Mon, 14 August 2006
Pittsburgh is at the forefront of the nation's green building movement. Depending on the day, Pittsburgh had either the most or the second most green buildings in the country. This reputation is beginning to recast in people's minds their ideas about Pittsburgh, formerly thought only as the smoky Steel City.
In this podcast, PennFuture's D.J. Trischler talks to Pittsburgh leaders to get the latest on energy efficient and environmentally friendly building in southwestern Pennsylvania. We hear first from Green Building Alliance (GBA) Executive Director Rebecca Flora. GBA is a national leader in creating market demand for green building through education, publicity, and project facilitation. Rebecca explains how the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification process for buildings works, and how policies that promote green building are missing, but needed. Later she discusses how green building has actually begun to attract people to Pittsburgh.
D.J. also speaks with Gary Saulson, Director of Corporate Real Estate at PNC, one of the nation's largest financial services companies, headquartered in Pittsburgh. PNC's Firstside Center in Pittsburgh, at 650,00 square feet, is one of the world's largest LEED-certified buildings, and has been recognized with more than 20 awards. Gary is a believer in green buildings, and has overseen many additional PNC projects. PNC intends to stay green, because they value the energy savings and healthier work environment. They've also created design prototypes for LEED-certified bank branches.
We also hear from Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto, who earlier this year introduced legislation at the city level to create incentives for developers to build green. If adopted, projects within the City of Pittsburgh that are LEED-certified could get waivers to enable them to increase density (adding extra floors, for example). But Peduto firmly believes that even without such incentives, Pittsburgh will continue to lead on LEED, because it makes so much sense for developers.
Energy conservation is one effective way to reduce your contribution to global warming, and to help prevent harmful pollution from coal-fired power plants. The cleanest watt of electricity is the one you don't use! To learn more about PennFuture's Cool Pennsylvania Campaign, visit our web site. You can also make the switch easily to a renewable source of electricity. Visit www.cleanyourair.org to find out how. As always, we welcome your comments and feedback. Click on "comment" below, or e-mail us at podcast (at) pennfuture (dot) org.
Tue, 8 August 2006
Between May and September each year, Pennsylvania's Air Quality Partnership is responsible for increasing the public's awareness about air quality and health effects associated with days where our air quality is poor. Generally speaking, there is cause for concern on hot days when pollution in the air from coal-fired power plants, vehicles, and other sources like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) off-gassing from buildings in populous areas undergoes a chemical reaction in the presence of sunlight, and creates low-lying ozone or smog. Fine particles, or soot, from power plant, industrial, and vehicle emissions also cause serious health problems.
To keep the public informed, Air Quality Action Days are forecast when conditions are expected to become dangerous. Days are coded green, yellow, orange, and red (from best to worst), and purple and maroon are reserved for the most unhealthy or even downright hazardous days for all groups of people. On Code Green days, there are generally very few health effects likely from the quality of air, but on Code Red days, everyone should limit their physical activity outdoors, and sensitive groups of people (those with asthma or underlying lung or heart conditions) are advised to stay indoors altogether.
It's no secret that we've had an especially hot July in 2006. In fact, nationwide, July was the hottest year on record, taking over the spot from July 1936 during the Dust Bowl. Not only were July days scorchers, so too were July nights. All over the nation, entire regions were experiencing back to back Code Orange days. In areas of the Midwest and into Pittsburgh, there were periods of entire days where soot pollution hit the Code Red level. Along the East Coast in mid-July, air was so bad, it was indexed at Code Purple.
But what does this mean for real people? In Pennsylvania in 2005, the American Lung Association recognized over 10 million people who are considered to be at-risk for health impacts on poor air quality days. This includes people under 18 and over 65, people with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Nearly one million Pennsylvanians suffer from asthma alone, and asthma rates are on the rise. Emergency room visits and ozone action days go hand-in-hand; there is a direct correlation between the need for respiratory treatments at the hospital and bad smog pollution. We also know that pollution from power plants and diesel leads to increased numbers of premature deaths in Pennsylvania and nationwide.
In this podcast, PennFuture's D.J. Trischler sets out during an ozone action day in Pittsburgh to talk with people who are most directly affected. He interviews Rick Ober who suffers from adult asthma, and who tries not to go outdoors at all on especially hot days, when air quality alerts are at their worst. D.J.'s grandfather, Ronald Trischler, describes how living with pulmonary fibrosis has altered his life, forcing him into early retirement. Mr. Trischler depends on a liquid oxygen tank. On ozone action days, he uses more oxygen than usual, and takes up to a half an hour just to get out of bed each day. He has noticed the frequency of hot summer days and bad air quality increasing over the past 10 years. Lastly, D.J. talks with UPMC Presbyterian Hospital respiratory therapist Matt Pladik about his experiences inside the medical community. Pladik notes that on poor air quality days, therapists working in the emergency room are kept busy with patients requiring breathing treatments, and he attributes the rise in asthma rates he's seeing professionally to environmental causes.
To learn more about Pennsylvania's Air Quality Partnership, visit the site here. You can sign up to receive the daily air quality forecast by e-mail, and see the number of problem days throughout the state to date. To get involved in taking actions to help improve Pennsylvania's air quality, contact us at podcast (at) pennfuture (dot) org. PennFuture is working throughout the state to support the implementation of the Pennsylvania Clean Vehicles Program, combat power plant pollution, and to reduce harmful diesel emissions, just to name a few.