Breathe Easy Millvale Air Quality Plan Wins National Award
Air Quality Dashboard project launches as part of Breathe Easy implementation
The American Planning Association’s Sustainable Communities Division announced the winners of the sixth annual Awards for Excellence in Sustainability at the 2019 National Planning Conference in San Francisco this week. The awards honor projects, plans, policies, individuals, and organizations whose work is dedicated to supporting sustainable communities.
The Breathe Easy Millvale Air Quality Plan, launched in 2016 by the Millvale Ecodistrict and evolveEA, was selected as the winning Sustainable Urban Design Plan. This plan is a deep-dive into the region’s air quality impacts on Millvale, which were first highlighted as part of Millvale’s Ecodistrict Pivot Plan (also a winner of multiple planning awards).
“We are pleased that APA has recognized Millvale’s Air Quality Plan as a model for how community voices can be channeled to create positive change.”
— Christine Mondor, FAIA, Principal evolveEA
The Pittsburgh region ranks among the worst US cities for air quality, which experts have cited as a major public health risk. Part of Millvale’s ecodistrict vision is to become a “clean air community where people can breathe easy indoors and out”. The Breathe Easy Plan demonstrates how a citizen science research project can utilize expertise in the region to empower residents and produce impactful placemaking strategies.
One of the key projects from the Plan, the Clean Air Hub, has just achieved a major step in its implementation. The Millvale Community Library is being transformed into a Clean Air Hub, demonstrating healthy indoor air quality practices through building improvements and air filtration, facilitating an air monitor lending program, and informing visitors and passers-by with its Air Quality Dashboard display. The new dashboard went live on the internet a few weeks ago, and will soon be on display in the window of the library. This highly visible location in Millvale’s business district will help increase awareness about local and regional air quality by displaying real-time data from outdoor sensors placed throughout Millvale and the Pittsburgh region. In addition to indicating at first glance whether the air quality is currently great, terrible, or somewhere in-between, the dashboard displays some basic air quality facts and tips, and also includes links to additional resources. The Dashboard and Hub exemplify how Millvale’s Breath Easy projects are making an invisible project visible, by integrating placemaking and performance, and contributing to an informed and activated culture.
“Led by the Millvale Library, families from throughout Millvale hosted air quality sensors at their homes, which created the data-set that informed this plan and an increased understanding of how regional air quality dynamics impact our community. Now we are working together as a community towards the implementation of this plan.”
—Zaheen Hussain, EcoDistricts AP
Director of Sustainability, New Sun Rising
These initiatives position the Millvale Ecodistrict and Triboro Ecodistrict (Millvale’s partnership with neighboring Etna and Sharpsburg) as leaders in the movement for neighborhood-scale sustainability. The communities will co-host the upcoming EcoDistricts Incubator this month, and are part of a regional ecodistrict collaborative hosting the tenth international EcoDistricts Summit this November in Pittsburgh. The nonprofit EcoDistricts leads both programs annually, bringing community champions and sustainability experts together for intensive movement building, capacity building, and innovation. Millvale is on track to become one of the first EcoDistricts Certified communities, and the unique Breathe Easy Plan is one of many local efforts setting Millvale apart as a model for the emerging framework.
The American Planning Association’s (APA) repeated recognition of evolveEA’s ecodistrict planning work with Millvale represents a growing movement within the planning field to tackle major issues like social equity, environmental justice, and climate change resilience. The APA Sustainable Communities Division was created to help planners engage in innovative approaches to these issues, and this year marks the Sixth Annual Awards for Excellence in Sustainability. APA is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. APA includes a professional institute for certified planners, 47 chapters, 21 divisions, and special memberships for students.