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The University of Pittsburgh surpassed a landmark $1 billion in research-based expenditures in fiscal year 2022, placing it alongside elite institutions such as Johns Hopkins, Harvard and Stanford universities. Pitt also ranked #3 in funding from the National Institutes of Health–another record.

So thrifty: Buying, selling secondhand is affordable, sustainable and fun "Browsing through Goodwill in Cheswick, Brooke Holler was sizing up a wooden easel she was hoping would make a nice stand for a sign at her wedding in September. Holler isn’t just an avid thrifter — she turned her passion into a business. She runs Busy Bee’s on the secondhand online platform Poshmark. The 4-year-old business began when she realized she could turn her clothing addiction into a business."

A TALE OF TWO SUSTAINABLE CITIES New $750K NSF Convergence research will help turn Pittsburgh and Atlanta into model circular economy cities


New Research, co-authored by the late Dr. Freddie Fu, Reviews the Environmental Impacts of Orthopedic Surgery

A total knee replacement can greatly improve a patient’s quality of life, but first the procedure itself will create nearly 30 pounds of waste, about half of which presents a biohazard and requires energy-intensive treatment for safe disposal. 

A cataract surgery can give the gift of clear sight, but only after releasing the equivalent of 181.8 kilograms of carbon dioxide, about the same as a car traveling 315 miles. More information read here...

Recycle, Reuse, Reimagine

A Pitt engineer wants to reimagine recycling and rebuild the region along the way.

Glass, metal, plastic, cardboard. Most people know what can go in a recycling bin at home.

But what about at a construction site? When a building is being demolished, can those dumpsters full of concrete and rebar be repurposed or recycled?

Pitt’s Melissa Bilec knows. From Pitt Mag, read more here.

Pitt mag 20220330_AO_Melissa_Bilec_0043.cover_.jpg.webp

For nearly two decades, the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) has helped to form and reimagine the impact of sustainability throughout the University of Pittsburgh. From student engagement and academic programs to philanthropic endeavors and cultural evolution, MCSI has sought to make its mission of “sustainable innovation” more than a rubric but rather an institutional heartbeat. Buoyed by twenty years of success, MCSI announced its new pulse in foundational leadership.

Melissa Bilec, William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, has been appointed co-director. Eric Beckman, her predecessor and Distinguished Service Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, will step into a new role as Director Emeritus and Chief of Innovation and Translation. Gena Kovalcik continues to serve as co-director of administration and external relations. MSCI, established through a gift from alumnus John C. “Jack” Mascaro BSCE ’66 MSCE ’80 in 2003, has maintained a singular mission at Pitt – to catalyze sustainability research and education.

Read more here

New Energy Map Of Commercial Buildings Could Help Pittsburgh Reach Its Sustainability Goals

A model created by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh could help city officials make more effective energy policies and encourage businesses to use less energy. The map includes 3D models of 209 buildings Downtown and in Oakland. Different colors indicate different levels of energy use.

The map is significant, because previously there was no central source of information about energy consumption for commercial buildings in Pittsburgh. 


According to Melissa Bilec, civil and environmental engineering professor and deputy director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation at Pitt, most U.S. cities either don’t have this information available or it’s so disparate that it’s hard to use.


“We are really, in many ways, finding our way through the dark to really understand even what buildings we have in the U.S. And how much energy are they using?” said Bilec.

From and continue reading

Growth in the Medical Waste Poses Threat to Public Health 

“Take, make, waste.” That, regrettably, is the unsustainable pattern seen across many industries.

One industry that may surprise you is health care. The current structure of the health care supply chain is not conducive to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, making the United States responsible for a disproportionate share of the world’s medical waste.

Consider a simple blood pressure cuff: These medical devices can easily be reused with proper cleaning, yet many are manufactured as a single-use disposable product.

But what if the United States could transform its linear health care economy into a circular economy that is “restorative and regenerative by design”? Read more...

Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report for FY2019 Released

Pitt is actively working toward carbon neutrality by 2037, with an incremental goal of 50% fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than 2008 by 2030. The University’s fiscal year 2019 inventory indicates Pitt has already reduced GHG emissions by 21%. Dig into the details about how Pitt has been tracking and reducing our GHG impact over time through inventories published triennially since 2008 or check out the GHG dashboard. Moving forward, the GHG inventory reports will be released annually.

