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Pittsburgh goes Green(er)

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Pittsburgh became what some claim as the "environmental capital of the world" with its green building technology in the worlds largest structures of PNC Bank Center and then the Lawrence Convention Center and Mellon Client Services as well as the new Pittsburgh Children's Hospital. Now that same techonology is being brought to the forefront in residential structures by two Pittsburgh institutions, Carnegie Mellon University and Howard Hanna Real Estate!

"Greener pastures ahead for Pittsburgh

It's not the steel city anymore, it's the green city.

Dan Reynolds

Pittsburgh Business Times

Moving further away from its outdated image as industrial and smoke-filled, Pittsburgh is attempting to stamp itself as one of the national leaders in green building, the art of using natural light and renewable products to build homes and office buildings that save energy and provide a better return for their investors.

A Building Solutions Summit 2005 is taking place Thursday at the Westin Convention Center Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh that will feature lectures from experts in the field of green building and a presentation by Allegheny County chief executive Dan Onorato of the first ever Shades of Green award, which will be given to a local business or person that has demonstrated leadership in the field of green building.

The award is sponsored by the Green Building Alliance, a Pittsburgh nonprofit that works to educate the public on green building issues and green technology. The event is co-sponsored by the local chapters of the Building Owners and Manager's Association, the International Facility Manager's Association, the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties and the Urban Land Institute.

Leanne Tobias, founder and principal of Malachite LLC, a real estate consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., says buildings like the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and the PNC First Side Center are proof that Pittsburgh is establishing itself as a leader nationally for building concepts that live in harmony with nature and create better revenue streams for their builders.

She said the Carnegie Mellon University Center for Building Performance is also a leading research arm for green building construction. Ms. Tobias, who made a presentation Thursday on the costs and financing of green buildings, said there are still major misconceptions that the green building movement must overcome in the public eye.

"Number one, the premium to build green is diminishing and that is because of technology catching up with costs," Ms. Tobias said, adding that on average, it now costs 2 1/2-3 percent more to build a green building compared to conventional construction. She said in many cases green houses and offices can be built for the same cost as conventional construction.

Ms. Tobias said the second education piece is getting the public to realize the revenue upside of green building.

"The other factor that folks have not focused on yet is what does building green do to the revenue stream of the building," she said. "Obviously you get utility cost savings in the vicinity of 30 percent relative to conventional construction. As oil hits a higher and higher price point these utility savings relative to conventional construction will probably increase rather than decrease."

Helen Hanna Casey, president of Howard Hanna Real Estate, said she's no expert in green building, but nonetheless will be addressing the convention around mid-morning. She said this week that realtors, architects and contractors are going to have to educate themselves on the topic if they're going to be able to deliver homes and office buildings their clients will want to inhabit.

Ms. Casey said builders will have to work hard to overcome the perception that structures made with renewable materials are cold and institutional. "I think there is a tendency for people to look at an environmentally correct house, you have the tendency to think it's going to be more industrial, it's not going to be a warm environment," Ms. Casey said.

Mr. Onorato will conclude the convention with a keynote address at noon, concurrent with an award luncheon."

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