ALMONO: W2E Proposal Announcement

Transformative Development

Physical model of DEFdesign's proposal for a Waste to Energy Plant on the ALMONO site

All images created by and are property of DEFdesign© 

Along the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh's Hazelwood neighborhood, a new 178-acre urban development project has already begun construction on infrastructure and supportive structures.  ALMONO, named for the three rivers cutting through the city of Pittsburgh - Allegheny, Monongahela, Ohio - seeks to reinvigorate a site that previously housed the world-renowned steel industry that gave Pittsburgh its livelihood.   On this site, developers have planned a wide variety of program including a large portion of mixed multi-use, some residential and light industrial parcels all of which are aimed at bringing in local universities, high tech industries and white-collar professionals.   


Waste to Energy - A Pragmatic Approach

A light industrial district sits sandwiched between mixed-use and residential parcels

This site is projected to bring a lot of opportunity back to Hazelwood, a community which has fallen on tough times since the mills closed 30 years ago.  Financial stimulation is expected to propel Hazelwood and even upper Greenfield into a new era of growth, social engagement and progression away from the violence, crime and impoverishment that has become synonymous with this area.  While the new development is exciting and slated to bring billions to the city in new tax base and construction costs, it brings up a big issue of resources. 

According to typical density data based on Pittsburgh and its Metropolitan, approximately 12,000 new people will inhabit this site at any given time (based loosely off the total area of the site).  These numbers include transients, visitors, full time residents and employees.  This new community will produce on the upward of 25 tons of solid waste per day as well as require an additional 3.7 million Btu's/year (power).  As a result, a large increase occurs of waste going into local landfills and heightened strain put on the grids.  More people and infrastructure are phenomenal steps at increasing the progression of Pittsburgh as a whole, however these increases pose major problems to resource management and access to the communities, the city and even the tri-state area. 

Problem: Resource Management

Waste to Energy plants are nothing new.  As a matter of fact, they are surging in popularity in Europe as countries seek to reduce their landfill imprint and increase their usable free space for either development or green coverage. Utilizing the large amounts of solid (municipal, non-human) waste the new community will produce, energy can be generated in the form of heat and electricity.  Thus, one man's garbage becomes every man's power, creating a closed loop system that can even be expanded out into some of the surrounding existing communities. This kind of power is clean, natural and cheap - all things that could benefit the city as it continues to grow.  The solution is simple, instead of propelling more trash into our already incapacitated landfills, turn it into something that will be of high demand once all of the parcels are open and operating. 

Problem: Resource Access

While there are large problems (albeit, ones that can be solved) around power generation and waste disposal, a much more relatable issue has existed in Hazelwood for over a decade now. Classified by the US Department of Agriculture as a food desert, there are only three sites that provide food to constituents within a three-mile radius.  Two are merely convenient stores while the other (farthest) is a low-income grocer with limited accessibility via mass transportation as well as a low supply of quality fresh fruits and vegetables.  This remains a large problem in a surging city proving Hazelwood has never quite emerged from the shadowy depths of the steel mill era.  Creating a common place that can produce and provide food while facilitating social engagement not only betters the lives of those living in the communities but creates a strong and common bond among all; both internally and externally. 

Hazelwood's Food Desert    

Within a (roughly) 3-mile radius of the site there are only three food access locations 

With the site's ability to generate both its own energy and food, it takes a couple steps closer to being self-sustaining community.  Resource management in a world where precious goods are becoming harder to come by (especially fresh fruits and vegetables in urban areas) is imperative to bettering the quality of life of those in and around a community.  Providing a site which has the ability to recycle waste and convert it to energy and food will help ease many tangible burdens while beginning to reverse resource issues.  Doing so while advocating social engagement fosters relationships between existing and new residents decreasing pernicious encounters.  This becomes exceedingly important as both must find a way to cohabitate, no matter social class, race or religion.  Food and recreation has always been a positive force in bringing people together through intimate interactions, this site is no different.   

Creating Progressive Space

The site which has been chosen to host the W2E plant and community garden space has an existing steel mill structure.  Being a large industrial shell, this edifice readily lends itself to the pragmatic solution of power generation.  

The nearly 250,000 square feet of existing footprint is unnecessary for the extent of power generation on this site and for the number of people it must serve.  Effectively increasing the efficiency of the site, up to half of the building's footprint can be removed and re-purposed for recreation or natural processes.

With 178-acres of new proposed development on the site, open space will be hard to come by.  Pittsburgh's dedication to increasing the green coverage throughout the city and Metropolitan area begs the ALMONO development to investigate ways to incorporate as much green coverage on the 178 acres as possible.  While this specific site offers 12 acres of space, only about 60% can be open green way, and possibly less pending zoning regulations. What is the best option to maximize open green, vegetated space yet still allow the site to be the generator it needs to be?  The landscape must fold over the structure to maximize vegetation and green coverage.   

Cogen = Landscape = Food 

Cogeneration and landscape form a cyclical relationship yielding access to fresh food

Essentially, the landscape folds create a mask for the industrial use of the site.  While the program that exists under the blanket of green may not be interesting, it is imperative to create a healthy and sustainable environment.  Just as the folding blanket of green is important to foster social engagement and contribute to the green coverage of Pittsburgh, what is underneath carries the same kind of weight.  The W2E plant is simply what it is, however the folding landscape and central greenhouse provide vehicles for recreation, food production and social engagement.  Effectively using the site and increasing the overall green coverage establishes a sustainable project with usable outdoor space that is always invaluable in a city.  

While there are three distinct programs on this site, the folding landscape is what ties everything back together allowing the pragmatic to exist while forging a new and daring community gathering space.  Increased open space is provided by the extreme efficiency the W2E plant offers, working harmoniously all three programmatic elements contribute to a net food approach which provides both tangible and intangible elements. 

Physical model of the Northeast entrance to the site

DEFdesign is currently in progress with the finalization of other documentation for the ALMONO W2E plant.  Check back for future updates and project completion.