University of Pittsburgh

Laura Zullo, Sr. Manager of Energy Initiatives
(412) 383-2372
[email protected]

The Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation

The Climate Initiative at University of Pittsburgh
The University of Pittsburgh has long been committed to advancements in sustainability and green initiatives. Significant strides have been made in sustainable design and construction, energy conservation, pollution/emissions reduction, recycling, and greening of the campus.

As a member of the Higher Education Climate Consortium, Pitt is committed to aligning its campus practices with the Pittsburgh Climate Initiative. Its programs and standard practices are well underway, and features are described below.


The University of Pittsburgh’s Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor, Patricia E. Beeson, declared the 2014-2015 academic year as “The Year of Sustainability.” Initiatives included a matching funds program intended to support lectures, seminars, workshops, and colloquia related to sustainability and the Sustainable Solutions Competition, which engaged five teams of interdisciplinary students in a 6 day competition to create the next big idea in sustainability for our campus. Read more here.

The Sierra Club ranked University of Pittsburgh in its 2015 list of Cool Schools, while The Princeton Review again included Pitt in its list of 353 most environmentally responsible colleges in the United States and Canada.

Educational Initiatives & Outreach
The Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation at the University of Pittsburgh is a center of excellence in sustainable engineering focusing on the design of sustainable neighborhoods.   Our goal is to create innovations that positively impact the environment and improve quality of life. Research includes projects on greening the built environment, more sustainable use of water, and the design of distributed power systems.

Community outreach programs include the following:

  • Mt. Lebanon High School
  • Powdermill Nature Reserve
  • Future City Mentors
  • Vandergrift Improvement Project
  • Carnegie Science Center Exhibit
  • Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes
  • Connect to Excellence

The University has organized a Sustainability Committee, composed of faculty, staff, and student representatives who advocate for sustainability on campus.  The committee’s recent areas of interest include the development of a website, promoting sustainable purchasing, collaboration on the University’s annual “Blue, Gold, and Green” event, expansion of the University’s recycling program,  and planning of a Faculty Senate plenary session on sustainability.

Emissions Inventory
The University’s Facilities Management Division partnered with Pitt’s Mascaro Center for Sustainable Engineering to complete campus emissions inventories for 2008, 2011, and the 2014 inventory is currently under review.

Energy: Efficiency, Conservation, and Alternative

The Facilities Management team at the University of Pittsburgh is dedicated to ongoing energy efficiency. This dedication has been demonstrated by the installation of a comprehensive energy management system which monitors and controls building temperatures and airflow according to established schedules, starts and stops equipment, and collects energy consumption data.  Other projects have included lighting upgrades, installation of occupancy sensors, expansion of the central chilled water and steam systems to eliminate stand-alone chillers and boilers, sub-metering of buildings, and installation of energy/heat recovery systems in mechanical upgrades. Cumulative savings attributed to energy conservation initiatives since 1996 are estimated at nearly $36 million.

A comprehensive utility master plan and energy audit was completed in 2001 that identified $6 million in “low-hanging fruit” conservation projects with a projected simple payback of less than five years.  The University has implemented these projects along with many others recommended in the master plan.

In 2009, Pitt began operation of a new steam plant that includes six state-of-the-art, ultra-low emission natural gas boilers. The plant is currently serving approximately 50% of the university’s and UPMC’s steam requirements, and is expected to begin serving all Pitt & UPMC needs within the next several years. The University estimates that 46% of steam related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will be eliminated upon full transfer to the new Carrillo Street Plant, and resulting in an annual reduction of 48,000 metric tons of CO2 for Pitt and UPMC combined.  The plant’s boilers are designed to meet an ultra-low NOx limit of 9 parts per million.  To the University’s knowledge, the plant is the only University plant in the nation to have achieved this ultra-low limit.

Recycling and Waste Management
Pitt recycles basic paper, commingle (aluminum/glass/plastic), batteries, and electronics, and landscaping waste is composted. Compactors are used across campus to reduce overall waste volume. In FY2011, the University diverted approximately 43% of its waste stream from landfills.

In addition, the University has implemented a construction and demolition recycling program and has achieved impressive diversion rates to date.  Reusable construction waste is diverted to a warehouse instead of a landfill, where items can be used in other building projects.  For example, the Benedum Hall MCSI addition documented a 98.9% diversion rate, and the Chevron Science Center addition project diverted 97% of construction and demolition waste.

In 2010, the University installed an industrial composting system in its main dining hall, Market Central. The system consists of a pulper, extractor, and composting oven that reduces waste 85% and produces rich soil amendment that local farmers pick up. Pitt students even use the compost on their own campus garden.

Buildings and Grounds
The University of Pittsburgh has three LEED Gold certified facilities: the McGowan Institute for Regional Medicine, the Benedum Hall renovation, and the Benedum Hall MCSI addition.  Ten additional construction projects are pursuing LEED certification including the new freshman dorm building on Fifth Avenue slated to open Fall 2013.

University design standards extensively dictate many sustainable features for all renovation and construction projects.  Examples of these standards include energy efficient lighting, occupancy sensors, premium efficiency motors, energy recovery systems, low temperature transformers, DDC controls, low or no VOC paints and adhesives, carpet with minimum recycled content, etc.

Two green roofs have recently been installed on campus at Benedum Hall and the Falk School.  Green space and low-maintenance ground cover has been expanded throughout campus, and the University has installed many bicycle racks and planted many new trees.

Pitt subsidizes public transportation to offer no-cost access for all students, staff, and faculty who receive a University of Pittsburgh identification card. Incentives for carpooling are also offered to staff and faculty, and electric vehicle charging stations are being installed on campus.  An extensive shuttle network is offered for campus affiliates, and the shuttle fleet has been converted to biodiesel.  Zipcars are available on campus.

Free the Planet

Engineers for a Sustainable World
Engineers without Borders