Our 40th anniversary is the perfect opportunity to recognize some of the projects, people, events, and organizations that have shaped our history over four decades.
Regis Bobonis crossed paths with CCI while serving as director of community relations at the Duquesne Light Company, which he joined after 25 years as PR Director at Mercy Hospital. He was very involved with engaging Duquesne Light’s employees with the Energy House and other CCI energy conservation efforts during his tenure at the utility company. A graduate of Duquesne University, Rege worked also worked in media as a reporter for the Pittsburgh Courier and the first African American reporter for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and WIIC (now WPXI) TV. Following his retirement from Duquesne Light, Rege successfully spearheaded an effort to build a memorial to the Tuskegee Airmen from Western Pennsylvania in Sewickley. Rege passed away in November 2016.
Housing Opportunities, Inc. was a McKeesport-based nonprofit that provided financial advice and counseling to enable first-time homebuyers to purchase homes and meet resulting mortgage obligations. Through its work, HOI recognized that the inability of first-time homeowners to make mortgage payments was due to rising utility costs and inadequate conservation education, which resulted in its involvement with the Energy House project. HOI’s responsibility was for the maintenance and management of the structure during the life of the project, then for the disposition of the property to a qualified first-time homeowner. In 2001, after 25 years of service, HOI changed its corporate structure and added McKeesport Neighborhood Initiatives.
Robert Kobet, AIA, LEED Faculty, is the CEO of The Kobet Collaborative, a parent company that includes Sustainaissance International and The International Eco-Friends Network. Sustainaissance, which began in 1979 as Energy Design Associates, is a multi-discipline architectural consulting firm specializing in sustainable design and development, high performance LEED-certified buildings and environmental education. Bob has worked in 11 countries on five continents for more than 39 years creating innovative places to live, work, and learn. His green building and sustainable community development projects around the world range from small nonprofit endeavors to multi-million dollar developments. For CCI, he converted a 120-year-old former boarding house into the Energy House, an on-site, community-based energy conservation demonstration project.
Frederic B. Sargent has a long history with CCI, beginning with his service as a member of the Energy House Advisory Committee when he was president of Sargent Electric Company, an electrical contracting firm. Fred recently completed a turn as a CCI director and continues his involvement as a member of the organization’s strategic planning committee. Professionally, Fred maintains his dedication to well-managed service operations as founder and president of Great Service Forums, a company that helps electrical contractors develop their service organizations. He also shares his experience through a column about service and maintenance he co-authors in Electrical Contractor Magazine. Fred’s latest book—Great Service Made Simple—was released in October 2017.
Betty Ann Simon four years before CCI and its partners created the Energy House, Betty started the Dollar Energy Fund modeled after a program in St. Louis. She had been a volunteer on KDKA’s “Call for Action” and heard repeatedly from people who were having trouble paying their utility bills. Betty was president of the Dollar Energy Fund and an active member of the Advisory Committee of the Energy House, bringing her knowledge, energy, and empathy to the project. She remained a life-time board member of the Fund until her death in 2002. The Dollar Energy Fund since established the annual Betty Ann Simon Memorial Award to recognize a leader who has made significant contributions to the limited-income community.
Ann Jones Gerace was an elementary school teacher before raising four children. Her next job, which she started in 1987, was energy manager at CCI. She became executive director in 1990. Ann retired from CCI in 2013. During the intervening years she was a major voice in championing the benefits of energy efficiency, especially in low-income neighborhoods. Her vision for the CCI Center “as an example promoting and highlighting those “green” values, and a resource hub for other environment organizations and the public,” according to Don Hopey in the Post Gazette.
