Sustainability movement gaining momentum across the U.S.

February 27, 2012

The increased use of energy efficient buildings and technology across the U.S. has been spurred by both a rise in heating and energy costs and a call to curb emissions. Efforts like the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings (GPIC) have worked to convince building owners and companies to adopt more sustainable practices.

The GPIC is a U.S. Department of Energy-designated innovation HUB for the design and development of energy efficient building technology, as this consortium of experts from the private sector, government, academia and energy development industry are using the Greater Philadelphia region as a testing ground for their discoveries.

Due to the sufficient amount of building stock in the city, the GPIC will test its developments in Philadelphia, while also working to promote the green building sector and respective education within the local population.

The GPIC is working at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, where the organization's 661 Building headquarters are where a significiant amount of its research is done. According to Why Y Radio, this site is also where a problem-solving education workshop is operating.

The news source reported that 28 public high school seniors, who have proven their strengths in math, science and engineering, have been participating in a alternative project at the Navy Yard. This pilot program, the Sustainability Workshop, began last September and is a student-centered, project-based, hands-on learning environment for the young minds.

This effort focuses on making the students solve real problems in the world, as one of the groups is tasked with developing an energy efficient heating and cooling design for their school. The research is done with the view of the GPIC headquarters in plain sight, as the young students are hoping to emulate the experts working for that DOE-sponsored initiative.

Pennsylvania has become one of the most significant centers for sustainable technology in the U.S., as the energy efficient building industry is not only thriving in Philadelphia, but also Pittsburgh. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune, the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens project is a significant sustainability effort that is nearing completion.

The "Center for Sustainable Landscapes" is a 24,000-square-foot education, research and administration complex that could become on of the greenest buildings in the world, and shows the increased interest in the green building sector.

"Sustainability isn't always about putting up new buildings. A big part of the puzzle is retrofitting … older buildings, keeping their legacy for the next 100 or 200 years," Jason McLennan, author and advocate for sustainable buildings, told the Tribune. "Places like Pittsburgh are showing that it can work everywhere."