Philadelphia has long been recognized as a national leader in energy-efficient buildings, as shown in 2012 when the U.S. Government announced the creation of a national-level Building Energy Efficiency Hub at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Energy savings alone, however, have not proved sufficient to drive wide-spread transformation to a more sustainable built environment (BE). What has kicked in are co-benefits of health and wellness benefits for occupants (single buildings) and communities (neighborhood built environments). Increasingly, these co-health and wellness benefits are driving the planning and delivery of built environment (BE) solutions. The problem is that these energy-efficient, smart and healthy built environment solutions have not been reaching those that need it most -- underserved schools and urban neighborhoods.
The COVID pandemic has highlighted the need for a healthy and equitable built environment for all Philadelphians. Disadvantaged urban communities have the greatest need. The disparities in access to a healthy live-in environment are stark. For instance, African-Americans, making up 44% of the population of Philadelphia County, have been shown to be at dramatically greater risk during COVID-19:
· 75% likelier to live in fence-line communities (NAACP/Clean Air Task Force)
· Exposed to 50% more sooty pollution than the general public (EPA)
· Experiencing higher lung disease, asthma, heart disease, premature death, COVID-19 morbidity (TH Chan School of Public Health/Harvard University)
Joined by (1) the United Nations Global Buildings Network (headquartered at Penn State University's Institutes of Energy and Environment) and (2) the UNECE Global Buildings Network Hub at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, PHL BE Inclusive is a partnership effort to promote healthier built environments in fence-line and other disadvantaged urban neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia. Our specific focus is pandemic-related safety features of the built environment, particularly indoor air quality in schools and increased access to parks, urban gardens and green spaces for urban residents to physically distance and breathe cleaner air..