Environmental Insights Explorer
What is Google EIE?
The City of Pittsburgh has partnered with Google and the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy to produce a tool that provides information on city emissions and the potential for positive climate action. The Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE)is a tool that harnesses Google’s mapping and machine learning capabilities and makes them available for public benefit. EIE uses Google data and modeling in a freely available platform to help cities measure emissions sources, run analyses, and identify solutions — assisting our city’s efforts to develop a more sustainable community. This mapping tool supports the groundwork for useful citywide climate action in Pittsburgh.
There are four core features for Pittsburghers to explore when using this tool: Building Emissions, Transportation Emissions, Rooftop Solar Potential, and Tree Canopy. The data is estimated by using the Climate Action for Urban Sustainability tool, an internationally recognized third-party data source. Google Map technologies are also used in order to narrow down building emissions and solar potential to the individual structure level, as well as being able to track the location of transportation use.
Click on the images to go directly to Google's Environmental Insight Explorer tool.
When opening the tool, you will first be brought to an overview of what the features are and the boundaries of the City of Pittsburgh. Zooming in and out on this page will not provide details about the features, but will function as a typical Google Map.
How can you use it?
By clicking to explore the different features, more in-depth information is available as to where the numbers are coming from and what they mean for Pittsburgh. For the transportation and building emission tools, estimated numbers can be altered to understand how differences in emissions could change the way the city is impacted. There are also mapping tools for each feature, which for building emissions and rooftop solar potential you are able to zoom all the way into the individual residential and commercial buildings. The capability to see each individual structure is particularly useful for consumers and building owners to understand the solar potential of their own building. There is more viability in terms of solar potential than what some may believe for their own home or building and this tool will help to uncover the possibilities.
When you click on the Building Emissions feature, you will be brought to this page where you are able to adjust residential and non-residential values in order to test different outcomes. On the right, the map of Pittsburgh will now provide useful information, and by zooming in you can see the emissions of individual buildings and structures.
Before clicking on the Transportation Emissions feature from the home page, you can first select which year you would like to see data from. The image above is what you will see when looking at the 2020 dataset. On the left, the breakdown of emissions of Inbound, Outbound, and In-boundary are shown as well as what the total kilometers traveled by mode of transportation are. By scrolling down on the left panel there are more options and the ability to adjust for different data possibilities for Inbound, Outbound, and In-boundary distance traveled, vehicle efficiency, and city emissions factor. The map on the right for this feature is a visualization of how the transportation breaks down between the three factors. This mapping tool does not provide any further breakdowns upon zooming in.
The Rooftop solar potential feature will look like this when you select it from the main page. On the left, there is more information as you scroll down with graphs laying out the distributions of solar capacity. This feature is one where values are not adjustable since this data is found for each individual building and adjusting on an individual scale would be complex. The map on the right of this feature is extremely useful for the individual consumer. By zooming in, you will see individual structures begin to appear which will provide a visualization of how viable rooftop solar would be for each building. Zooming in as far as possible will show you the streets, trees, and defining features of the area which should help you to visualize more clearly where on the map you are. What you will find is that with most buildings, even if there is shade around the building, there will still be sections of the roof that have high potential for rooftop solar.
The goal of the Tree Canopy tool is to understand where in the city tree canopy can be increased to reduce the Urban Heat Island effect. There is a connection between tree canopy coverage, surface urban heat island temperatures, and median household income that is explored within this tool.
This tool works similarly to the engergy-focused features where you can toggle the data on the left, and zoom in to a neighborhood to understand tree canopy coverage, surface urban heat island temperatures, and view individual trees. Users also have the capability to view land uses and land covers throughout the city.
Why is this tool useful?
This tool provides Pittsburghers the unique opportunity to directly see their impact and their ability to decrease emissions by improving building, transportation, and energy efficiency. Understanding where the City of Pittsburgh currently is with emissions is important when fulfilling climate action plans. Additionally, as mentioned previously, the ability for consumers to understand the rooftop solar potential for their individual structure is a powerful tool. This will also increase understanding as to what is necessary for rooftop solar since common misconceptions can often prevent consumers from installing panels. The interrelation between tree canopy, urban heat, and income is also a powerful visual for government, organizations, businesses and individuals to use to direct new plantings and preserve existing trees. Overall, this tool will set a foundation of knowledge that can spark effective action towards a cleaner and safer Pittsburgh.