Sunday, March 02, 2008

Gold (Energy) Star to the URA

There's an interesting article buried in the back of the City Paper, which I'm surprised hasn't attracted more attention from the more mainstream print media:

Residential construction financed by the Urban Redevelopment Authority must now meet certain federal energy-saving standards...

The URA is asking developers to meet the standards of the Energy Star program, a joint federal effort by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy to establish standards of energy efficiency in products and buildings...

Right now there are 226 Energy Star-qualified homes in Pittsburgh and the surrounding suburbs, according to the EPA's Jon Passe. Of those, 180 were built in 2007.

[URA sustainable-design coordinator Matt] Smuts says that the URA provided funding to the construction of 50 stand-alone houses and between 300 and 600 multi-family units, apartments or attached condos in 2007...
This seems to be a really big deal to me, and I can't decide if the URA is being uncharacteristically progressive in its thinking or if the tide of energy conservation has fully engulfed even the most stalwart of conservative institutions in Pittsburgh. [Or perhaps everyone is just sick of paying $800 gas bills.]

In any case, this may be one of those things that really puts Pittsburgh on the map in terms of Green Design and development. Already there are architects, schools, supporting institutions, foundations, and contractors in the region that are starting to specialize in this type of work. The added weight of the URA, as both a governmental and funding organization, will give a terrific boost to the industry, making energy efficient homes more than just commonplace in Pittsburgh. Could it be possible that the Region is on the verge of developing its own self-sustaining environmental industry cluster?

Moreover, if the URA is helping to producing 650 houses/apartments a year and all of them will have to be Energy Star compliant, that will triple the number of Energy Star Homes in the City within the first year.

More importantly, however, with mortgage prices completely out of whack, it only makes sense for homeowners to reduce the cost of their energy usage in order to minimize their risk of default or foreclosure. This is particularly necessary for areas where there is need for more affordable housing.

So kudos all around, I suppose.


Bram Reichbaum said...

The only 'catch' I could find is just what/who the heck is Energy Star? To an extent, it seems to be a club among housing developers and their cohorts, designed to give themselves a way to call attention to their good behavior.

I have no idea if their standard are serious, but the article reports that a junior URA administrator says "the next step" is requiring LEED certification for homes -- LEED certification is the bar by which we currently measure commercial property, and it originates from the conservation community, not the development community.

O said...

Here you go Bram.

Apparently, part of the LEED standard is achieving a good Energy Star rating.

Bram Reichbaum said...


So Energy Star is a joint project between the EPA and the Department of Energy. That is, the Bush Administration EPA and the Bush Administration Department of Energy.

Still. Kudos (grrrrrrrr) all around.

O said...

Well, it was started in 1992.

Check out the tags at your local appliance store.

Bram Reichbaum said...

Grrrr. I like you better drunk and angry.

Anonymous said...

If I were luke i would be shitttttin myself about right now.
His hairbrained advisors have concocted the most looney legal rational on zoning I have ever heard in my life.

Thank the gods we have some "Bram-A-GranStanders" in Council who can read the law an'at. They most likely fed this bull to Luke and, the moronic Mayor, not knowing much of anything, "well it sounded pretty smart to me - actually kinda like the UPMC deal before that went south."

Sadly, during Luke's brief stint on Council he was not notable for any desire to become familiar with the city code. (he was more widely known for his penchant for golfing regularly during the week with his best bud Motznik). But wait! This just in from the Mayor's office.


FROM:Luke,the mAYOR
TO: Self.

I better start reading that zoning code stuff. I think my best buds just put my ass into one gigantic mess. I better start to think twice before buying into the snake oil salesman's pitch from that big shot "expert", Pat Ford. Those rats on Council tore him a new asshole.

Lately, Zober has been running around here looking like some lawyer who is about to get disbarred or something. I should ask him what's up but he's really begining to creep me out with that nervous tic in his eye and the hives.

Geeze oh man! I wonder what notes that jag off Ford has of our meetings? What kind of nutbag writes all that sh_t down? At my next meeting with him be sure to tie his hands to the chair.

cc: Dan Onorato
Tiger Woods

P.S. Hide city cars somewhere and tell Burgess someone must have stolen them.

P.P.S Find out what a "Civil Union" is. Still waiting on that damn Specter for legal opinion on that! Geeez o man!