Breathe Easy: Millvale Air Quality Planning
The Millvale Air Quality Plan was initiated because the Pittsburgh region ranks in the worst 4% of US cities for air quality, emphasizing a major health risk. As part of their Ecodistrict Pivot 2.0 Plan, Millvale Borough set the goal to become a “clean air community where people can breathe easy indoors and out”. This Plan demonstrates how a citizen science research project can utilize expertise in the region to empower residents and produce impactful placemaking strategies.
Poor air quality is not always seen as a resilience issue because it is an invisible ongoing problem. Breathe Easy projects make this invisible public health issue visible through placemaking and programs that educate the community and empower them to promote change at the regional scale. Four Breathe Easy placemaking projects projects make-up nodes along a central “air quality corridor” that runs through the center of town. Capping each end of the corridor are two “beacons” that offer real-time visualization of air quality in Millvale and act as landmarks for two of Millvale’s major assets: its riverfront and its wooded hillside. Along the spine are projects like the indoor Clean Air Hub and the outdoor Air Quality Showcase Park. The corridor itself prioritizes pedestrian and bicycle traffic, and together with the placemaking projects offers a lasting investment in Millvale’s commitment to clean air for all.
Breathe Easy Air Quality Projects: Implementation
In the years following the completion of the Breathe Easy Plan, Millvale moved quickly to work with evolveEA on several implementation projects:
- The Clean Air Hub at the Millvale Community Library was activated by retrofitting the building with new HVAC filtration and testing the indoor air. The Hub lends out indoor air quality monitoring equipment and holds workshops about air quality.
- Outdoor air quality monitors were installed at several locations and the Millvale Air Quality Dashboard was launched online.
- Three #BreatheEasy Air Quality Monitoring Stations were designed, fabricated, and installed at locations in each of the three Triboro Ecodistrict communities of Millvale, Etna, and Sharpsburg. The custom design includes a comfortable seat at a booth with a glowing background that changes color to indicate the current air quality, doubling as an outdoor photo booth where people can snap and post selfies to raise awareness about air quality on social media.
- A Community Air Toolkit was created to help other communities learn about air quality and jump-start air quality planning processes in their own neighborhoods.