The built environment is crucial to meeting the challenge of a changing climate around the world. On average, human beings spend roughly 90% of their lives indoors. Whether at home or work, we must make buildings more sustainable and healthier for both environment and people.
On Monday, April 19, 2021, the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) kicked off their 69th Session of the Commission focusing on “Promoting Circular Economy and Sustainable Use of Natural Resources in the UNECE Region.” They brought experts in its High-Performance Buildings Initiative together to discuss and display how their work is improving human health, quality of life, and sustainability of the built environment. Among those experts were representatives from the Greater Pittsburgh International Center of Excellence for High Performance Building, Green Building Alliance’s very own Jenna Cramer and Professor/Former Head of School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University, Vivian Loftness.
With the goal of improving human health and quality of life within the built environment while decarbonizing building-related energy requirements, the group defined their activities and the path forward for 2021 and 2022.
Loftness began the meeting by reinforcing the significance for all sectors to make the built environment more sustainable, “A significant investment in the built environment can have net benefits across all sectors of what we need to improve in the next 10 years.”
With that transformation comes another benefit: more jobs. “We need to begin to nationally invest in our buildings, this will create thousands of jobs. When we do that, we can address inequality and provide good jobs to local communities,” she added.
After representatives from Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and Armenia’s Joint Task Force on Energy Efficiency in Buildings spoke about their efforts, it was Jenna’s turn to talk about GBA’s work throughout the Western Pennsylvania region. A full list of panelists is below.
“28 years ago, GBA formed to improve quality of life for residents and create a cleaner Pittsburgh to attract people and business to our region,” she said.
During those years, the region built three of the first 13 LEED certified buildings and two of the first Living Buildings in the country, and today we have over 346 LEED certified buildings, more than 294 Energy Star buildings, the first Passive House certified public library in North America, and the largest 2030 District in the world.
While these accomplishments are impressive for a region once known for its steel production and dirty air, much more must be done to fully transition to a clean economy. However, that doesn’t mean jobs will suffer.
“Many of these investments in clean products have led to PA having the 10th most clean energy jobs in the country,” Cramer added.
These investments have led GBA to partner with the UNECE to launch the Greater Pittsburgh International Center of Excellence for High Performance Building in 2019.
“One of the greatest assets to this effort is how we can support and share with centers around the world. In Pittsburgh, we are implementing our center through a public private partnership that engages all aspects of our economy,” Cramer said.
The panel opened with a statement from Darragh O’Brien, minister for housing, local government and heritage in Ireland and was moderated by David Chikvaidze, chef de cabinet for the United Nations Office at Geneva in Switzerland. Other panelists, along with Jenna and Vivian Loftness included: Werner Loscheider, head of unit for the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy in Germany; Vahram Jalalyan, co-chair of the UNECE Joint Task Force on Energy Efficiency in Buildings and project manager for the Climate Change Programme for the United Nations Development Programme in Armenia; Justin Schwartz, Dean of Engineering at Penn State University; and Scott Foster, director of the UNECE Sustainable Energy Division.
Scott Foster, who created the Centers of Excellence closed the meeting by saying, “It has dawned on me that three speakers during this event were from Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is known as the keystone state, and the built environment is the keystone to our climate agenda."
“ "It has dawned on me that three speakers during this event were from Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is known as the keystone state, and the built environment is the keystone to our climate agenda." ”
Mr. Darragh O’Brien TD. Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Ireland).
Mr. David Chikvaidze, Chef de Cabinet, United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG)
Ms. Vivian Loftness, Professor/Former Head of School of Architecture, Carnegie Mellon University
Mr. Werner Loscheider, Head of Unit, Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (Germany)
Mr. Vahram Jalalyan, Co-Chair UNECE Joint Task Force on Energy Efficiency in Buildings and Project Manager, Climate Change Programme, UNDP Armenia
Ms. Jenna Cramer, Executive Director, Green Building Alliance
Mr. Justin Schwartz, Dean of Engineering, Penn State University
Mr. Scott Foster, Director, UNECE Sustainable Energy Division