Pittsburgh’s EIC breaking ground this summer

The Energy Innovation Center overlooking downtown Pittsburgh from the Hill District is a study in sustainable enterprise and community-wide partnership.

Formerly known as the Connelley Trade School, the EIC is moving forward with plans to become a hub for green workforce development and a test lab and demonstration area for sustainable technologies. The LEED-Gold project is estimated at $45 million.

Development plans were in a holding pattern while issues were resolved involving the building’s status on the National Register of Historic Places, an important component given the $6 million-worth in “historic” tax credits.

After negotiating and compromising on several architectural elements, the NRHP signed off, paving the way to complete construction documents this May; bids will go out in June and construction should start in July says Tom Bartnik, executive director of Pittsburgh Green Innovators.

The building is presently in the first phase of deconstruction. Trainees and volunteers have helped to keep about 540 cubic yards of material, fixtures and furnishings out of the landfill, says Bartnik. The material is being resold through Construction Junction and donated to Storehouse for Teachers and ACTION-Housing Pittsburgh Greenhouse in East Liberty.

“It’s been a win-win situation all around,” says Bartnik. “We’re not only saving money on dumpster costs, but we’re providing furnishings for other nonprofits.”

On the programming side, Bartnik is working with local unions and educational institutions to line up tenants. Local 95 engineers are taking classroom and lab space and plan to use the building itself as a teaching tool to experiment with building systems and technologies.

Pittsburgh Green Innovators has received “serious letters of intent” for 60,000 square-feet out of the 80,000 square-feet available in the first phase of the project. Several educational institutions and private companies, including Eaton, CMU and CCAC, have indicated interest in lab and teaching space.

“We’re not looking to recreate the wheel and brand new programs,” says Bartnik. “The idea is to bring resources and programs together; the building’s success will revolve around how much synergy there is in the building.”

Pittsburgh Gateways Corp. purchased the 233,822-square-foot building from the Pittsburgh Public Schools in July 2011. The project has the support of numerous organizations, agencies, leaders and Pittsburgh nonprofits.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Tom Bartnik, Pittsburgh Green Innovators