Bernotas outlines summer construction projects in Oakland


Scott Bernotas gave an update on construction around the Oakland campus and Aurora Sharrard outlined sustainability efforts at Pitt during the May 17 Plant Utilization and Planning committee meeting.

Construction update

“It’s a busy time of the year for us,” said Bernotas, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management.

Hillside enabling work continues behind Chevron Science Center and O’Hara Drive to prepare for the recreation and wellness center. Stormwater and utility lines have been replaced and University Drive has been rerouted. Paving should happen soon, Bernotas said, and that project is winding down just as demolition work is gearing up.

“The O’Hara Garage is coming down quickly,” he said, with 10 percent of the aging facility already torn down in just one week of work.

Other projects include:

Cathedral of Learning: New bathrooms were finished about a month ago on the ground floor, and a new HVAC system for the corridors should be finished by the end of May. Work on the women’s restrooms on the second floor has just begun and is scheduled for completion by August.

Allegheny Observatory: Preservation work is being done to repair and preserve the dome as well as the exterior of the building.

Posvar Hall: The Africana Studies department space is being expanded. Three air handling units are being replaced, completing a four-year project to upgrade Posvar’s HVAC. “We saw the importance of good HVAC throughout the pandemic, and so we are keeping up our efforts to keep our systems replaced and updated on a regular schedule,” Bernotas said.

Frick Fine Arts building: The restrooms are being renovated.

Salk Hall: The whole building renovation is slated to wrap up by August.

Scaife Hall: Foundations are now in place for the 104,000-square-foot addition. A tower crane has been installed and crews are starting to build upward.

Biomedical Science Tower 3: The first phase of a large project to expand the Brain Institute has been completed and the second phase, which includes a waiting room and MRI area should be completed in August.

Sustainability efforts

In her presentation, Sharrard, Pitt’s director of sustainability, outlined all the many ways the University is trying to achieve its sustainability goals. Many of these — particularly Pitt’s Climate Action Plan — she has discussed at other forums during the past year.

She pointed to two new dashboards on the sustainability website that track energy usage and water usage by building and campuswide that help see where changes can be made to meet Pitt’s carbon neutral goal by 2037.

She also discussed the equity aspects of sustainability. For instance, she said the Chancellor’s Sustainability Council and the four subcommittees under it — active mobility, carbon commitment, tree advisory and pollinators — have equity built into their charters.

“The carbon commitment committee, for instance, is about developing inclusive and equitable operations, research and community engagement, whereas pollinators is more about making it diverse and interdisciplinary,” Sharrard said.

Pitt’s efforts have earned it a Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education STARS gold rating, moving up from silver in the last ranking in 2018. The ratings look at diversity, equity and inclusion, facilities, endowment investments, innovation and more.

One of the goals of Pitt Sustainability has been to incorporate sustainability education into undergraduate education, particularly with first-year students. Three years ago they started a first-year academic community called Nature, Cities and Humans, in which the students take three classes together in their first year. They also offer student-delivered seminars. This fall, a sustainability living learning community will launch in Schenley Quad.

“We've had an undergraduate certificate in sustainability since 2016, and that certificate is doing so well that we had to launch a second section of the introduction course and we're going to have to do a second section of the capstone course for next semester as well,” Sharrard said. There also is a new sustainability transcript distinction, which gives students “credit for sustainability in the classroom along with in off campus in service, through internships, and more.”

Some other statistics she cited:

  • There’s a plan to triple the number of electric vehicle chargers on campus, which now stand at 16.

  • The grounds crews have increased the number of electric handheld equipment from nine in 2014 to 45 now.

  • More than 11,000 trips by Pitt faculty, staff and students have recorded Healthy Ride bikes since August, when Pitt began offering free, unlimited 30 minute rides for members of the University community.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 724-244-4042.


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