The Green Building Alliance, a Pittsburgh-based non-profit organization that facilitates the development of green buildings in western Pennsylvania, has announced the Green Building Products Initiative. This economic development program has been created to maximize western Pennsylvania’s potential for economic growth.
According to Rebecca Flora, executive director of the Green Building Alliance (GBA), the new Green Building Products Initiative is designed to encourage interaction among regional businesses and organizations involved in the development and manufacture of green building products. “Pittsburgh has the first green-certified historic building, convention center, warehouse, banking facility, and university residence hall which has positioned western Pennsylvania as a worldwide center for green building,” said Flora. “Many of these developments are the result of the strong partnerships the GBA has developed with local architects, building owners, universities, and legislators, which has allowed GBA to become a model agency for green building advocacy nationwide.”
The creation of the Green Building Products Initiative is one of several potential economic development opportunities outlined in “Green Building Products: Defining and Verifying the Opportunity for Western Pennsylvania,” a study released by the GBA.
By establishing the Green Building Products Initiative, the GBA aims to:
* position Western Pennsylvania as the national center for green building innovation, production, and utilization;
* support and grow the green building products industry in western Pennsylvania with direct assistance as well as applied research grants;
* create a competitive advantage for green building product manufacturers in western Pennsylvania, as well as companies that want to relocate there;
* encourage innovation, integration, and collaboration between building product manufacturers and building professionals to improve building performance throughout the world; and
* facilitate networking to assist with education, labor training, and product innovation to reduce the incubation time of marketable innovations.
The report, funded by The Heinz Endowments and the Richard King Mellon Foundation, and conducted jointly by GSP Consulting and the Center for Economic Development at Carnegie Mellon University, enumerates western Pennsylvania’s green building assets. Because of these assets, the study contends, a strategic emphasis on green building has the potential to be a significant economic catalyst in the region. Currently almost 100 green building projects are completed or underway in the area, including the new PNC Bank Tower, which is slated to be the tallest green-certified building in the world.
More than $119 million in federally funded research in green building has been directed to local universities, including Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Penn State University. All three universities have internationally recognized programs devoted to green building research and are collaborating with the GBA to form a statewide green building research and education consortium called INSPIRE (INvestment in Sustainable Practice and Industry via Research and Education). On the business side, Pennsylvania firms received more than 2,700 patents in green building-related products between 1990 and 2004.
The Green Building Products Initiative will encompass networking opportunities and other industry events and services to foster business development. In addition, a new Web site will provide designated areas to foster collaboration among industry members, investors, researchers, academics, and potential customers.
“We expect this to be a very dynamic organization,” said Flora. “There’s so much going on in the green building industry, it’s hard to predict what shape this initiative will eventually take; yet for our region to remain on the cutting edge of this booming field, we felt like this was the next right step.”
The funding for the new initiative comes from two sources: a $1 million state grant from the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority and a $250,000 grant from The Heinz Endowments. The $1 million grant is being provided through the Pennsylvania Green Growth Partnership, a new statewide partnership designed to help building products companies develop environmentally friendly products through research and development, design assistance and community outreach. It includes the GBA in Pittsburgh and the Philadelphia University Pennsylvania Center for Technology and Sustainability.