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How Pittsburgh's Tallest Skyscraper Made Energy Efficiency A Priority

Amy Sisk
Hot water pumps are connected to the U.S. Steel Tower's air conditioning system. The building has experienced a 40 percent drop in water and electricity usage since 2010 thanks to energy effiency efforts.

Pittsburgh’s tallest skyscraper has cut way down on its water and electricity usage over the past decade as it undergoes energy efficiency upgrades.

The U.S. Steel Tower has seen a 40 percent drop in water and electricity consumption since 2010, as building management and its tenants have pursued sustainability designations such as LEED and Energy Star certifications. They have made a host of upgrades in the process, including installing LED lights in 60 percent of the facility and new bathroom fixtures such as dual-flushing toilets.

“What those things all add up to is a lower operating cost, which is great from the point of view of investors, as well as a more attractive space, which is great from the point of view of potential tenants,” said Marc Mondor, principal and co-founder of Evolve, a Pittsburgh-based green building firm that helped with the upgrades.


He said the 64-story building, completed in 1970, was not designed with energy efficiency in mind, but it became a focus when UPMC decided to move its headquarters to the facility in 2007. The company has since achieved LEED certification on 27 floors.

Credit Amy Sisk / WESA
The U.S. Steel Tower, as seen from Grant Street.

Now, Winthrop Management, the facility’s property manager, hopes to achieve a similar LEED designation for existing buildings this year.

“The idea of this building coming around to be highly energy efficient has been really a retooling and retasking of the entire building and how it was designed and built,” Mondor said.

Mondor and building staff showed off the upgrades on a tour Thursday in conjunction with the Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance.

Winthrop’s Ramona Cain, property manager for the tower, said government rebates for energy efficiency have played a role in the building's sustainability success, as well as developing a committee with tenants and facility management to discuss energy-related efforts.

“We not only provide presentations and education, but we also learn from each other,” she said.

She said tenants recycle more as a result, and Mondor added that the 10,000 people who work inside the building are more diligent about shutting off the lights when they leave work.

“By bridging this gap of tenants and landlord, which is typically much more formal through lawyers and accountants and brokers, instead we are making a more collegial atmosphere where we are able to discuss these things and determine common ways forward,” he said.


Amy Sisk covers energy for WESA and StateImpact Pennsylvania, a public media collaboration focused on energy.