Carlow eyes energy reductions in $15.7 million renovation project

Most of the buildings on Carlow University’s Oakland campus were built between 1930 and the 1960s, and they look like it.

“A lot of these buildings look like their original construction,” said Drew Wilson, a university spokesman. “Windows have changed in most of them, and some roofs, but other than that, that’s probably it.”

Now, as part of an effort to cut its energy use, the campus hopes to modernize. Carlow is one of several institutions in Oakland to join Pittsburgh’s 2030 District, composed of organizations that have pledged to reduce their energy use 50 percent by 2030.

Carlow’s decision to join the initiative comes in tandem with the renovation of its Grace Library Building, an 82,500-square-foot property built in 1970. The construction project, announced in April and expected to cost $15.7 million, will create a multipurpose space called University Commons to hold classrooms, offices and the campus bookstore. 

Planning for the renovation was already underway when the 2030 initiative approached Carlow about participating, and Tim Carney, the university’s director of facilities, said the goals of both projects aligned.

“Collaborating with the community on green issues seemed like a logical next step,” he said.

Administrators hope the building will earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification by the end of construction next summer. LEED certification is a nationally recognized assessment of energy design.

The renovation will upgrade the building’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems to make them more efficient, Mr. Carney said, and there are plans to institute a “state of the art” energy management system that would minimize fossil fuel use. The renovation will also insulate windows and put lighting controls in place.

While the campus’s other buildings won’t be renovated immediately, there are plans to minimize water usage and electrical consumption there, Mr. Carney said. Carlow is also considering ways to encourage green transportation use, such as offering preferred parking to high-efficiency vehicles.

Sean Luther, senior director of the Pittsburgh 2030 District with the Green Building Alliance, said Carlow’s older infrastructural profile fits the project well. While the green building movement has been largely focused on new construction, Mr. Luther said, the 2030 District was launched with existing buildings in mind.

“There’s a lot of potential in organizations like Carlow to reduce their bottom line in terms of building operations costs through energy and water efficiency [and] improve the health of their buildings,” he said. 

Mr. Wilson said progress toward the 2030 goal will require taking small steps to increase energy efficiency. He recalled that just 10 years ago, many people on campus weren’t committed to recycling, something he said has become an “institutional initiative” in the years since. 

“There have been small steps along the way that have contributed to this campus being a lot more green than it was even 10 years ago,” he said. “That’s an effort that we want to continue into the future as we go through these renovations.”

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

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