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Pittsburgh – An industrial city with a new lease of life

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British Gas, a company under Direct Energy’s parent company – Centrica – posted an article about Pittsburgh transitioning from an industrial city to a city with some serious green credentials. This post was originally posted on British Gas’ blog here.

Once known as ‘The Smoky City’, due to the thick black smog polluting the area for over a century, Pittsburgh now boasts some serious green credentials.

The former steel capital of the world is working hard to shed its image as a dirty and polluted industrial city.

Dark days

The wealth of natural resources such as coal, iron, natural gas and limestone meant that Pittsburgh became the industrial hub for coal mining and steel production in the 1820s. This lasted for the next 150 years.

The former steel city was once called the Sheffield of the US. In fact, Pittsburgh and Sheffield became official sister cities in 1981 as they share a common mining history.

Described as ‘Hell with the lid off’, pollution was so bad in Pittsburgh that it could block out the midday sun. The heavy industry produced such dense smoke from the factories that the streetlights had to be switched on during the day.


After strict air pollution controls were introduced in the 1950s, the city cleaned up its act. Pittsburgh has now reinvented itself as a hub for sustainable development.

The Mayor of Pittsburgh, William Peduto, plans to reduce the city’s carbon footprint. His sustainability goals include retrofitting the heavy rail system, creating bike lanes and introducing wider use of water taxis.

The Office of Sustainability and Energy Efficiency was introduced in 2008, and aims to make Pittsburgh a greener city. Businesses are encouraged to reduce energy usage through a range of schemes and incentives.

America’s former industrial centre was even chosen to host the G-20 Summit in 2009 partly because of its environmental commitment. President Obama hosted the summit, and his welcome speech praised the city’s high-tech innovation and green technology.

Green buildings

The Mayor wants to make it easier to create green buildings and adapt the former industrial sites.

The city already has many eco-friendly buildings including the world’s first green convention centre. The David L. Lawrence Convention Center is certified with a Gold LEED rating – a green building certification programme recognising superior building strategies and practices.

Pittsburgh is set to have the ‘greenest office tower in the world’ once work has been completed on The Tower at PNC Plaza. Saving on business electricity, the high-rise tower will be transparent, with 91% percent of the building lit by daylight.

It’s been a remarkable turn-around for Pittsburgh, and they have set an incredible example for other renowned industrial cities around the world.

 Jessica Templeton Smith is an experienced writer who began her career in publishing and has worked in fundraising and marketing for entrepreneurial business initiatives. Her specialist areas include environmental issues and the creative industries. She is an active features contributor to publications across a range of industries. 

Posted: July 29, 2014