Described by The New York Times as “Pittsburgh’s most innovative theater company,” City Theatre specializes in new play development. The Mainstage Theatre seats 254 and accommodates a variety of unique configurations to enhance the audience’s theatrical experience. The Hamburg Studio is a black box theatre that invites the audience into the action with room for just 110. The Charles Morris Building houses the rehearsal hall, as well as costume, prop, and paint shops. The Walter Long Building, a former steel rolling plant across from the theatre, functions as a storage facility for set pieces and materials
Ellis Schmidlapp has been called a master in restoring and recapturing historic buildings while introducing modern amenities into the design to make them energy efficient and environmentally sensitive. For more than 35 years, he was the president of Landmark Designs Associates (LDA), a full-service architectural firm he founded that specialized in historic preservation in western Pennsylvania. The firm’s work received awards and honors from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum.
Yoko Tai and Steve Lee formed TAI + LEE, architects in 1981, and have earned a reputation for innovation and experience in a wide range of project types. The expertise of the founders has evolved from their years of experience in urban design, neighborhood revitalization, adaptive reuse and sustainable design. Yoko Tai is the owner and principal of TAI + LEE, architects and she is assisted on a project basis by co-founder and consulting principal, Steve Lee, who is Professor & Head of the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon. Yoko has assembled a talented team of professionals, interns--such as CMU students Christine and Marc Mondor on the CCI Center project--and engineering consultants that are capable of providing a full range of architectural services.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) is the City of Pittsburgh's economic development agency. Its goals are to create jobs, increase the city’s tax base, improve the vitality of the city’s businesses and neighborhoods, and improve the City of Pittsburgh’s livability as a whole. Incorporated in 1946, the URA was one of the first redevelopment authorities in Pennsylvania. Organized by corporate and civic leaders, the URA undertook the first privately financed downtown redevelopment project in the United States -- Gateway Center. Since then, the URA has constructed and rehabilitated tens of thousands of homes, reclaimed thousands of acres of contaminated brownfield and riverfront sites and assisted hundreds of businesses in neighborhoods throughout the City of Pittsburgh.
Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania - A longtime partner with CCI—is one of seven energy-distribution companies of NiSource Inc. It serves 426,000 residential, industrial, and govern customers in 450 communities. Columbia Gas continues to offer a free weatherization program designed for customers with low incomes and high gas usage. Currently called WarmWise, the program first identifies an energy picture of the customer’s home and then takes action to seal up areas where heat escapes. The goal is to help customers better manage energy use and gas heating costs by reducing natural gas consumption.
Colteryahn Dairy was the oldest and last remaining dairy in the City of Pittsburgh. It now is operated by Turner Dairy Farms as Pittsburgh Special-T Dairy. Prior to the June 2017 transfer, Colteryahn operated at the Brownsville Road site for almost a century. In 2012, Economic Development South, a multi-municipal community development corporation, received a URA grant to develop a plan for a Carrick Dairy District, with the Colteryahn Dairy on Brownsville Road as its eponymous centerpiece. A pavilion—named the Historic Dairy District Marketplace—was added in 2016 and houses the Citiparks weekly Farmers Market, flea markets, food trucks, and other special events.
Mike Dawida, a native of Carrick, is executive director of Scenic Pittsburgh, a nonprofit organization that protects, preserves, and promotes the scenic resources of southwestern Pennsylvania. Mike’s public service career spans 30 years as a legislator, lawyer, and teacher. As a Pennsylvania state senator and representative, Mike championed and passed many legislative firsts including the Pennsylvania Clean Indoor Air Act and the Pennsylvania Organ Donor Act. Mike also served as Allegheny county commissioner where he founded the Airport Authority and created the Allegheny County 911 system, among other accomplishments. He is a professor of law and public policy at California University of Pennsylvania.
The Heinz Endowments is a regional foundation formed from the Howard Heinz Endowment, established in 1941, and the Vira I. Heinz Endowment, established in 1986. It is the product of a deep family commitment to community and the common good that began with H. J. Heinz, and which continues to this day. Based in Pittsburgh, its mission is to help southwestern Pennsylvania prosper as a vibrant center of creativity, learning, and social, economic and environmental sustainability. Core to its work is the vision of a just community where all are included and where everyone who calls the region home has a real and meaningful opportunity to thrive. Over CCI’s 40-year history, The Heinz Endowments has awarded grants to help further its work energy efficient, healthy homes and communities.
