Green buildings are designed and constructed with the goal of reducing the building's impact on the environment throughout all phases of its lifecycle, including siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and removal. Green buildings seek to reduce the use of resources, including energy, water, and materials. Green building principles also take into consideration the impact buildings have on human health, including reducing toxicity and improving air quality.
LEED Certification - The most common certification system for green buildings is the LEED program, established by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED, standing for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, rates buildings on various sustainable design characteristics including: energy and water efficiency, sustainability and toxicity (or lack thereof) of the materials used, and indoor air quality. For more information about LEED certification, visit the U.S. Green Building Council website or its local affiliate, Green Building Alliance
Energy Star Certification - A second option for verifying the environmental impact of a building is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star Certification. The Energy Star program provides guidelines for energy management and building design to help meet strict energy performance standards set by the EPA. To qualify for the Energy Star label, a building must score in the top 25% of buildings based on the EPA's National Energy Performance Rating System for similar buildings. For more information, check out the Energy Star website.
Construction, maintenance, demolition, and building-use consume a very large amount of energy. In the U.S., buildings account for:
- 65% of electricity consumption
- 30% of raw material use
- 30% of greenhouse gas emissions
Green buildings not only help to protect the environment, conserve natural resources, and reduce greenhouse gas emission, but they also are important to the overall health of our population, as most of us spend the majority of our lives inside buildings. Buildings that are not built with human health and safety in mind often contain materials that are unhealthy, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), asbestos, and other products that decrease indoor air quality. Further, green buildings usually cost much less to operate than traditional buildings. In fact, a recent study of 121 LEED New Construction buildings, shows that the average LEED building uses 25-30% less energy than the national average (New Buildings Institute). This energy savings translates into cost savings.
In recent years, the City has adopted 2 key pieces of green building legislation: (1) a density bonus for LEED certified buildings allowing them to rise 20% higher and include 20% more floor area than other buildings in their zoning districts, and (2) a requirement that all publicly-financed development over $2 million or 10,000 square feet attains LEED Silver certification.
Today, Pittsburgh is ranked 8th in the nation in number of LEED-certified buildings and ranked 10th in terms of square feet, thanks in part to the leadership of local non-profits, universities, and businesses.
There are currently 39 LEED-certified buildings in the city and more than 59 in Western Pennsylvania, with more than 60 new projects in the city pursuing LEED certification.
Pittsburgh boasts many green building firsts, including 2 of the first 12 green buildings to be certified in the nation. Other green building firsts include the following:
- First Green Convention Center - David L. Lawrence Convention Center
- First Green Financial Institution-PNC Firstside Center
- First Green Children's Museum - Children's Museum of Pittsburgh
- First Green University Dance Studio - Point Park University Dance Complex
- First Green Welcome Center in a Public Garden - Phipps Conservatory Welcome Center
- First Green Smithsonian Property - Senator John Heinz History Center
- First Green Radio Station - WYEP Radio Station
- First Green Food Bank- Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank
- First Green University Dormitory- Carnegie Mellon University Stever House
- First Green Public Arts Facility -Pittsburgh Glass Center
Source: Green Building Alliance