Well, that was cool! Sean, Isaac, and I just took a quick trip to NYC for the EBie Awards – a national ceremony hosted by our sister USGBC chapter, Urban Green Council. The EBies were created to specifically celebrate the people behind major efficiency improvements to existing buildings, and GBA nominated some friends from Pittsburgh that we thought deserved such recognition.
All three of our nominees became finalists and the winners were announced live at the EBie Awards on Monday night in New York. I’m very proud to report that all three of our nominees – Nana Wilberforce from PNC Financial Services Group, Gary Sechler from Winthrop Management, and Chris Pinelli from CBRE – were winners in their respective categories!! It was such a rush for Sean, Isaac, and me to cheer on our nominees and it was SO cool that Pittsburgh came up again and again. The past few days have been a whirlwind, but we are certainly coming home a little refreshed and a lot excited…
On Monday morning we met with folks from Urban Green Council, along with other chapter representatives and finalists, to tour The Solaire – an incredibly impressive residential high-rise in Battery Park City. This LEED Platinum-certified luxury apartment building was built in 2003 and incorporated several technologies and practices that were ahead of most construction projects of that time. The building has a wastewater treatment plant on-site (the first of any residential property in the U.S. to have one). Its blackwater is treated and used to flush toilets in The Solaire and The Verdisian (a newer LEED Platinum residence next door) and also used in cooling towers. The building has one of the most impressive green roofs I’ve ever seen, with a voluptuous array of flowers, trees, and even herb and vegetable gardens that residents can harvest. Building staff (who are all required to be LEED-accredited, as I understand) use submeters and a sophisticated system at the front desk to track energy usage of all tenants. A
solar panel array offsets energy usage for the lobby and common areas. The building collects not only typical items for recycling, but also clothing and electronics – which are picked up for free by the city. Tenants often ask staff members for advice when purchasing items such as furniture to ensure they’re maintaining the level of sustainability and indoor environmental quality that has been reached thus far. Views of the river and a public park in front of the residence – as well as several other nearby roof gardens – makes this locale pretty well exposed to nature. This was a really cool tour and everyone came away with some new ideas…and I was ready to move in!
That evening, Sean, Isaac, and I got dressed up and headed over to the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square for the main event. There was a “green carpet” on which nominees were interviewed and photographed, and green building enthusiasts flew in from all over the country to attend the EBies. Nominees came from California, Texas, Massachusetts, Pittsburgh (of course), New York, and more. We got to know the fine folks at Urban Green Council and make some new connections. When we arrived, we met with our two nominees who made the trip for the event – Chris and Nana – and settled in to wait for the big news. We felt like we were at the Grammy’s…. the suspense was killing us!
After some opening remarks from Urban Green’s Board Chair John Mandyck and Executive Director Russell Unger (who shared that the combined efforts of all the EBie nominees resulted in 25 million KW of energy savings!!) and a fun performance from a group of Broadway singers, the winners were finally announced. Here they are:
Verdant Brainiac – Vicki Sando (New York, NY)
Take Me to the River – Stephen Post (Revere, MA)
Shine a Light on Me – Nana Wilberforce (Pittsburgh, PA)
Power to the People – Stephen Post (Revere, MA)
Smooth Operator – Gary Sechler (Pittsburgh, PA) and Heidi Silveira (Sacramento, CA)
All-Arounder – Chris Pinelli (Pittsburgh, PA) and John Smith (Los Angeles, CA)
Each winner was recognized for his or her hard work and innovative practices in reducing energy use and creating healthier, higher performing buildings. You can learn more about the winners and their categories here. GBA nominated Chris, Nana, and Gary due to their voluntary sharing of building energy and water performance data through EPA’s Portfolio Manager platform and the Pittsburgh 2030 District. PNC, Winthrop Management (which manages the U.S. Steel Tower), and CBRE (which manages 11 Stanwix) are each Property Partners of the Pittsburgh 2030 District, so Sean and Isaac have been privy to activities each one has taken to reduce energy and water usage.
Chris Pinelli has spent the past few years weaving sustainability into the building he manages – 11 Stanwix – including the installation of dual-flush toilets, occupancy sensors, energy recovery units, and more. He’s greatly improved the building’s ENERGY STAR score and reduced water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and utility costs. He continues to push the envelope to save money and energy, and is now pursuing LEED certification for 11 Stanwix. Great job, Chris!
Dr. Nana Wilberforce oversaw a lighting retrofit for PNC Financial Services Group, which resulted in a nearly 20% reduction in electricity consumption after its completion. The project included installing LED lights with motion sensors in garages and stairwells, eliminating 5% of all fixtures and cutting currents on most fixtures, programming lights to turn off after-hours, and reducing ambient lighting levels from 50 to 25 footcandles in office space. Nana’s leadership in this project will help PNC reach its goal of a 30% reduction in building consumption by 2020. Congrats, Nana!
Gary Sechler manages the largest building in downtown Pittsburgh – the U.S. Steel Tower. He has achieved the impressive feat of transforming the building from an energy hog into one of the highest performing buildings in the city. Gary leveraged rebates to make lighting and metering retrofits that resulted in major energy reductions, even while occupancy levels rose. Way to go, Gary!
We are SO EXCITED that all our nominees became winners of this prestigious national award and are proud to have gained some recognition for our fine city, too. With Pittsburgh’s vast inventory of existing building stock, it’s incumbent on us to lead the country in innovations and best practices for energy-efficient existing buildings – and it looks like we’re doing just that!
Hooray for Pittsburgh and hooray for our winners – Chris, Gary, and Nana!