Petra Mitchell is the president and ceo of Catalyst Connection, a private, nonprofit economic development organization dedicated to helping manufacturers with management consulting and technical assistance leading to business growth and job creation. Catalyst Connection is the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and the Industrial Resource Center (IRC) of Southwestern Pennsylvania and Petra is its center director. Her experience in manufacturing operations, technology acceleration, and business development stretches back to 1988. Before joining Catalyst Connection, she was employed by GE Aircraft Engines, now GE Aviation. She was named a 2016 Most Admired CEOs in Pittsburgh by the Pittsburgh Business Times.
Samantha Balbier is a long-time Pittsburgh resident with a track record in policy analysis, development, strategic communications, and building collaborations to mobilize policy makers and the public to take action. She is passionate about the nonprofit sector’s role and value in building strong communities. Her experience includes serving as the lead consultant for the Pennsylvania Early Children Education Healthy & Green Initiative; development director at Carriage House Children’s Center; program associate at The Heinz Endowments for Children, Youth and Families; and as a consultant to the Allegheny County Department of Human Services’ Office of Community Services. Sam is certified by the US Green Building Council as a LEED Green Associate. Early in her career, Samantha led Healthy Home Resources, an organization launched and housed by CCI that focused on lead paint removal and healthy homes.
Rebecca Flora was the first executive director of Green Building Alliance --which was launched and incubated as part of CCI before becoming its own nonprofit. She led many initiatives that established the Western Pennsylvania region as an early pioneer and leader in the green building movement. Rebecca is the president and CEO of ReMake Group, LLC, a woman-owned and operated consulting company and is the project team leader on Hazelwood Green, a mixed-use, sustainable development of the 178-acre Almono site in Pittsburgh. Her previous positions include sustainable communities practice leader for ecology & Environment, Inc. (E&E), and senior vice president of education and research at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Rebecca served as the first woman board chair of the USGBC in 2008.
The mission of Construction Junction(CJ) is to support and promote conservation through the reuse of building materials. Construction Junction accepts donations of used and surplus materials at its large warehouse, then sells them at its 30,000 sq. ft. store to new users, achieving both environmental and social impact. As a nonprofit, Construction Junction covers most of its operational costs with the revenues from sales and its annual fundraiser, the Steel City Big Pour®, to cover the balance and to invest in improvements. The idea for Construction Junction was developed by the oldest grass roots environmental organization in the state, the Pennsylvania Resources Council, together with the Green Building Alliance, and Conservation Consultants, Inc. CCI, GBA and PRC all participated in a task force that shaped and launched Construction Junction.
The Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance (KEEA) was founded in response to the pending expiration of utility rate caps in Pennsylvania and the state’s lack of energy efficiency policies. With more than 50 business members, as well as nonprofit and government partners, KEEA advocates on behalf of clean energy on the local, state, and federal levels. By representing the interests of the clean energy industry in Pennsylvania, KEEA is growing the market for energy efficiency and helping the Keystone State secure a prosperous, sustainable tomorrow.
In 2014, KEEA became the official Pennsylvania State Partner of Advanced Energy Economy, a national organization working to create a better business climate for the advanced energy sector across the United States. CCI was among the early volunteers who catalyzed the forming KEEA.
ACTION Housing was established in 1957 by Mayor David L. Lawrence and philanthropist Richard King Mellon to address the region’s pressing housing issues. Its mission is to empower people to build more secure and self-sufficient lives through the provision of decent, affordable housing, essential supportive services, asset building programs, and educational and employment opportunities. ACTION-Housing has long considered energy efficiency a priority because it doesn’t make sense for people to have low housing costs and high utility bills. It has pioneered programs to preserve energy in its building and economic independence in the residents it serves.
Green Mountain Energy is a Vermont-based renewable energy company started in 1997 whose mission is to use the power of consumer choice to change the way power is made. It serves households in competitive markets in Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas. In monopoly utility markets, Green Mountain partners with utilities who want to offer renewable energy to its customers. Outside of these areas, it offers renewable energy certificates (RECs) and carbon offset products to help reduce the environmental impact of everyday activities like electricity use, driving and flying. It sells cleaner energy to both consumers and businesses.
