Green Building Alliance receives $1.25 million to launch new economic development initiative  

August 11, 2010

The Pittsburgh-based Green Building Alliance recently received $1.25 million in grants to launch the Green Building Products Initiative, a program designed to make Western Pennsylvania a center for the development and manufacturing of green products.

According to
Rebecca Flora , executive director of the Green Building Alliance, the Green Building Products Initiative is designed to encourage interaction among regional businesses and organizations involved in the development and manufacture of green building products.

“We believe there is an extraordinary opportunity for Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania to position itself as a worldwide center for green building,” Ms. Flora added.“In burgeoning industries such as biotechnology and nanotechnology, we’re racing to catch up with other metropolitan areas, but green building represents a fast-growing industry segment in which we already have established and acknowledged leadership.”

The funding for the new initiative comes from two sources:a $1 million state grant from the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority and a $250,000 grant from The Heinz Endowments.The $1 million grant is being provided through the Pennsylvania Green Growth Partnership, a new statewide partnership designed to help building products companies develop environmentally friendly products through research and development, design assistance and community outreach.It includes the Green Building Alliance in Pittsburgh and the Philadelphia University Pennsylvania Center for Technology and Sustainability.

By establishing the Green Building Products Initiative, the Green Building Alliance hopes to:

·PositionWestern Pennsylvaniaas the national center for green building innovation, production and utilization

· Support and grow the green building products industry in Western Pennsylvania with direct assistance as well as applied research grants

· Create a competitive advantage for green building product manufacturers in Western Pennsylvania , as well as companies that want to relocate here

· Encourage innovation, integration and collaboration between building product manufacturers and building professionals to improve building performance throughout the world; and

· Facilitate networking to assist with education, labor training and product innovation to reduce the incubation time of marketable innovations.

Mike Pijar, General Manager of Berner Energy Recovery, which is headquartered in New Castle , Lawrence County , said that his company is pleased to be part of the Green Building Products Initiative because of the benefits it promises for the entire Western Pennsylvania region.

“Green building is the leading force for innovation in the building industry and, thanks to its high concentration of green building projects, Western Pennsylvania is recognized as one of the world’s leading green building centers,” he said.“Participating in the Green Building Products Initiative will enable companies like ours to draw on the great assets this region already possesses to strengthen not just our company, but the economic health of the entire region.”

The creation of the Green Building Products Initiative is one of several potential economic development opportunities outlined in Green Building Products:Defining and Verifying the Opportunity for Western Pennsylvania, a study released today by the Green Building Alliance.

The report, which was funded by The Heinz Endowments and the Richard King Mellon Foundation and, conducted jointly by GSP Consulting and the Center for Economic Development at Carnegie Mellon University, enumerates Western Pennsylvania’s green building assets, which are virtually unrivaled by any other geographic region in the world.Because of these assets, the study contends, a strategic emphasis on green building has the potential to be a significant economic catalyst in Western Pennsylvania .Here is why:

· Green building is the industry’s leading economic driver – Building Design & Construction, one of the building industry’s most widely read publications, recently declared that “Sustainable development is the most vibrant and powerful force to impact the building design industry and construction industry in more than a decade.”McGraw-Hill Construction, one of the industry’s leading trend trackers, estimates that more than $59 billion will be spent annually on green building by 2010, up from $10.2 billion in 2004.

· Building products represent one of Western Pennsylvania ’s leading business sectors – The building products industry in Western Pennsylvania encompasses 1,800 firms with more than 68,000 employees.Of the region’s largest companies, 20.7 percent are related to building products.The sheer volume of these companies and their representation across a wide variety of building sectors leaves the region well-positioned to capitalize on the coming boom in green building.

