Just how energy and resource efficient is downtown Pittsburgh?

An effort to find out is underway through the Pittsburgh 2030 District. In its first progress report, released this week, the district announced that energy consumption has already begun to decline in many downtown high performing buildings. Work, however, remains in the areas of water consumption, transportation and air quality.

Created in 2012 by the Green Building Alliance, the Pittsburgh 2030 District is working aggressively with owners and businesses downtown to dramatically reduce the downtown carbon footprint by 50%. In addition, the district hopes to help owners and businesses in realizing a better return on their investments.

Pittsburgh is one of five active districts in the country joining the sustainability challenge. The others are Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver and Cleveland.

“Programs like this are important,” says Sean Luther, senior director of the Pittsburgh 2030 District. “We have a tremendous potential to reduce energy consumption. (Consumption) is something you don’t realize until you begin tracking it.”

In fact, studies show that consumers who regularly read the fine print on their utility bills are able to reduce consumption by 6 to 8%, he says.

The GBA spent the last year working with more than 40 property owners in 100 buildings, sharing utility data and establishing baselines in the areas of utilities, water, transportation and air quality. The result was a snapshot of where the region stands.

Among the report highlights:

+ Forty property partners have committed 109 downtown buildings to the Pittsburgh 2030 District and are working toward the reduction goals.

+ Of the more than 58 million square feet in the District boundary, nearly 35 million square feet have been committed to the district, or 58 percent. Another 52% are reporting their building performance data.

+ The District’s 2015 goals aim for 10% reductions in energy, water, and transportation emissions. Currently, energy reductions are ahead of schedule at 11.6%.

+ Water and air quality are an area of concern going forward; more than 70% of the buildings exceeded the baseline for water usage, which is putting stress on the city’s storm water and sewage system.

+ The 2030 District is still studying commuting habits and the impact of transportation and establishing a baseline for air quality, both areas in which the city needs to improve.

The district is gunning for 100% participation in the coming years.

“While we have some early success, we will continue moving forward as more people participate and technology improves,” says Luther.