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The City of Pittsburgh Wants To Make Building Standards For Itself

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Planning Commission approved an amendment to the zoning code on Tuesday that's expected to help the city reach its climate goals.

In the third version of its Climate Action Plan, city officials pledged to halve energy and water consumption by 2030. The proposed change to the zoning code would require the city to prepare its buildings to be “net-zero energy ready.” Doing so would reduce energy consumption and lay the groundwork for buildings to eventually be powered by carbon-neutral technologies.

Current zoning requires the city to aim for a building standard called LEED silver, but they want to do more, said Grant Ervin, the city’s chief resilience officer.

“Really it focuses in on energy and utility consumption,” he said.

The city may still incorporate elements of LEED certification, because it does encourage aesthetic and comfortable buildings, said Flore Marion, energy advisor to the city.

But “you can achieve LEED Silver and spend the money to get the certification while still spending the same amount of money on your utility bills every year,” she said.

The cost to retrofit the 140 buildings owned by the city is still being calculated, but the up-front investment will result in lower energy bills and save taxpayer money, said Marion.

If approved by Pittsburgh City Council, the requirement would kick in any time the city makes major renovations to a building or constructs a new one.

Margaret J. Krauss is WESA’s senior reporter. She covers development and transportation, and has produced award-winning podcasts on housing, work, and Pittsburgh’s lesser-known history. Before joining the newsroom full time, she covered the challenges facing Pennsylvania cities as a statewide reporter, and spent another life as an assistant editor for National Geographic Kids Magazine in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at mkrauss@wesa.fm.