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The Green City? Most Enviro Friendly.

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Pittsburgh: the greenest city


Senior Staff Writer University of Pittsburgh News

Pittsburgh brings a lot of colors to mind: black, gold, steel gray and rusty red.

Now Pittsburghers can add green to that list. The Green Building Alliance has determined that Pittsburgh is the greenest city in America, based on the number of "green" buildings and square footage rated by the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system.

Patricia Lowry, architecture critic for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, highlighted this fact and Pittsburgh's other "green" characteristics during her presentation "How Green Is Our Valley?" for the Sierra Club Allegheny Group last Wednesday.

Green building and construction practices are geared toward building environmentally sound and resource-efficient structures. The LEED system certifies new and renovated buildings as "green" based on six broad categories, which include issues such as how renewable the building's construction materials are, how many pollutants these materials emit, and how efficiently the building uses water and energy.

For many of these buildings, becoming green means becoming more high-tech. The David L. Lawrence Convention Center, the largest green building in the world, contains a ventilation system made of fabric air ducts, which draw air from the third floor through natural convection and move up and down as air flows through them. This not only saves energy in terms of circulating air, but also helps to distribute hot or cold air more evenly. In the Pittsburgh Glass Center in Friendship, heat from the glass furnaces is cycled through tubes beneath the concrete floor, supplying radiant heating. The Glass Center also uses recycled doors and corrugated glass in the building's structure.

"Buildings don't need a lot of high tech features to be green," Lowry said. "There are many shades of green."

In the LEED system, green ratings extend beyond the buildings themselves and look at whether or not new development is placed on abandoned industrial sites - known as "brownfield" sites - whether the materials were manufactured or gathered locally, and whether the building is situated near public and alternative transportation.

PNC First Side Center, the second largest green building project in the world, has been built on an urban infill area and close to public transportation. Some of its basic characteristics, such as the inclusion of both stairwells and elevators, have been designed to promote another aspect of green building: sociability.

"People do not speak to each other in elevators, but they will stop to talk to people on the stairs," Lowry said.

Lowry also explained how some of the basic characteristics of Pittsburgh geography and historical development have kept it green. Pittsburgh has more trees than any other city in the country, and these trees have even more opportunity to grow and release oxygen into the environment now that the steel mills are gone. Pittsburgh is also home to 712 sets of steps that residents can use to scale the hillsides, a topic that one of Pitt's visiting professors, Robert Regan, elaborates on in his book, "The Steps of Pittsburgh: Portrait of a City."

But while much of our city is green, Lowry explained that in some areas, it's being overrun by asphalt gray.

"We get an A in green building and an F for sprawl," Lowry said.

According to a recent report by The Brookings Institution, between 1982 and 1997, the amount of land in the Pittsburgh region converted to urban uses increased by 42.6 percent, while the number of households in the area grew by only 2.5 percent. This amounts to about 8.5 acres of developed land for every new household. She explained that these sprawl problems are particularly visible in the strip mall developments in Cranberry Township, and that more problems would follow if the Mon-Fayette Expressway is built, since a highway would then have to run through the Braddock area.

Lowry added that currently, neither Pittsburgh, nor Allegheny County, nor the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has an established land use plan or authority.

"We need one," she said, "because we need to know what sites are available and what sites are off limits.

Pitt is contributing to the effort to keep Pittsburgh green through its Green Construction and Sustainable Development Program, which is part of the department of civil and environmental engineering. The program currently offers a number of graduate and undergraduate courses in green building and environmental sustainability, several of which involve life cycle assessment. Robert Ries, program director and professor of civil and environmental engineering, explained that life cycle assessment is a framework in which researchers study the environmental consequences of a building or product from the time the necessary raw materials are extracted through the time of the object's disposal.

"It gives you an opportunity to view, from a holistic perspective, the lifetime effects of making a change in that product," Ries said. "You want to make sure that change doesn't have a negative effect downstream.

Ries added that Pitt researchers are currently working on installing and monitoring a green roof system on a retail store in Shadyside. The Green Construction and Sustainable Development Program also arranges seminars and symposiums to inform the public and local professionals about green building principles.

"It's an integrated process," Ries said. "You're able to achieve a lot more in building performance than you would through traditional construction production."

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This is awesome! A great title for Pitt to have, especially considering the industrial connotations the city brings to mind. :thumbsup:

I didn't know sprawl was such a pressing issue in Pittsburgh.

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Another Pittsburgh First with Green buildings:


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

"It will be the first children's museum to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

The museum's staff and board decided early on that the expansion would be a green design. Its first year of planning was funded in part by the Heinz Endowments, the foundation leader in green design in Western Pennsylvania. Green features that would earn LEED certification were a requirement of the design competition, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts."

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The children's Museum expansion looks spectacular. I wish I had a kid so I had an excuse to go see it :)

As for the green buildings - I think that is something we need to market heavily. It could really turn around our "dirty" image. And it makes the city look very progressive.

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Yeah I've discovered that Pittsburgh has the most Green Buildings per capita, the most sq. footage under green structures and the largest and second largest green structures in North America as well as the largest green convention center, and the largest green corporate center in the U.S. Now we also have the largest green Children's Museum. :D

Gerbil you wish you had kids ;) c'mon we have to multiply fast and overrun the world :lol: drown it all in black and gold ;)

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