Historic Library to Children’s Lab and an Air Quality Update

Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh hosted the September Partner Meeting for Pittsburgh 2030 District participants. Attendees learned about the Museum’s current efficiency efforts and their renovation of the former Carnegie Library along with a report from the Allegheny County Health Department on their work, particularly as it relates to our air quality.

Chris Cieslak leading a tour of the former Carnegie Library space.

What We Learned:

Opened in June 1983, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh served 306,000 visitors in 2016 and in 2017 was named in the top 5 Best Museums for Families by USA Today. George Brzezinski, Director of Visitor Services, pointed out that the museum is composed of three attached buildings, each built in different centuries – the Post Office building, the Lantern building, and the Buhl Planetarium.

The museum is currently renovating the former Carnegie Library next door in order to create their new Museum Lab. The project made news headlines in July after portraits painted by Elizabeth Black were uncovered by Mascaro Corp.

Project Director Chris Cieslak outlined the many certifications and goals the renovation is pursuing, including LEED certification, WELL certification, 2030 Challenge goals, and incorporating design strategies from the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA) to maximize inclusiveness and accessibility.

The current design expects to achieve an energy use intensity (EUI, a measure of energy use per square foot) 60% below the baseline for museums and well on their way to achieving the 2030 Challenge’s carbon neutral goal for major renovations. The museum will also connect to the NRG system, utilizing the highly efficient and resilient district energy system for steam and chilled water.

With a mission to “protect, promote, and preserve the health and well-being of all Allegheny County residents, particularly the most vulnerable” the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) works in a variety of areas tracking data and health outcomes. Dr. Karen Hacker, ACHD Director, shared a wealth of data, publically available on their website for Allegheny Community Indicators.

Air quality falls under the purview of the ACHD and the quality of outdoor air impacts the quality of our indoor air. The Health Department has 18 air quality monitoring stations measuring ozone, particulates, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and lead.

Despite great improvements in air quality, the Pittsburgh region continues to have some of the worst air quality in the nation and faces several unique challenges. Come learn about the science and public health perspectives on air quality and what people are doing about it; explore how outdoor air quality affects indoor air quality; and get hands-on experience with citizen science tools available to help you be a part of the solution.

The good news is that the region’s air quality continues to improve. All monitoring sites within the county met the 2008 ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard for the first time in 2015. The PM2.5 average for 2014-2016 in the Mon Valley continues to trend downward and is approaching the current EPA standard, while the same 3-year average for Pittsburgh is currently below the maximum concentration. Annual air quality reports are available online for more information.

However, challenges to the region’s air quality remain. The 2017 State of the Air report from the American Lung Association shows how much work is left to be done. The Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton area ranks 8th on a national list of year round particle pollution and #17 in short-term particle pollution. Several local and state organizations are joining in the work to better our region’s air quality, including GASP, PennFuture, Clean Air Council, and the Breathe Project. Interested in doing your own citizen science? Check out ROCIS and Create Lab’s Smell PGH app.

Want to know even more? Join GBA at Pittsburgh’s Air Quality, Indoor Environments, and You on October 25.

Thank you to our host, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and our presenters: George Brzezinski and Chris Cieslak of the Children’s Museum and Dr. Karen Hacker of the Allegheny County Health Department.

Each month, the Pittsburgh 2030 District holds a Partner Meeting convening Property, Community, and Resource Partners; sponsors; and other stakeholders to discuss the latest relevant happenings and information for the city. Meetings give building owners and facility managers the opportunity to share their successes and challenges. Additional speakers present industry information and updates on a variety of critical topics. It’s a closed-door, monthly forum where partners learn from each other through peer-to-peer dialogue and collaboratively plan for a sustainable and efficient future.

The Pittsburgh 2030 District’s goal is to have 100% property participation within the District’s boundaries. Join us! Visit our FAQs for more program information and our contact page if you have questions.

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