Carnegie Museums Highlight HVAC, HEPA Filters Along With Art And Science
Most museums showcase art, artifacts, or technology — not the HVAC system. But that is exactly what the Carnegie museums in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, are doing with a new exhibit that uses a ceiling HVAC vent to demonstrate how HEPA filters keep indoor air clean. Read more

PITTSBURGH (Sept. 28, 2020) — More inclusive classrooms improve learning and academic performance, and under-represented students in particular benefit from inclusion. Melissa Bilec, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, is leading a project called “Collaborative Research: Increasing Implementation of Proven Inclusivity Practices in Undergraduate Engineering Education” that will provide tangible guidance to educators for operating an inclusive classroom.  “There is a lot of advice about how to think about inclusivity in the classroom, but when I write a syllabus and plan the arc of a course in engineering, there’s a lack of go-to strategies and actionable advice,” said Bilec, who is also Roberta A. Luxbacher Faculty Fellow and deputy director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation. “Our end goal is to provide pragmatic, proven and trusted practices on inclusivity in the engineering classroom specifically.” ..continue reading

Practical Strategies for Inclusive Engineering Education

 PITTSBURGH (Sept. 18, 2020) — Because the novel coronavirus spreads through the air, experts continue to recommend outdoor activities over remaining indoors. However, the right air filter can make indoor air safer and help prevent the spread of the virus.

Melissa Bilec, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, explains how these filters work in a new exhibit at Carnegie Science Center, which employs the HEPA filters that help keep the air clean...continue reading

Adding a Layer of Protection to Indoor Air
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Plotting the Course for Circular Economy

PITTSBURGH (Sept. 17, 2020) — Experts in sustainability warn that the current economic model, forming a straight line from resource to product to waste, is unsustainable. Researchers are instead turning to the circular economy to disrupt that line, working toward a lifecycle of products that does not end in a landfill. Melissa Bilec, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, is currently leading a team of researchers studying the circular economy, the focus of another NSF Convergence grant, which received $1.3 million last year...continue reading (

Le Problème des Plastiques
French Government Invites Pitt Professor Melissa Bilec to Deliver Testimony on Plastic Pollution

PITTSBURGH (Jan. 16, 2020) — Plastic pollution is one of the many pressing environmental problems we are facing. On Dec. 12 and 13, 2019, in Paris and Le Mans, France, Melissa Bilec - deputy director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Roberta A. Luxbacher Faculty Fellow the University of Pittsburgh -  was invited by the French Embassy in the U.S. and the French Government to provide her perspective on solutions to this demanding problem...continue reading

Converging on a Global Waste Solution

SSOE, Sept. 25, 2019

PITTSBURGH (September 25, 2019) … In less than a generation, the plastic bottle has evolved from inexpensive convenience to scourge. What once was an accessory on the fashion runway has polluted the earth’s oceans, while plastic microparticles have been found in many living organisms. Recycling efforts have attempted to curb plastic overuse and misuse, but in the U.S. alone only 30 percent of plastic is recycled, while globally almost 20,000 plastic bottles are produced every second.1 And plastic is only one of the many types of waste – from construction materials to electronics and paper – that industries and government are attempting to reroute from landfills. . ..continue reading

Harold Rickenbacker is Engineering Social Equality

Tucked into a university laboratory atop O’Hara Street, Harold Rickenbacker and his career run on tightly calibrated monitors. It’s a demand of his discipline, and in many ways, the self-declared data wonk thrives in an environment of precision and control. But Rickenbacker’s enthusiasm for statistical regressions belies an unusual dedication to the realities outside academic circles, to the people he believes are his ultimate audience. Harold Rickenbacker is an engineer no doubt. What he is engineering, however, amounts to nothing less than social transformation. ...continue reading


Green Building Alliance, August 6, 2018

Text from: Green Building Alliance

Image source: Green Building Alliance


US Steel Dean of Engineering Gerald Holder announced Melissa Bilec, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and deputy director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, is the recipient of the 2017-18 Swanson School of Engineering Faculty Diversity Award. 

“[Melissa’s] continued accomplishments are extremely important in helping us reach our diversity goals and national prominence in this area,” wrote Gerald Holder, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering, in the award letter. He added that Dr. Bilec was chosen to receive the award for creating a positive and inclusive academic environment, participation in diversity related initiatives, and diversity enrichment within the community. ...continue reading

CEE's Melissa Bilec Wins Faculty Diversity Award

University of Pittsburgh, April 24, 2018

Text from: University of Pittsburgh

Image source: Swanson School of Engineering, University of Pittsburgh

University of Pittsburgh, February 2, 2017


The “decentralized” water system at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which treats all non-potable water on site, contributes to the net-zero building’s recognition as one of the greenest buildings in the world. However, research into the efficacy of these systems versus traditional treatment is practically non-existent in the literature. Thanks to a collaboration between Phipps and the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, researchers now have a greater understanding of the life cycle of water reuse systems designed for living buildings, from construction through day-to-day use. ...continue reading

Life-cycle assessment study provides detailed look at decentralized water systems

Text from: University of Pittsburgh

Image source: Denmarsh Photography Inc.

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