Traditional and Emerging Energy Innovation

Achieving Net Zero: Pittsburgh 2030 District Shifts Focus to Help Partners Meet Aggressive New Global Carbon Reduction Goals

Written by Staff Writer

Newly released 2021 Progress Report details
34.9% reduction in energy use and 37.1% reduction in water use

May 24, 2022 (PITTSBURGH) – With the release of its 2021 Progress Report today, the Pittsburgh 2030 District, an initiative of the Green Building Alliance and the largest 2030 District in North America, announced it will move its primary focus from energy reduction to carbon reduction goals in response to urgent developments in climate science.

The change follows statements issued at the 26th Conference of Parties in Glasgow (COP26) this past fall indicating that for the world to meet the 1.5°C carbon budget* set forth in the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries must reduce CO2 emissions in the entire [existing] built environment by 50-65% by 2030 and reach zero carbon by 2040.

 The built environment accounts for approximately 28% of global CO2 emissions and 40% of all U. S. primary energy use and associated greenhouse gas emissions.

 A zero-carbon building is a highly energy efficient building such that its energy needs can be supplied with renewable (carbon-free) technologies. Zero-carbon buildings also take into account embodied carbon in construction materials by reusing materials and reducing and sequestering carbon.

The Pittsburgh 2030 District comprises 130 property partners representing a variety of sectors and building types, including office towers, hospitals, hotels, multifamily residential buildings, universities, professional sports facilities, and museums. Going forward, annual performance reports will assess each participating building’s carbon emissions intensity and progress.  Carbon emissions calculations take into account the carbon intensity of the fuel source type, with nuclear, solar, wind and hydro-electric being emissions-free while grid-electricity, natural gas, district steam and chilled water having various emissions factors.

Future meetings for 2030 Partners will include education, training and guidance on topics such as:

  • Conducting deep carbon retrofits on existing buildings to dramatically improve efficiency
  • Facilitating building electrification to eliminate fossil fuel use, including replacing furnaces and boilers that run on natural gas with ground- or air-source heat pumps.
  • Thermal energy storage
  • On-site renewable energy

“Accelerating to zero carbon will require changes that include migrating to full building electrification, increasing renewable energy, and advocating for more stringent building codes and energy-related policies and incentives,” said Chris Cieslak, who manages the Pittsburgh and Erie 2030 Districts for GBA.  “It is a big challenge, but our District partners have shown remarkable dedication, ingenuity and commitment over the past 10 years, and that is a testament to their success up to this point. As we approach 2030, we all recognize the urgency to double down on our efforts, and our Partners are ready to encourage and support each other in the collective effort of the region.”

The release of the 2021 Progress Report marks the 10th anniversary of the launch of the Pittsburgh 2030 District, which in 2012 set the goal of achieving 50% reductions in energy use and water consumption by the year 2030 (below baselines). Last year, Pittsburgh 2030 District partners reduced energy use to 34.9% below the baseline, compared to 28.9% in 2020. 2021’s energy savings equate to the annual energy use of over 30,000 households and reflect an energy cost savings of $61.9 million.

In 2021, the Pittsburgh 2030 District also reduced water consumption by 37.1% below the baseline, a slight decrease from the 2020 reduction of 42.1%, but still far greater than the 2019 reduction of 19.8%. Partners saved 479 million gallons of water in 2021, the equivalent annual water use of over 3,700 single family homes.

 “The built environment presents some of our most critical leverage points to improve outcomes for health, equity, economic development, and the climate,” said Jenna Cramer, executive director of Green Building Alliance. “Healthy and high-performing buildings give us the opportunity to provide spaces for everyone that contribute to healthy air quality while bolstering local green jobs and slashing energy and water use in older buildings. Our Property Partners have thoughtfully and strategically activated those leverage points one by one, making a positive impact on their communities while realizing significant financial savings.”

 “Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time,” said Mayor Ed Gainey. “This crisis disproportionately impacts Black and Brown communities and if we are going to become the safest city in America than we must create healthy environments for everyone. As the largest 2030 district in the Country, I’m proud of the work that Pittsburgh is doing to lead on this issue and I look forward to having real actionable items that will have a lasting and positive impact on the lives and well-being of all of us.”

“Allegheny County has been involved in this initiative as a supporter and Property Partner since its inception,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “It has been inspiring to watch what can be accomplished through the same collaborative spirit and perseverance for which our region is known. The investments being made in our buildings through the 2030 District demonstrate that we can continue our region’s legacy of sustainability while supporting local green jobs at the same time.”

Read the full 2021 Pittsburgh 2030 District Progress Report here.

*The carbon budget is the amount of CO2 that humanity can emit while still having a chance to contain global warming within 1.5 degrees centigrade compared with preindustrial levels.



Laura Ellis
Veritas Communications Advisors
412.952.7844  /

About the Green Building Alliance

Green Building Alliance (GBA) positively transforms the world through the built environment for a sustainable, healthy, and just future for everyone. As Greater Pittsburgh’s authority on sustainable design, GBA drives the market for healthy communities while equipping designers, manufacturers, developers, and policymakers to catalyze systemic change. GBA manages the largest 2030 District in North America (the Pittsburgh 2030 District), and in 2019, established Pittsburgh as the 2nd International Centre of Excellence on High Performance Building in the world. GBA partners across Western Pennsylvania, with strategic alliances including the 2030 District Network, United Nations and International Living Future Institute.

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Staff Writer