p4 Measures Compared to Green Building & Sustainable Development Certifications

At this point, almost everyone in the building world is familiar (if not intimate) with LEED, with emerging awareness of the Living Building Challenge, WELL Building Standard, and Passiv House.  BUT,  in Pittsburgh, there is a new framework in town, developed right here. You’ve heard “p4” tossed about as the next frontier of sustainable, urban development, but how much do you really know about the p4 Performance Measures?



Let’s start at the beginning. Pittsburgh’s “p4 Performance Measures” are part of the larger p4 framework started by The Heinz Endowments and the City of Pittsburgh. In 2015, these two entities convened a summit to prioritize People, Planet, Place, and Performance in citywide development. The p4 Pittsburgh platform creates “an organizing framework for growing jobs, mobilizing capital, rejuvenating neighborhoods, and improving lives.” The Heinz Endowments has already funded multiple projects under these guiding priorities, including Envision Downtown, Project RE, and ROCIS.


Fast forward to October 2016 and add GBA’s first executive director, Rebecca Flora, into the mix. Through Remake Group, Ms. Flora was tasked with creating a quantifiable system against which all Pittsburgh projects could be commonly evaluated.  After convening more than 140 stakeholders, several subcommittees, and more than a few technical teams, the p4 Performance Measures were born as 12 priority focus areas: Community, Opportunity, Economy, Housing, Land, Public, Connect, Rainwater, Air, Energy, Innovation, and Design.  Within each Measure, a project team can earn up to 10 points and must document achievements, processes, baselines, and/or calculation methodologies, as delineated.

However, for some, the question arises: “Why does Pittsburgh need its own sustainable development evaluation system?” The answer can be found first and foremost in the city’s unique historical development, which encompasses specific geographic, environmental, and industrial challenges. Everyone knows that we have some of the hilliest neighborhoods in the nation, but how do those topographical factors affect stormwater management, transportation access, and distribution of wealth? How can we consider both equitable and sustainable development across all 90 neighborhoods, some of which have seen tremendous disinvestment over decades?  The p4 Performance Measures attempt to provide a prioritized local agenda, considering how buildings and development projects meet the needs and priorities of Pittsburgh. To that end, the p4 Measures incorporate some of the best local practices, from Pittsburgh’s Code of Ordinances to the Roadmap for Inclusive Innovation and the upcoming arts master plan, ARTPGH. No need to flip back and forth between policy checklists; the p4 Measures attempt to a streamline, creating a consistent rubric to assess development across people, planet, place, and performance.


Though the p4 Measures are Pittsburgh born and bred, they do not exist in isolation. Many p4 measures will be familiar to owners, developers, and project teams currently pursuing various (inter)national green building certifications — and each measure references any source its creators used as a model. Because GBA works with many different certifications (and loves comparison tables), we decided to delineate out how p4 complements existing green building and sustainable development rating systems. On the whole, the p4 Performance Measures most closely align with LEED and Living Building Challenge, with heavy emphasis on the people and equity aspects of sustainable development.  As one might expect, the p4 Energy Measure aligns with most international standards, including LEED, Living Building Challenge, 2030 Challenge , and Passive House. For those deep into green buildings, the p4 Air Measure brings in the WELL Building Standard, to create some focus on human health and indoor air quality.


If after reading this you are raring to be a p4 pioneer, luck is on your side. The full p4 Performance Measures were released in October 2016, and several Pittsburgh projects (e.g., Uptown EcoInnovation District and Almono) are already beginning to implement them. The p4 Measures are meant to guide all city investment, so whether you work for government, in philanthropy, for a private corporation, or a nonprofit, these Measures are meant to help you do the best building you can for Pittsburgh. To learn more about how you can incorporate the p4 Performance Measures into your next project, download our matrix detailing the p4 Measures Alignment with Green Building Standards or email GBA’s Technical & Policy Director, Kris Osterwood.

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