Within the SE group, we take community outreach seriously - we are in our education and research roles to help society. We are strategic in our involvement and make sure that we work with all sectors - schools, non-profits, government, higher education, communities, museums. Our projects and programs can be grouped under one of the following three groups:
Pitt Campus & Community
Greenhouse Gas Inventory of the University of Pittsburgh
The University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) conducts greenhouse gas inventory of its Pittsburgh Campus every three years, and the process is lead by members of our group in cooperation with Pitt's facilities management. There have been four inventories conducted since its start in 2007, and now include fiscal years 2008, 2011, 2014, and 2017. Each report presents GHG emissions inventory from direct and indirect activities of Pitt, including scopes 1, 2, and 3. We anticipate that the reports will serve as a guideline for any committee or group aiming to reduce the emissions of Pitt in the future. Understanding current GHG levels is a necessary step towards developing strategies to lower overall greenhouse gas emissions.
Download PDF reports:
Non-Profits & Government
National Energy Leadership Corps (NELC)
Implemented through the Design for the Environment (DfE) course at the university of Pittsburgh in 2012, over 100 students have been trained and educated in residential energy efficiency performing 120 energy assessments in various Pittsburgh communities.
The National Energy Leadership Corps (NELC) is designed to address residential energy efficiency through training students and educating homeowners on the why's and how's of retrofitting homes, creating a path forward towards energy independence. The importance of energy independence is exemplified through unsustainable practices of importing foreign fuels and the environmental impacts of coal-burning power plants. The NELC program educates students on residential energy efficiency, supplying the green collar workforce knowledgeable professionals. The energy assessment reports provided to the homeowner give information on why the energy efficiency measures (EEM) were recommended and financial incentive in the form of annual energy savings calculated for each EEM. The combination of educating a workforce and providing free educational energy assessments for homeowners promotes energy efficiency in the short- and long-term.
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, PA prides itself on its environmental accomplishments, and its current endeavor, the ambitious Center for Sustainable Landscapes, will meet the difficult criteria set out by the Cascadia Living Building Challenge v1.3. The University of Pittsburgh's Sustainable and Green Design Group has partnered with Phipps to conduct a Life Cycle Assessment of the building, calculating the environmental impacts of the structure throughout its life cycle.
The Larimer Community and the Kingsley Association
Dr. Bilec and her research group has been working in the Larimer Community since 2007. She is committed to helping this amazing community. Her work in Larimer has included: senior design project of container ships, summer undergraduate research group to design multi-generational and sustainable housing, energy assesements, and energy retrofits.
Most recently, Dr. Bilec and her student, Harold Rickenbacker, have been working on a Heinz funded project, "Creating Environmental Awareness in an At-Risk Community through Real Time Air Monitors and a Resident Driven Air Quality Monitoring Bike Campaign. ”
Our project’s aim is to promote air quality awareness through civic engagement and citizen science in the at-risk community of Larimer. Key to our project is further developing the existing program at Larimer, Environmental Justice Community Alert Matrix. Environmental Justice Community Alert Matrix (EJCAM) is a new program to educate and inform underprivileged Pittsburgh residents about environmental risks within their communities and to further provide them with practical responses to mitigate these risks. EJCAM focuses specifically on two areas, Air Quality and Energy Production We are completing three primary tasks – installing real-time air quality monitors, citizen science air quality bike campaign, and air monitoring devices in homes.
Pittsburgh's 2030 District and Indoor Air Quality Monitoring
Integrated environmental assessment methods and frameworks are important to understand problem shifting of environmental and health impacts associated with the built environment and connected communities. For example, many strategies to improve indoor air quality (IAQ) involve increasing ventilation rates in buildings. The increase in ventilation rates then requires more electricity; thus, more emissions from power generation occurs, which then can impact regional and local outdoor air quality, which in turn affects IAQ.
When an entire community, such as the Pittsburgh 2030 District, has committed to energy and carbon reductions while improving IAQ, models and frameworks are needed to provide the community with scenarios and strategies to meet their commitments and goals. While the motivating and necessary goal of the community or district is to achieve dramatic reductions in energy usage and associated carbon emissions, these challenges need to be undertaken with the consideration of improving the health of the people in the places where we spend 90% of our time.
To accomplish this goal, the research tasks are: (1) establish IAQ baseline in a representative, stratified sample of energy conservation district buildings; (2) evaluate proposed building energy reduction impacts on IAQ – both directly as a result of changes to building characteristics (e.g. ventilation, materials) and indirectly as a result of upstream life-cycle energy supply impacts, including district-related transportation improvements, which impact regional outdoor air quality; and (3) develop goals and strategies for improvements in IAQ metrics in energy conservation district properties.
Pittsburgh Schools & Communities
Pittsburgh Public Schools, Allegheny Traditional Academy, and TEN
In collaboration with TEN, we are working to explore buildings physics, engineering, and energy through experiential learning activities.
Manchester Academic Charter School Annual Green Week
Members of our research group have been teaching local middle school students about sustainability, including topics in energy, water, food, and buildings. We emphasize the importance of considering all aspects of the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit. Our graduate students have also been mentors during the schools participation in the national Future City competition.