Prove your humanity

The Pittsburgh 2030 District, a collaborative aiming to make Pittsburgh buildings greener, published its latest annual report on May 22. Participating properties reported a combined 48% reduction in carbon emissions in 2023.

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Buildings located in downtown Pittsburgh as well as Oakland, the Strip District and the North Side have voluntarily joined the collaborative to lower the environmental impact of their properties, totaling 87.1 million square feet committed to the project. 

Pittsburgh’s 2030 District is a founding member of a network of 24 districts across North America aiming to reduce carbon emissions by 50-65% before 2030 and ultimately reach zero carbon by 2040. 

The environmental advocacy nonprofit Green Building Alliance oversees the project in Pittsburgh. It advises buildings on ways to reduce carbon emissions and water and energy usage and improve indoor air quality. According to the 2023 report, collective efforts across the Pittsburgh District saved $75 million in utility costs.

Image courtesy of the Green Building Alliance.

Increased renewable energy

The 2030 District’s progress in carbon emissions reductions from 2022 to 2023 was mainly due to partners producing and purchasing more renewable energy, which produced a total of 243,000 megawatt hours of carbon-free electricity. According to the report, renewables accounted for 11 percent of the carbon emissions reductions. 

Chris Cieslak, chief operating officer of the Green Building Alliance, said choosing renewable energy is important for maintaining Pennsylvania’s long-standing status in energy production while making that energy cleaner. 

“When people purchase renewable energy, it signals to the marketplace that there’s a demand for renewable energy,” she said. “[This] will incentivize small businesses and manufacturers to invest in renewable energy projects, which brings jobs to the region.” 

Cieslak would like to see more energy efficiency investments in buildings to reduce carbon emissions further. 

“The technologies that exist today to decarbonize your building, or to make them more energy efficient, are low risk, very practical, [and] make a lot of sense,” she said. “They’re the kind of thing you would do in the normal course of updating your building.”

Cieslak said such updates include replacing incandescent light bulbs with LEDs, selecting energy-efficient HVAC systems and ensuring air leaks are sealed and insulation is adequate.

The Green Building Alliance is also pushing for Pennsylvania to adopt operations standards for both new and existing buildings. These updated codes would require existing buildings to meet energy and emissions performance targets. 

Cieslak said the Pittsburgh 2030 District encourages more properties to join the effort. “[Green Building Alliance’s] vision is that every building in every community is sustainable so that every person can thrive.”