The United Nations Economic Council on Europe (UNECE) has designated Pittsburgh as a United Nation Center of Excellence on High Performance Building, establishing it as part of an international network of cities committed to implementing best practices in building design and performance. The city is the second in the world to officially sign on to the program, following New York. Vancouver and the city of Wexford in Ireland are expected to sign this year.
Centers create tangible solutions to the challenges in achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals, which include sustainable community development, inclusive economic growth, affordable and clean energy, resilient infrastructure, and responsible manufacturing. Buildings consume over 70% of the electrical power generated and are responsible for 40% of CO2 emissions and 40% of primary energy, and are responsible for 39% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The designation recognizes Pittsburgh’s leadership, achievements in and commitment to sustainability. The city is home to the largest 2030 District in the world, with more than 750 buildings (92.2 million square feet) committed to 50% reduction in energy use, water consumption, and transportation emissions by the year 2030. Pittsburgh has committed to achieving 100% renewable energy and has established its own Climate Action Plan, in addition to widespread commitments among non-profits and businesses to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Regionally, Western Pennsylvania is a leader in building innovation and sustainable construction, including Phipps Conservatory Center for Sustainable Landscapes and the Frick Environmental Center, both of which have achieved multiple building certifications including LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge (LBC) Certification.
Pittsburgh’s Center for Excellence will be a collaboration among regional partners, including the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, developers, business leaders, and policymakers. The Center’s programs will:
- Train architects, engineers, planners, contractors, and tradespeople in international best practices for sustainable construction, design, and deep energy reduction
- Provide direct expertise to projects implementing new technologies or building methods, in addition to creating demonstration projects for early stage products and financing models
- Collaborate with local universities and companies to develop innovative building policies, technologies, and finance mechanisms
- Advocate for changes in local and state policy, including building codes, zoning incentives, energy regulation, and climate and resilience strategies
The Green Building Alliance (GBA), Western Pennsylvania’s leading authority on sustainable building design and construction, will lead the funding and development of the Center and lead its strategic development.