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April 30, 2009

Blue, Gold & Green sustainability festival held

Pitt’s commitment to a sustainable environment predates most efforts at greening campuses and neighborhoods, a high-ranking official said at a symposium here last week.

“The University of Pittsburgh has a long-standing commitment to environmental sustainability,” said Renny Clark, vice chancellor for community initiatives and the chancellor’s chief of staff. “It really was memorialized 20 years ago at a historic meeting in France. Pitt, in partnership with universities in India, Lebanon, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa and several other countries throughout the world, became one of the [22] creators of, and original signatories to, the Talloires Declaration. That pledged, in simple terms, to incorporate sustainability and environmental literacy in research and daily operations and outreach for universities.”

The Talloires Declaration, signed by then-Chancellor Wesley W. Posvar, pushed a 10-point action plan for incorporating sustainability into all facets of higher education. Under the auspices on the University Leaders for a Sustainable Future, the declaration now has been signed by more than 350 additional universities in more than 40 countries, noted Clark, who was one of several presenters at Pitt’s first “Blue, Gold and Green” sustainability festival held April 22.

The festival featured local artists and food vendors, live music and expositions by Pitt vendors committed to reducing the human footprint. Speakers from Pitt, local organizations and city government explored efforts to shape Pittsburgh’s environmental awareness. Students, staff and faculty members from local universities created art from trash, exhibited bio-fueled cars and built bicycles for underprivileged children, among other activities.

Pitt also has been a longstanding member of the Oakland Task Force (OTF), which Clark chairs. “One of the outcomes of OTF’s efforts is the transformation of Schenley Plaza from an asphalt-covered 275-space parking lot into green space central to Pitt and the Oakland community. That’s been the internal theme of the Oakland Task Force over the last couple of years, to ‘green’ Oakland,” Clark said.

Related Pitt efforts to go green, he added, include the establishment of a University Senate sustainability subcommittee; the founding of the Swanson School of Engineering’s Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, which focuses on the design of sustainable neighborhoods and nurtures collaborative projects based on innovative research, translating the science of sustainability into real products and processes; anti-litter and recycling efforts by student groups; Purchasing’s commitment to environmental stewardship through sustainable purchasing, as well as conservation and construction designed to conserve natural resources and preserve the environment.

“One of the things I’ve found in focusing on environmental and greening issues is that you’re not going to do it all in one giant step. We need to take little steps, while making sure that each step is done on a firm foundation with a firm conviction and making sure that step does not have to be retraced,” Clark said. “What we’re looking for is a balance between cost and practicality.”

Laura Zullo, Facilities Management’s senior manager of capital and special projects, outlined some ways in which sustainable design and construction, recycling and energy conservation have helped the University in going green.

Pitt’s efforts are saving money as well as energy. Ongoing energy conservation efforts and improvements have helped the University avoid some $24.2 million in potential energy costs over the past 12 years, Zullo said. (See May 31, 2007, University Times.)

She also reported on green aspects of recent and upcoming Pitt projects. Zullo announced the results of the recently ended RecycleMania competition that focused on increasing students’ recycling, mainly in the residence halls. (See Feb. 9 University Times.)

In Pitt’s first-ever participation in the College and University Recycling Council’s nationwide campus recycling challenge, the University exceeded its goal. Although Pitt aimed to recycle 15 pounds of materials per person, over the 10-week competition, which concluded March 28, 24 pounds per person was recycled, placing Pitt 19th among 140 schools in per-capita recycling.

Zullo said the University has implemented design standards that stipulate sustainable or energy-conserving measures in new construction or renovation projects. “We are continually updating those as new technology arises,” she said.

Among the standards are using occupancy sensors, premium efficiency motors and carpet containing at least 25 percent recycled content.

Although Pitt has made no commitment to require Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for all new construction, the University is looking at it on a project-by-project basis, Zullo said.

LEED, a set of standards for sustainable construction developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, awards four levels of certification, highest to lowest: platinum, gold, silver and certified.

Pitt’s McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine building on Pittsburgh’s South Side was the first Pitt building to achieve LEED certification, earning the gold level in 2005.

The Benedum Hall renovation and addition currently underway are expected to qualify for LEED silver or higher, Zullo said. Both projects include low-flow plumbing fixtures, a heat recovery system and daylighting features that take advantage of natural light. A green roof, to be planted with sedum, will cover the Benedum auditorium. (See April 16 University Times.)

The Chevron Annex project, which has not yet been approved by Pitt trustees, is in the planning and design stages. It also is expected to receive LEED silver certification.

The project is expected to include heat recovery equipment, high-performance windows, low-flow fume hoods, bicycle racks and shower facilities to promote biking, low-flow fixtures, daylighting features and recycled carpet.

In addition to sustainable design, Pitt is on the verge of shifting from the Bellefield Boiler Plant to the newer Carrillo Street steam plant to provide heat and hot water to University buildings. The change, expected in fall, will cut carbon emissions by 47 percent, reducing emissions by 48,000 metric tons per year, Zullo said.

Kevin Maloney of Supplier Management in Purchasing, who organized the symposium, told the University Times the event may become an annual one at Pitt. “We’re pleased with the turnout, despite the fact that we had to postpone the original date” in deference to the memorial service for three Pittsburgh Police officers who were killed in the line of duty, Maloney said. “We tried to schedule this for the students to be earlier than when finals started, because they’re very involved in these efforts.”

Kimberly Barlow & Peter Hart

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