Barry Kukovich has a utility career that spans multiple decades. Since 2010, he has been the manager of community affairs at Peoples Natural Gas. Prior to that, Barry spent more than 20 years at the Duquesne Light Company, including a stint as manager of media relations and community affairs. Barry’s specialty in translating complex energy concepts into conversational language, using examples most can understand. Not surprisingly, he is a published author. His novel, The Church of Wolves, was published in paperback in 2015.
He is an instructor in Aikido and other martial arts, at Kim's Martial arts in Freedom and an avid student of history.
Curtis Magnuson is the president of Palladio DaVinci, Ltd, a Pittsburgh-based energy design company. It performs energy efficiency inspections for existing homes and businesses; provides initial site and architectural drawings assessments for construction; plans and design energy load analysis; does building energy inspection, testing, and certification; calculates HERS (Home Energy Rating System) ratings for home; and provides ENERGY STAR® home energy certification. Additionally, the firm offers solar and wind power site assessments, and wind farm prospecting. Curtis was a professional on CCI’s staff in the late 1990s and early 2000s. With assistant Wendy Powers, he managed the successful Wind Map project.
Sharon Pillar has a passion: to cultivate sustainable community development, climate change action, and clean energy market transformation.
Sharon was the driving force behind Solarize Allegheny, a campaign to increase solar energy use in Allegheny County by assisting businesses and homeowners to go solar and for which CCI partnered to lift up energy efficiency benefits. Sharon is the owner of the Hot Earth Collaborative LLC, a clean energy consultancy, and works with Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) as their Pennsylvania consultant and serves as the president of the Solar Unified Network of Western Pennsylvania (SUNWPA). Sharon previously worked at PennFuture as their manager of solar programs and has a master's in Earth Literacy, an interdisciplinary study of the environment.
Dave Defide is the Manager of Customer Programs at Duquesne Light Company and is responsible for implementation of WATT CHOICES (ACT 129) programs. Duquesne Light’s WATT CHOICES program helps customers conserve energy and reduce demand while lowering their electricity costs. WATT CHOICES invites residential, commercial and industrial customers to take advantage of a wide range of energy efficiency, conservation and demand-response measures. By participating in these programs, customers learn ways to conserve energy and reduce demand. Dave graduated from Robert Morris University with an MBA and has been in the energy efficiency and conservation field for over 16 years, including as a staff member at CCI for ten years until 2009.
Grounded (formerly GTECH) Strategies was founded in 2007 out of the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University through research on the economic impact of vacant land. Over the past decade, its work has evolved in many ways but has always included cross-sector collaboration, research and innovation, and working hand-in-hand with those most closely impacted by decisions made at all levels. Grounded works to strengthen the economic, social, and environmental health of transitional community by building capacity through collaborative greenspace projects. Grounded does this by mobilizing residents, policy-makers, and like-minded organizations to ensure communities have the resources, knowledge, tools, and partners to make change happen in the places they live, work, and play.
The Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan 3.0—the third and latest in a series of climate mitigation goals—was approved by Pittsburgh City Council in May 2018. More than 300 people representing 90 businesses, nonprofits, and other entities contributed to a variety of ideas including public-private partnerships and city policy amendments to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. These strategies are intended to achieve reductions of 20% by 2023, 50% by 2030, and 80% by 2050. The Climate Action Plan 3.0 notes the biggest climate changes in Pittsburgh involve heating, cooling, and lighting Pittsburgh’s residential and commercial structures, creating 81% of the city’s carbon emissions. The first Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan was issued in 2008, with an update published in 2012.
The Reenergize Pittsburgh Coalition consists of 40 organizations across Western Pennsylvania devoted to increasing access to and demand for energy efficiency and healthy homes. The Coalition aims to reduce residential energy waste throughout Allegheny County, help create jobs, and improve air quality. It brings together diverse stakeholders aligned around this goal, collaborating to leverage resources, share information, and coordinate services in order to increase energy literacy among residents and empower them to make informed energy decisions, leading to a cleaner healthier environment. Its strength as a Coalition comes from the involvement of its membership, who engage in work on committees such as policy, outreach, and financial assistance.
