The lab on the sixth floor

Editor’‍s note: This is part of a series looking at participants in Sustainable Pittsburgh’‍s Green Workplace Challenge. The second annual contest had a line up of more than 100 participants during the year ended May 31. Large and small firms, nonprofits, universities and government entities competed to see who could save the most energy, waste and water.


The sixth floor of the City-County building on Grant Street is home to something of a test project for the city of Pittsburgh. 

Updated light fixtures, whose daylight sensors keep them from staying on unnecessarily, are among several energy-saving updates implemented on the sixth floor before being rolled out to other city buildings.

The city of Pittsburgh was named a winner in the 2013-2014 Green Workplace Challenge. The city cut energy use by 3 percent over the past year, according to sustainability coordinator Aftyn Giles.

It previously set the goal of reducing its energy use by 20 percent by 2023. With this year’‍s savings, the city is technically ahead of schedule to meet that benchmark, Ms. Giles said. 

A number of efforts over the past several years have contributed to greater energy efficiency, according to James Sloss, the city’‍s deputy director of innovation and performance. In 2008, the city approved the first version of its Climate Action Plan, which Ms. Giles said has been the “guiding body” for green initiatives since.

Officials have tried to take advantage of small, “financially accessible” opportunities to save energy, Mr. Sloss said. Recently, a number of lighting upgrades, such as switching to LED, were implemented after the test run in the City-County building. Another project involved restoring steam pipes to eliminate leaks, according to Ms. Giles.

Many of the projects were made possible by the more than $5 million in state and federal grants received since 2008, Mr. Sloss said.

With some of the low-hanging fruit picked, the city is moving ahead with an eye toward educating its more than 3,000 employees on other green practices such as recycling. Ms. Giles said this competition in particular showed the city that it could do more to engage employees. 

Looking ahead to the coming year, the municipality hopes to reduce its energy use by 6 percent more, Ms. Giles said. Other projects include the city’‍s first waste audit, metering its water, and looking into implementing green infrastructure to save and recycle water. 

Madeline R. Conway:, 412-263-1714 or on Twitter @MadelineRConway

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