Emissions from buildings account for nearly 40 percent of the country’s total carbon output, just edging out transportation as our most polluting sector. If our planet has any hope of meeting the United Nations’ 2030 Development Goals, innovative approaches to greener architecture will be critical.

To help speed this important project along, Pittsburgh’s green building experts are joining a global coalition.

Next month, the U.N. will officially designate our city as a Center of Excellence for High Performance Building, plugging our local experts into a global movement for sustainable design.

In practical terms, the designation will grant staff from Pittsburgh’s Green Building Alliance (GBA) access to the U.N.’s wealth of expertise and resources, as well as regular contact and collaboration with other Centers in the network.

“This Center will further illustrate how the greater Pittsburgh region is continuing to champion cutting-edge innovation and preparing our workforce for the jobs of a sustainable future,” Jenna Cramer, executive director of the Green Building Alliance, tells NEXTpittsburgh.

Pittsburgh is only the second official entrant in the worldwide program. New York City became the first in 2018, while Vancouver and the city of Wexford in Ireland will formally join later this year. Building from this core group, the U.N. hopes to recruit dozens of other regions over the next several months.

“The U.N. is pleased and proud to partner with Pittsburgh’s Green Building Alliance to deploy and disseminate our high performance buildings initiative,” says Scott Foster, director of the Sustainable Energy Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

Pittsburgh’s participation in the program will officially begin on Sept. 12 at the GBA’s Emerald Evening Gala, an annual event celebrating local innovators in green building. This year’s honorees include CMU professor Vivian Loftness, community advocate Malik Bankston, the MuseumLab (where the event will take place), DMI Companies and the Erie, Pa., community.

“Our five awardees have laid the groundwork that has made the greater Pittsburgh region a leader in green building and sustainability, helping to bring this international spotlight on our city,” says Cramer.

Foster will attend the event to help kick-off the new initiative.

“Of all the solutions to address the climate challenge, improving the energy performance of buildings stands out,” he tells NEXTpittsburgh. ”Beyond reducing our carbon footprint, this action will enhance quality of life, reduce energy bills, improve health, create jobs and encourage innovation.”