2018 Champion City

Pittsburgh, PA : 2018 Champion City

Bringing Housing Stock up to Scratch with Collaborative Energy Retrofits

  • 303,625

  • William Peduto

  • Directly Elected Mayor

    Type of Government
  • 4 years

    Length of Term
  • Climate

    Issue Area

The Problem

An aging and inefficient housing stock has made Pittsburgh the sixth worst city in the country for residential energy burden; resulting in its residents spending more than double the national average on utility bills.

The Idea

The City of Pittsburgh will increase demand for retrofitting residential properties by reducing costs through group purchasing of materials and the facilitation of DIY product installation.

What William Peduto, Mayor of Pittsburgh, PA is saying:

This funding will help Pittsburgh reach its goal of 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2035, which has been challenging living in a fossil-fuel rich region like Pennsylvania.


Our Prototyping Journey

    Let's Go

  • Pittsburgh is using interviews and simulation exercises to test different strategies to increase demand for retrofitting energy efficiency measures onto residential properties. Testing ideas include different platforms, one-stop shop platforms, and discounts.

    Our idea will positively impact all Pittsburghers so that they can upgrade their ageing housing stock, as well as breathing cleaner air.

    Rebecca Kiernan, Senior Resilience Coordinator
  • Ideas into action

  • What we're discovering through testing

    The Pittsburgh team initially wanted to use a business model similar to Groupon, providing residents with discounts to encourage them to purchase energy-saving systems. However, after running a workshop with residents, NGOs, installers, tradesmen and building suppliers, they learnt that finding access to quality contractors is a bigger barrier than cost. They plan to focus future tests on tools that educate residents about how to take action, rather than providing discounts.

    Energy savings resonates with commercial, but 'comfort' resonates with consumers. You have to frame the message in a way that resonates.

    Bob, Building Supply participant

    Before testing, the team was slightly unsure about how engagement with the business stakeholders - such as product suppliers and installers - would go. They were surprised to find that business people were extremely receptive, and were grateful to interact with the city on the topic. “Most of them just wanted more time to talk” reflected Rebecca Kiernan, Senior Resilience Coordinator. “They had a lot of things on their mind, they just didn’t know the right place to take these issues to.”

  • Reflections

  • What we've learned

    The team believes the skills they have developed as a Champion City have transformed the way they approach their city’s problems. Two team members are already looking at how they can use the Test and Learn process to deal with the issue of waste in Pittsburgh. One of the most useful skills they’ve learned is how to facilitate group sessions with residents - posing questions which can help them better understand the problem at hand.

    We're engaging residents and contractors to tackle residential energy burden for the #MayorsChallenge @BloombergDotOrg. Did you know Pittsburghers spend twice the national average on energy bills while we have the lowest rates in the country?

    3:44 PM - 15 Aug 2018   resilientPGH  

    Through testing, Pittsburgh’s idea pivoted to become “Switch”, a civic engagement tool that gamifies home improvement. Powered by technology and community, Switch helps residents make lasting energy efficient behavior changes and incentivizes home-improvements that reduce energy burden.

    This has definitely impacted us on a really personal level in terms of how we are going to tackle problems in the future.

    Aftyn Giles Sustainability Coordinator, Department of Innovation and Performance