Linda Wigington provides residential en ergy consulting services through her firm, Linda Wigington & Associates. She is the founder of and has been associated with the Affordable Comfort Conference from its inception in 1986, (when she worked for ACTION-Housing), through 2013. Linda has been a technical consultant for residential utility programs. She was a founding member of the Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS) board of directors (2009) and is a board member of Community Solutions, based in Yellow Springs, OH, and Cornerstone Care, a community health center serving Fayette, Greene, and Washington Counties in southwestern PA. She has led the ROCIS initiative since its inception in June 2014, and the ROCIS Low Cost Monitoring Project since it began in September 2015. Linda was the recipient of CCI’s 2017 Conservation Luminary Award.
Zaheen Hussain serves as the sustainability coordinator of the borough of Millvale as well as the director of sustainability for New Sun Rising, a nonprofit organization that creates economic opportunity, solves social challenges, and strengthens the vibrancy of place. Zaheen is part of team that helped Millvale become the first municipality in Pennsylvania to achieve a platinum sustainability rating through the Sustainable Pennsylvania Community Certification Program. Prior to his current positions, Zaheen was project manager leading the ReEnergize Pittsburgh effort at GTECH Strategies (now Grounded). Born in Bangledesh, Zaheen immigrated to the United States when he was eight years old. He is a Pittsburgh transplant by way of Connecticut.
Jerome Jackson and Operation Better Block strategize, organize, and mobilize—block by block—to benefit the Homewood-Brushton community. Jerome and his team do this by providing technical and community development assistance to Block Associates engaged in self-sufficiency initiatives. They also foster youth development through self-awareness, career exploration programs, and community volunteer opportunities. OBB is commited to nurturing indigenous leaders who will participate in the creation of policy in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Jerome and his team also build cooperative partnerships—such as with CCI’s Grassroots Green Homes program—to promote community sustainability. Founded in 1970, Operation Better Block is a nonprofit organization.
Eva Resnick-Day and the Sierra Club volunteers are engaged in inspiring leaders to embrace a vision of healthier communities powered by 100% clean energy through the #ReadyFor100 program. Operating in the spirit and culture of the national Sierra Club, which was founded in 1892, Eva and her corps of volunteers are asking mayors, CEOs, pastors, principals, civic and community leaders, parents and students to commit to solutions that help achieve 100 percent clean, renewable energy by the year 2050. Their vision is for Pittsburgh to become the first industrial city in the U.S. to run on 100 percent clean and renewable energy. One of the ways they are working to make this a reality is through the partnership with CCI and the Grassroots Green Homes program.
Caroline Roach believes we should be good stewards of the earth and act responsibly with our natural resources. Her background and education—including a master’s degree in religious education from Duquesne University—are the foundation for her beliefs, which before her involvement with Grassroots Green Homes, were mostly demonstrated through personal choices. Caroline, her husband Christopher, and their five young children live in Pittsburgh’s Uptown neighborhood. Their 100-year-old home was a “fixer-upper” when Christopher bought it in 2006, so CCI’s energy audit was particularly helpful in identifying places where heat was escaping while noise and dampness were coming in. Caroline participated as a Grassroots Green Homes Energy Coach, recruiting other neighbors as participants by canvassing the neighborhood and holding community events to promote the program.
Alan Sisco and Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh believe everyone deserves to live in a safe and healthy home, which is why they provide low-income homeowners with critical home repairs, accessibility modifications, and energy-efficient upgrades. Together with more than 25,000 volunteers, Alan and his team have transformed the quality of life of homeowners in nearly 2,300 rebuild projects in Allegheny County over 25 years. Started in 1993 as an all-volunteer nonprofit organization, Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh now has an annual budget of more than $3 million that supports the work of nearly 20 staff completing more than 150 physical rehabilitation projects annually for low-income homeowners in Allegheny County.
