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Foundations Aid Pittsburgh YWCA’s Green Roof

By Bill Zlatos
Thursday, June 17, 2010

The YWCA is getting a green roof, part of a campaign by charitable foundations to make Downtown more environmentally friendly.

“We’ve seen an increasing number of green roofs in Pittsburgh in the past three years, some of which are Downtown,” said Aurora Sharrard, director of innovation for the Pittsburgh Green Building Alliance.

When its roof is completed, the YWCA will join the Highmark Building, Fifth Avenue Place and the Heinz 57 Center among Downtown buildings with green roofs, she said. The Allegheny County Office Building also is installing one.

Green roofs use plants to soak up rain and reduce runoff, cut heating and air conditioning costs, make the building quieter and improve air quality.

Reducing runoff is especially important in Allegheny County because storm and sewage overflow is released into the rivers during hard rains.

“We want an environmentally responsible green roof,” said Carmelle Nickens Phillips, the YWCA’s vice president of development and communications. “It provides a lot of benefits — a longer material lifespan, energy savings, sound insulation, and it’s really compatible with the neighborhood.”

Phillips cited neighboring Point Park University’s $244 million Academic Village. The university’s plan includes street improvements and tree plantings on Boulevard of the Allies at the end of July and converting the old YMCA building on the boulevard into a Student and Convocation Center. The university completed a dance studio that has a gold certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, from the U.S. Green Building Council.

“We’re very excited about continuing our part of neighborhood enhancements that are green-based and are pleased to know that other neighbors are doing so as well,” said Point Park spokeswoman Mary Ellen Solomon.

The cost of the YWCA roof is $1.1 million. Its building on Wood Street is 42 years old.

The Richard King Mellon Foundation gave the YWCA $125,000 and the Eden Hall Foundation gave $50,000 — raising the total amount from foundations to nearly $400,000. The Mellon Foundation agreed to provide a challenge grant within the next 18 months, and the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program will provide $500,000.

Scott Izzo, director of the Mellon Foundation, declined comment. Officials with Eden Hall could not be reached.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

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Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633