The results are in: the Pittsburgh 2030 District is outstripping the competition.

Launched in 2012 by Architecture 2030, 2030 District campaign cities aim to reduce energy use, water consumption and CO2 emissions by 50 percent by the year 2030.

In Pittsburgh, the 2030 District includes Downtown, Oakland, Uptown and, as of 2016, the North Side and 491 buildings within those neighborhoods. That includes virtually every major building within those borders: the Cathedral of Learning, PPG Place, the US Steel Building, every major stadium, and even the Fort Pitt Block House.

At 78.7 million square feet of real estate, Pittsburgh is far and away the largest 2030 District. The next closest city, Seattle, is at 45 million square feet. In fact, Pittsburgh represents nearly 25 percent of the 316 million square feet of total commercial building space of the entire 2030 Districts Network, which comprises 17 North American cities including Toronto, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Detroit.

A public-private partnership, Pittsburgh’s 2030 District is facilitated by the Green Building Alliance (GBA).

“We always recognized there was this gap for existing buildings that wouldn’t qualify for LEED but want to be part of something larger and get recognition for the work they’re doing,” says Pittsburgh 2030 District Director Angelica Ciranni.

Since 2013, 2.64 billion kBtu of energy has been saved, which is the equivalent of a car driving for nearly 4.5 billion miles. Those savings are worth about $53 million.

Despite the progress, plenty of work remains to reach the ambitious 50 percent reduction goals set for 2030. Work on improving indoor air quality, for example, is still in development.

What’s it going to take to meet those goals? Ciranni says that recent benchmarking legislation passed by the city in October will increase transparency. Beginning next year, all owners of nonresidential buildings more than 50,000 square feet will be required to divulge their energy and water usage annually.

Moreover, she says it falls to her and the GBA to educate current and potential stakeholders:

“By 2030, everyone will have to undergo a major renovation at some point, whether that is an update to their chillers or HVAC or lighting. We are trying to inform people how to do that the best way possible.”

GBA has been hosting monthly meetings with 2030 District participants and recently began one-on-one sessions to increase communication and information sharing between parties. The group also has a technical and policy director working on policy changes at the state level to incentivize green renovations.

Besides working to update building codes and informing stakeholders as to potential rebates or tax credits that might be available, Ciranni says it’s up to them to keep everyone apprised of the “latest and greatest” technology.

“LED can cut your energy use at least in half on the lighting side,” she says. “When we first started the Ecodistrict it was seen as cutting-edge and expensive. Today, you wouldn’t build without it. It’s a no-brainer. I anticipate we’ll see more gains with the Internet of Things and other building controls. There’s a lot of opportunity there.”

For more information on the Pittsburgh 2030 District, check out the 2016 Progress Report (.pdf)

Brian Conway

Brian Conway is a writer and photographer whose articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune and local publications. In his free time, he operates Tripsburgh. Brian lives in the South Side.