Ray Firth is a pre-eminent researcher, expert, and advocate for the prevention of lead poisoning in Pittsburgh. For 17 years Ray worked at the Office of Child Development at the University of Pittsburgh, first as a behavioral health policy specialist, then as a policy initiative director. Prior to joining Pitt, Ray served for more than two decades in the Allegheny County Mental Health & Intellectual Disabilities Program, rising to deputy director for policy and planning. Since his retirement in 2013, Ray has remained an active voice for the protection of children and families. He was a part-time policy consultant for the Campaign for What Works, and continues to provide policy consultation to Denny Civic Solutions and Lead Poisoning in Allegheny County. Ray was a founding board member of Allegheny Family Network.
Paul H. Diegelman is a Pittsburgh native who had an impressive impact on the city’s efforts on healthy homes before joining the federal Housing and Urban Development Authority (HUD). In the 1990s while director of the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh’s Prevention of Residential Environmental Hazards Program and chair of the Mayor’s Lead-Safe Pittsburgh Coalition, Paul collaborated with CCI and others to create a nationally-recognized lead prevention coalition that produced significant change in Pittsburgh’s battle against lead poisoning in children. Currently, Paul is Healthy Homes representative for HUD’s Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control out-stationed in the Cleveland Field Office, where he is responsible for Region 5. Prior to this assignment, Paul was a community builder in the Cleveland office. He holds a Masters Degree from Duquesne University with a bachelor from the Pennsylvania State University.
Dr. Karen Hacker was selected to be the Director of the Allegheny County Health Department in 2013. In that role, she led efforts to implement the county’s 2018 policy of testing all children under the age of 2 for lead blood levels. Throughout her career, she has worked with community partners to catalyze change in both practice and research environments. Dr. Hacker's research has been responsive to community needs, with interests focused on adolescent risk and resiliency, child mental health, and the social determinants of immigrant health. Prior to her appointment in Pittsburgh, Dr. Hacker was executive director of the Institute for Community Health, a community research organization. She also served as an associate professor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School and School of Public Health. Dr. Hacker is now an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and a visiting clinical professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Michelle Nacarrati-Chapkis is the first and current executive director of Women for a Healthy Environment (WHE). She leads the organization’s strategic activities with a focus on human health problems linked to environmental risk factors. She has worked for almost 20 years in the nonprofit field, including as director of land development at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy where she managed the Conservancy’s real estate transactions and oversaw conservation of more than 49,000 acres of land. At WHE, Michelle works to provide citizens access to reliable, scientific information and tools necessary to advocate for policy solutions that address environmental issues that impact human health. She serves on the PA Green and Healthy School Partnership, Children’s Environmental Health Network, Protect Our Children Coalition, and Healthy Schools Network, among others. Michelle convenes and coordinates activity of the Get the Lead Out Pittsburgh Coalition, of which CCI is among many members.
Dr. Herbert Needleman was the pioneer in presenting strong evidence of the dangers of even low-levels of lead in children, which subsequently resulted in in stiffer regulations of lead in gas, paint, pipes and other household products. A pediatrician, child psychologist, and researcher, Dr. Needleman offered elementary-age children small rewards for their loose teeth, once they had fallen out, which he used for a study he conducted at Harvard Medical School. As he explained to Bill Moyers in a documentary that aired on PBS, the study he published in 1979 found that children who had high lead in their teeth—but had never been identified as having any problems with lead—had lower IQ scores, poorer language function, and poorer retention. Although he was later exonerated, Dr. Needleman’s research, conclusions, and character came under fire from the lead industry in the late 1980s. He concluded his career as a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Over the course of his lifetime, Dr. Needleman received numerous awards for his work, including the Heinz Award for the Environment, the Charles A. Dana Award, the Prince Mahidol Award of Thailand, the Ramazzini award of Carpi, Italy, and the University of Pittsburgh's Chancellor's Award for Community Service. He died in July 2017 at age 89.