Carnegie Mellon University
January 31, 2014

Press Release: Carnegie Mellon is One of Seven Universities Worldwide To Receive Pillars of Sustainable Education Grant

Contact: Pam Wigley / 412-268-1047 /
PITTSBURGH—The School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University is one of seven university programs from among five countries to receive a grant from Pillars of Sustainable Education, a new $1.5 million program created by Alcoa Foundation and Architecture for Humanity to support graduate education in sustainability and to explore the use of sustainable materials in architecture and community design.

Each university teams with an NGO to execute a community-based project. The School of Architecture will work with ACTION Housing, a long-established Pittsburgh NGO pursuing dramatic performance improvement in housing for low income and disabled residents. CMU’s grant spans two years, according to Nina Baird, adjunct assistant professor, who will oversee the program at CMU.

“This program offers multiple benefits. At CMU, many of our graduate students come from countries growing so rapidly that renovation is often not considered. Through this program, we will focus on renovating existing structures vs. tearing them down. That’s extremely important, not only for sustainable use of materials, but also for sustainable community life. The grant promotes cooperative community redevelopment so our students will also gain insights into community dynamics and the process of working with community members in an effort to revitalize their neighborhood," Baird said.

The other universities that received grants are: The Georgia Institute of Technology (U.S.), Purdue University (U.S.), Delft University of Technology (the Netherlands), Ostwestfalen-Lippe University of Applied Sciences (Germany), the University of Sao Paulo (Brazil) and Tsinghua University (China). Each school will expand the learning opportunity for students with professional engagement activities, such as guest lecturers from Alcoa executives, partnerships with a local nonprofit organization and involvement through the Architecture for Humanity network.

“With 50 percent of the world’s population now living in urban areas, a number that keeps growing, a sustainable future will depend on better design in our cities,” said Tricia Napor, vice president at Alcoa Foundation. “Through the partnership with Architecture for Humanity, students and faculty get the opportunity to explore the role of architecture and design in buildings to enhance the environmental and social sustainability of cities.”

At CMU, master’s degree and doctoral students will focus their efforts in Hazelwood. Partnering with ACTION Housing, they will develop renovation strategies for  5017 2nd Avenue, from its current abandoned state to a prime location for community organizations and small businesses, and 5015 2nd Avenue, from the former D’Imperio’s Market to a new grocery store with a rooftop food garden and adjoining cafe. The latter marks the return of a grocery store to Hazelwood after an absence of several years. The two projects are part of a larger plan to strengthen the entire Hazelwood community, including the 178-acre former LTV Steel Hazelwood works that will be redeveloped by the Almono Partnership.

The first year of CMU’s program will focus on the renovation planning and execution. Year two will involve creating and presenting workshops with and for Hazelwood community residents, preparing them to renovate other buildings in their community and introducing opportunities for careers in architecture, engineering, building science and construction.

“This is more than a construction project,” Baird said. “This grant enables us to effect change, because community redevelopment is about more than structures. This neighborhood is where real people live and work, and we want students to learn about the challenges and rewards of making these properties true homes and positive work places – not just buildings with effective energy consumption.”

For more information about Pillars of Sustainable Education, visit and check for project updates. Updates also are available on Twitter at @archforhumanity #pillarsofedu and on Facebook at