Dr. Melissa Bilec, in collaboration with Penn State University, Penn State Center, and the Kingsley Association, completed a unique service-based learning course this semester where University of Pittsburgh students conducted energy assessments in the Larimer community. Dr. Bilec's Design for the Environment Course served as a pilot site for PSU's National Energy Leadership Corp (NELC) project. NELC’s mission is to train and mobilize students to conduct free home energy assessments with the goal of reducing home energy use along with promoting parallel learning of the students and homeowners. The semester culminated in a community symposium at Kingsley where the students presented their final reports and individually discussed low-cost energy saving opportunities with the homeowners. This summer, the work is continuing with Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh with the goal of implementing the critical energy saving initiatives in qualifying homes.
The Kingsley Association is located in the Larimer neighborhood of Pittsburgh, part of the city’s East End and representing 12% of the total population. The population of these communities is 74% African American, and in Larimer alone, more than 11% of the population is unemployed, nearly 50% of the residents live at or below the poverty level, and nearly 50% of the residents of age completed less than four years of high school. The Kingsley Association endeavors to create comprehensive educational, recreational, and social programming that positively impacts the lives of youth, their families and the East End communities.
In the summer of 2010, MCSI summer students helped to develop plans that would find new uses for vacant lands and generate opportunities for new jobs and a more viable economy.
In the spring of 2011, students from the Mascaro Center and Pitt Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) partnered with the Kingsley Association to teach six classes on practical sustainability topics as part of Kingley’s Junior Urban Leadership Institute (JULI) afterschool program. Topics covered were an overview of sustainability and community problems, food, energy, buildings, design and design for environment, and water and waste management. Each class was roughly two hours long, with a fluctuating set of 3-6 students. Initial goals were to focus on practical rather than theoretical sustainability, and hopefully to help design some projects for summer implementation around Larimer such as basketball court lighting, solar hot water from refrigerator coils, or mushroom caves out of shipping containers.