Sarah Heinz House, North Side. Photo via Epic Metals.

Though big steel mills have — historically and currently — cursed Pittsburgh with some of the region’s most hazardous pollution Epic Metals has taken a different route.

Located in Rankin not far from the giant furnaces of the Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock, Epic Metals is doing all the right things, according to Pittsburgh’s Green Building Alliance (GBA).

Epic Metals won the GBA’s Enterprise Award, which will be presented on Thursday, Sept. 9, at the organization’s Emerald Evening Gala at Hazelwood Green.

Formed in 1993, the nonprofit is considered a world leader in promoting healthy and sustainable building techniques in Pittsburgh and beyond — including catalyzing the continent’s largest 2030 District in Pittsburgh.

“We positively transform the world through the built environment to create a healthy, just and sustainable future for everyone,” says GBA Executive Director Jenna Cramer. “We focus on the built environment because we know it has the greatest impact on not just climate change, but also human health, social equity and creating a thriving economy.”

Epic Metals, which employs about 100 people, makes architectural roof and floor deck ceiling systems. The company started its journey to sustainability long before the concept was widely known.

Photo courtesy of Epic Metals, Rankin.

In 1968, founder Donald Landis bought a turn-of-the-century trolley barn in Rankin and recycled it into the company’s first factory. Since then, Epic has participated in 338 LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building projects in 40 states, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Hall at Cornell University and the Sarah Heinz House here in Pittsburgh.

The company installed solar panels at three factories and its home office, which also includes a solar parking canopy. So far, this has created an estimated reduction in carbon dioxide of more than 2 million pounds, the equivalent of planting 26,107 trees.

Epic also installed three (Pittsburgh-made) vertical Windstax wind turbines at its manufacturing facility along the Monongahela River. Epic has electric vehicle charging stations at its main office and plant in Rankin, and has provided incentives to employees who purchase electric vehicles. Geothermal wells also help power most of the company’s headquarters.

There’s more. Permeable pavers were used in the parking lot at Epic’s Rankin headquarters (instead of traditional paving materials), which reduce stormwater runoff, reduce the need for salt to defrost ice and snow, and reflect more light at night.

WindStax wind turbines at Epic Metals.

“If you have a green product but a brown company, you’re not getting all the way there,” says Cramer. “And I would say Epic is truly a model of what a manufacturer can do to think about how all of their operations, contribute to health and sustainability.”

Other awards that will be presented at tonight’s Emerald Gala include the Vanguard Award, which goes to Highmark Health, which achieved a WELL Health-Safety Rating for much of its 2.4 million square feet of owned and managed office spaces, including Fifth Avenue Place and Penn Avenue Place. There’s also the Luminary Award, given to Dr. Allison Robinson of UPMC, who has been leading the charge to incorporate environmental sustainability practices and procedures across the massive UMPC network. The Beacon Award will be presented to the Homewood Children’s Village for its dedication to just and inclusive development.

“If young people are going to be successful,” says Homewood Children’s Village President & CEO Walter Lewis, “they must be in family environments that are strong, school environments that are strong and community environments that are strong — so we care about all the aspects that impact a young person’s development. This brings us into the conversation around climate and health and sustainability. These issues are impacting our children’s lives and ability to be successful in school.”

Mill 19 Scalo Solar Array. Photo courtesy of Green Building Alliance.

Lastly, the Legacy Award will be given to the late Mike Carnahan, who died several months ago unexpectedly. As vice president and general manager at Scalo Solar Solutions, Carnahan championed many large and innovative solar projects, from the Carnegie Science Center to Mill 19 in Hazelwood Green, one of the largest single-slope rooftop solar arrays in the country.

“We hope to continue educating business leaders, or simply anyone curious, about why solar is a winning proposition,” says Jack Scalo, president and CEO of Scalo Solar Solutions.  “Mike was a pioneer over the past infancy stage of the solar industry, and we believe this foundation will launch Scalo’s solar efforts over the next two decades.”

Michael Machosky

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.