Sustainable Landscapes is vying to become arguably the world's "greenest" building.
To demonstrate that, the center, which was built for offices, education and research, will spend the next year trying to achieve these three environmental standards: the Living Building Challenge, LEED Platinum certification and Sustainable Sites Initiative certification. Given Phipps' sterling track record on smart resource management, we like the new center's chances of becoming world-class.
But sustainability is not just about new buildings. Particularly in a city such as Pittsburgh, where most of the building stock is pre-existing if not downright old, it's important for property owners to do all they can to make those structures energy-efficient, too.
That's the purpose of the Pittsburgh 2030 District, a program that is enrolling more properties and more owners in Downtown and the North Shore in the cause of cutting energy, water and transportation consumption in half by 2030. The initiative is part of a national campaign to persuade the building sector to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.
Sean Luther, who heads the Pittsburgh 2030 District for the Green Building Alliance, said there are 550 buildings in Pittsburgh's target zone, with 92 of them committed to the effort. But the enrollment is actually more impressive because the 92 buildings account for 50 percent of the square footage in the zone -- all of which became committed to the program in its first six months.
Property owners considering how to join the fuel-cutting effort could, of course, start with the low-hanging fruit -- quick and relatively inexpensive changes like more efficient lighting (for which Duquesne Light Co. offers incentives). But the program encourages a multi-pronged approach, like combining lighting reduction with systems that cut the use of water, a resource that is inexpensive in Pittsburgh and therefore takes time to deliver appreciable savings.
Regardless of the mix of energy savers, property owners who sign on to the program not only improve their buildings' efficiency but they also enhance Pittsburgh's competitiveness. All of which proves that green is good, for new buildings like Phipps' Center for Sustainable Landscapes and for older structures like Fifth Avenue Place and the City-County Building, not just for the environment but for the economy.
First Published February 18, 2013 12:00 am