· Pittsburgh has an international reputation for green building – Among U.S. cities, Pittsburgh ranks third in both the number of buildings and total square feet of certified green building space.The city also is home to the first green-certified historic building, convention center, warehouse, banking facility and university residence hall.Currently almost 100 green building projects are completed or underway in the area, including the new PNC Bank Tower (under construction), which is slated to be the tallest green-certified building in the world.In addition, over the past two years, Pittsburgh has been cited for its green building leadership in The Economist, Fortune , USA Today and the New York Tim es .

· An existing network of collaborative resources – The rapid adoption of green building practices has been facilitated by the visionary collaboration of local architects, corporations, product manufacturers and environmental organizations, including charitable trusts such as The Heinz Endowments and the Richard King Mellon Foundation.Finally, the Green Building Alliance itself has developed into a national model for agency-led market adoption of green building practices.

· The innovation pipeline is already in place – More than $119 million in federally funded research in green building has been directed to local universities, including Carnegie Mellon University , the University of Pittsburgh and Penn State University .All three universities have internationally recognized programs devoted to green building research and are collaborating with the Green Building Alliance to form a statewide green building research and education consortium called INSPIRE (INvestment in Sustainable Practice and Industry via Research and Education).On the business side, Pennsylvania firms received more than 2,700 patents in green building-related products between 1990 and 2004.

· The region is centrally located – Western Pennsylvania and its green building product manufacturers are located within 500 miles of several of the country’s most active green building real estate markets.This is critical because specifying regionally sourced building products (within 500 miles of a project’s construction site) represents a key green building project criterion.

Congressman Mike Doyle (D-14), who was on hand for the announcement, has aggressively championed the federal government's commitment to green building and research.   He said the Green Building Products Initiative will give the region's building product manufacturers a competitive advantage.

“As the country's largest property owner, the federal government has an obligation to make sure the buildings it designs and constructs are as environmentally sustainable and energy efficient as possible, and I'm working to make sure we meet that obligation,” he explained.  “The creation of the Green Building Products Initiative represents a major economic step for this region because it will help building product manufacturers in Western Pennsylvania to capitalize on our growing national commitment to green building.”

Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato said the Green Building Products Initiative fits comfortably into the county’s overall economic development program, especially the on-going reclamation of abandoned industrial sites.

“When you look at the successful development taking place in our region, from the Homestead Waterfront to the South Side Works, it’s clear that our region has become very adept at taking brownfields and turning them into vital community assets,” he said.“The greening of these sites, and the economic benefits we derive from them, are enhanced when we capitalize on the wide range of green building products manufactured here and used in these developments.I believe this new initiative will positively impact that process while promoting local companies and the region as a whole.”

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who recently committed Pittsburgh to the Cities for Climate Protection campaign, said the Green Building Products Initiative represents another critical step in the development of comprehensive green building strategy for the city.

“Pittsburghis already a leader in many forward-looking industries such as medical research and robotics,” he said.“Our support for the Green Building Products Initiative and the Green Building Alliance signals our commitment to building a future of market-driven economic growth while preserving a healthy environment for generations of Pittsburghers to come.”

The Green Building Products Initiative will encompass networking opportunities and other industry events and services to foster business development.In addition, a new web site will provide designated areas to foster collaboration among industry members, investors, researchers, academics, and potential customers.

“We expect this to be a very dynamic organization,” explained Ms. Flora.“There’s so much going on in the green building industry, it’s hard to predict what shape this initiative will eventually take;

yet for our region to remain on the cutting edge of this booming field, we felt like this was the next right step.”

The Green Building Alliance, founded in 1993, is a Pittsburgh-based non-profit organization that facilitates the development of green buildings in Western Pennsylvania .It is one of the leading regional organizations of its kind in the world.

For more information or to join the Green Building Products Initiative, call the (412) 431-0709 or visit

Editor’s Note:A full copy of Green Building Products:Verifying and Defining the Opportunity for Western Pennsylvania is available by contacting the Green Building Alliance at (412) 431-0709.An earlier GBA report, Green Building Products:Positioning Southwestern Pennsylvania as the U.S. Manufacturing Center, which was published in January 2006, is also available.


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