Pitt, Carnegie Mellon University Engineering Sustainability 2009 Puts Green Ideas Into Action

Issue Date: 
April 6, 2009


The ideas and reality of sustainability will be showcased in tandem at the Engineering Sustainability 2009 conference sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh’s Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation and Carnegie Mellon University’s Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research (SEER). Approximately 120 presenters from various countries will report on the latest innovations in “green” transportation, development, power, and water utilities—and some of the largest businesses in the country and the region will exhibit their eco-friendly evolution.

The conference will be held April 19-21 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, 1000 Fort Duquesne Blvd., Downtown. Conference registration opens April 19 at 3 p.m. with a welcome reception hosted by Sustainable Pittsburgh at 5:30. The conference begins April 20 with plenary speakers at 8:30 a.m. and various presentations from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. On April 21, plenary speakers begin at 8 a.m. with topical presentations beginning at 9:30 a.m. until the end of the day. The conference is open to the public. To register or see a conference schedule, visit www.mascarocenter.pitt.edu/conference/.

The 2009 conference—the third since the biennial conference was launched in 2005—includes practical discussions for businesses and cities looking to diminish their environmental footprints. Selected presentations follow.

The “Business Case for Green Building” session begins at 10:30 a.m. April 20 and explores the potential for companies that go green. The session’s invited speaker, Gary Jay Saulson, director of Corporate Real Estate for PNC Financial Services Group, will discuss the financial institution’s green building policy—the company leads American corporations in number of certified sustainable buildings—and how large companies can benefit from sustainable practices.

“Green Building Case Studies” also begins at 10:30 a.m. April 20 and will evaluate large-scale sustainability projects around the country, from the Erie Art Museum to New Orleans. Pittsburgh Councilman Bill Peduto will discuss Pittsburgh zoning laws that preserve the city’s many hillsides, both structurally and aesthetically.

The “Green Building Toolkit” session at 9:30 a.m. April 21 walks businesses through conceptualizing and designing sustainable buildings. Invited speaker Mark Dietrick, of the architecture and design firm Case Technologies, will discuss techniques and technology that businesses can use to analyze the environmental aspects of their designs for new structures.

The April 20 plenary session begins with recognized and award-winning designer Sandra Mendler of the San Francisco-based sustainable design firm Mithun. She’s followed at 9:30 a.m. by environmental consultant and sustainable infrastructure expert G. Tracy Mehan III, who served as assistant administrator for water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from 2001 to 2003 and as environmental stewardship counselor to the G-8 Summit Planning Organization in 2004.

The April 21 plenary session begins with David Allen, a chemical engineering professor and director of the Center for Energy at the University of Texas at Austin, who will explore sustainable engineering as the next step in education. At 8:45 a.m., Julie Zimmerman, a professor of engineering and forestry at Yale University, will speak about the latest scientific developments in sustainable design. Zimmerman studies the effect of pollutants, water sanitation in the developing world, and corporate environmental behavior, among other areas.

Also, the winner of the Mascaro Center’s Energy Efficient Building Technologies student green design contest will be announced during the April 21 plenary session. The four finalist teams will exhibit their projects during a poster session beginning at 5:30 p.m. April 20. The contest, announced in August 2008, challenged undergraduate students from universities in Southwestern Pennsylvania to create a technique for “greening” old buildings that carries a low-price tag and a quick payoff. The finalists—representing Pitt, Carnegie Mellon, and Duquesne University—thought of roof-top hydroelectricity from rainwater, a solar-powered device that heats and cools a room, and a Web site that tells people the amount of power they burn. The winning team receives $5,000. More information on the finalist projects is available on Pitt’s Web site at www.news.pitt.edu/m/FMPro?-db=ma&-lay=a&-format=d.html&id=3535&-Find.

The Mascaro Center and SEER will offset the more than 97 short tons of carbon churned out by attendees with a contribution to a methane reduction project at the Mains Family Dairy Farm in Newville, Pa., near Harrisburg. NativeEnergy, a Native American-owned renewable energy company, is helping the farm install a manure digester and 100-kilowatt biogas-fired electrical generator. Sponsored by the Bank of New York Mellon, the NativeEnergy donation is in lieu of conference printed materials and give-away items.

Other green steps include hosting the event at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center—a LEED-certified GOLD Green Building—as well as serving locally grown food, using washable dishware and utensils, serving drinks in pitchers, and distributing the conference proceedings on CDs rather than on paper. All printed material will be on recycled paper.