Climate Action Underway in the Lehigh Valley

By Shannon Crooker

Posted June 21, 2021

The Lehigh Valley Community of Green Building United has been working with the Nurture Nature Center and the City of Easton to develop a citywide climate action plan.

The plan will outline the city’s approach to meeting its 80% reduction by 2050 climate goal and include many strategies for reducing emissions from municipal, commercial, and residential buildings (draft strategies linked.) The majority of the city’s carbon emissions come from the buildings sectors, making buildings both the cause and the solution to combating climate change in the region

Green Building United is excited to share some of the ways in which our community is already engaged in building-related climate solutions that maximize co-benefits like cost savings, comfort, air quality, and resilience to climate impacts for the region. Also included below is a summary of the draft action items related to buildings in the City of Easton’s climate action plan.

We also encourage you to join Green Building United’s Lehigh Valley Community and consider becoming a member of the organization to stay up to date with the latest offering and help shape future activities.

manual front cover

Renovating Homes Sustainably

If you are looking to renovate a rowhome as sustainably as possible, we created the Passive Rowhouse Manual (Manual) for developers, contractors, and other professionals who have general familiarity or technical expertise in the Passive House standard. The Manual is also a useful guide for homeowners who are interested in learning more about high-performance renovation projects.

The Manual provides guidance for the construction or renovation of residential rowhouses using sustainable and renewable energy technology, materials, practices, and procedures. There are many ways to define and quantify sustainability, and this Manual uses the Passive House standard - a holistic approach to designing high performance building - as the basis for sustainable and renewable practices and recommendations.

Financing Commercial Clean Energy Projects

This April, Green Building United hosted an educational session on Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing or C-PACE.

C-PACE provides financing for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation in new construction, gut rehab, and renovation projects. This new-to-Pennsylvania financing mechanism benefits projects by overcoming several common barriers to reducing the carbon footprint of buildings: 100 percent upfront financing, up to 30-year terms, and the special assessment stays with the property if a sale occurs.

Just last month, Northampton County inked its first C-PACE deal in the City of Easton for a mixed-use redevelopment project, The Commodore. The project is financing energy and water conservation measures that will result in substantial annual energy, water, and cost savings.

The project clearly demonstrates of the value of C-PACE financing in that it is supporting upgrades in the existing building portion of the project and is pushing the new construction portion to a level of performance that exceeds minimum energy code requirements. 

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Image Credit: Optima Durant Group

Training Operations and Maintenance Professionals in Existing Commercial and Institutional Buildings

Green Building United recently completed a Sustainable Building Maintenance Series for operations and maintenance professionals who want to learn about energy efficient building maintenance best practices.

The series covered the basics of managing primary systems in commercial buildings, common energy saving opportunities, and balancing efficiency with health concerns posed by COVID-19.

This series is ideal for onsite operations and mainteannce (O&M) staff looking to increase their knowledge of building science and how to identify energy savings opportunities. Building management seeking to become more familiar with how their buildings operate, which variables have the biggest influence on energy costs, and how and when to make energy efficiency upgrades that meet their economic criteria are also welcome.

To access recordings of the trainings, please see the Energy, Performance, + Renewables and the Health, Safety, + Wellness sections of Green Building United's webinar library

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lehigh valley awards

Recognizing Community Leaders

Green Building United’s Lehigh Valley Awards celebrate transformative leadership in the green building community and industry in Lehigh Valley. One of our 2018 Lehigh Valley Award winners is Easton City Hall, a great lead-by-example project for a city committed to combatting climate change.

Green Building United’s annual Groundbreaker Awards recognizes and celebrates green building leadership, innovation, and impact in greater Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley, and Delaware. One of our 2020 Groundbreaker Award winners was the Sustainable Energy Fund’s Net Zero Energy Building in Schnecksville, the first of its kind in the region. SEF’s Net Zero Energy Building was built as a way to further their organizational aspirations and mission, to act as a resource to the Lehigh Valley community, and to prove that sustainable building is possible at market rate.

Compiling Resources

  • Residential energy efficient/electric retrofits
    • Homeowners and renters need education and assistance on how to make their homes more energy efficient, more comfortable, healthier, and less expensive to maintain. What’s more, contractors, as the main source of information for individuals, need ongoing training on efficient practices and equipment improvements, as technologies are rapidly evolving in this space.  
    • Peer city/state resources
  • Benchmarking energy and water use in existing commercial buildings
    • Just measuring a building’s energy and water use on an annual basis using utility data and the EPA’s free ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager leads to savings. This is a great example of a strategy that Easton can pilot within municipal government before moving to require the private sector to benchmark.
    • Peer city resources
  • Resilience guidelines for new development
  • Overall limitations to sustainable building strategies
    • PA’s Uniform Construction Code
      • No municipality can make changes to building codes (currently 2015 International Codes) without state permission
      • More efficient building practices can be incentivized, however, just not mandated
    • Fuel switching policies
    • Affordability
      • Mandating existing home efficiencies upgrades is difficult due to cost – very few homeowners are making proactive improvements.
      • Information on existing programs/incentivize to promote efficiency and information on which strategies are going to be most cost-effective and healthy at the time of equipment replacement is needed.



Green Building United also provides policy information to partners like the City of Easton including challenges and opportunities we observe in the field as well as peer city examples to demonstrate what’s working elsewhere. With buildings responsible for the majority of carbon emissions in the City of Easton, they present the best opportunity to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change that are already underway.

Click "show info" for resources relevant to the City of Easton’s Climate Action Plan.



Marie North also contributed to this post.

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