Last month on September 12, the United Nations Economic Council on Europe (UNECE) and the Green Building Alliance (GBA) signed an agreement launching the Greater Pittsburgh International Center of Excellence on High Performance Buildings. Pittsburgh is the second city in the world to participate in the program following New York City’s Building Energy Exchange, and will join a network of sustainability experts in an effort to reduce the effects of climate change and “distill best practices in design, construction, training, and policy into scalable solutions.”
As one out of five commissions of the United Nations, UNECE works to improve access to clean energy and help reduce greenhouse emissions in order to meet Sustainable Development Goals as outlined in the Paris Agreement. Founded in 1993, GBA works to advance innovation in the built environment by “empowering people to create environmentally, economically, and socially vibrant places.”
“Of all the approaches to addressing the world’s climate challenge, improving the energy performance of buildings stands out. Beyond reducing our carbon footprint, this action will enhance quality of life, reduce energy bills, improve health, create jobs and encourage innovation,” said Scott Foster, UNECE director of Sustainable Energy, at the launch ceremony.
The Center will follow the UNECE’s Framework Guidelines for Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings and will be a collaboration between regional partners, including the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. In following the framework, the Center will conduct training programs for design professionals, host discussions, and advocate for local and state policy changes regarding building codes and energy regulations.
Pittsburgh has been well on its way to meeting these goals already. In early September, Pittsburgh’s Mayor Bill Peduto introduced legislation that would require all government buildings to be net-zero energy efficient, just weeks after the city released its first energy benchmarking report. Pittsburgh also has the world’s largest 2030 District, which strives toward 50 percent reductions in energy use, water consumption, and transportation emissions by 2030.
“The International Centers transform how we build cities, from the materials we use to building design and construction, to the policies that set new standards for the future,” said GBA executive director Jenna Cramer in a statement. Both GBA and UNECE hopes the Center will unite the area’s most influential developers, business leaders, and policymakers to “dramatically advance sustainable solutions.”