It’s said that the past shapes the future, and nowhere is that more evident than at the Energy Innovation Center (EIC) in Pittsburgh. The campus houses forward-thinking workforce training programs alongside a diverse collection of corporate, academic and nonprofit tenants in a 1930 building that was formerly the Connelley Trade School, which operated until 2005. It holds the unique designation of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places while also being certified at the Platinum level of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
The EIC, which opened in 2015, is perched above Downtown Pittsburgh in the Lower Hill District. In 1930 this location placed the trade school above the air pollution that hung over the city, but today it offers soaring vistas of the architecture, rivers and bridges of Pittsburgh, with more than 75 percent of the Center’s spaces showcasing outdoor views through skylights and walls lined with windows. The 200,000-square-foot EIC features a number of function spaces that use these views as backdrops to crisp white walls, lofty ceilings with exposed ducts and fixtures (a teaching tool for HVAC students) and preserved hardwood flooring. Depending on the setup, individual rooms can host between 10 and 200 guests. Multiple spaces can be reserved, and the wide interior corridors, referred to as “roadways” for their former use as a truck path for material deliveries to the workshops and classrooms of the trade school, can also be used as reception, dining and exhibit space to increase the number of guests.
With a wall of windows framing downtown, the aptly named Covestro BrightSpace, which can host as many as 200 guests, is the centerpiece of the EIC’s function space. For smaller meetings, the Allegheny Conference Room includes a permanently installed rectangular table that seats 14. A rooftop patio, complete with a butterfly garden and views of the skyline and the EIC’s signature sawtoothed roof, is perfect for events of up to 75 people. As a nonprofit, the EIC relies on sponsors to fund individual rehab projects of spaces on the 7-acre campus. “There are many more raw spaces waiting to be finished,” says Shannon Kelly, conference and event manager.
The function space can be booked Monday through Saturday for meetings, events, workshops, seminars and conferences that align with the Energy Innovation Center’s mission, which is to contribute to socially responsible workforce development, foster energy and sustainable technology advancement, and assist in job creation through a commitment to diversity, innovation and comprehensive education. The breadth of this work has led to a wide variety of programming. In the past year the Center hosted an interactive session for the Harvard Business Review, “Delivering Economic Resilience in the New Energy Paradigm;” the University of Pittsburgh’s Electric Power Industry Conference; The Brookings Institution’s presentation of a study focusing on Pittsburgh’s rise as a global innovation city; and the German American Chamber of Commerce Pittsburgh’s Annual Ice Gala.
Many organizations opt to include a tour of the Center in their agenda. “The programs tend to take on more of the future-focused areas of our mission and work, but people are fascinated to see the historic aspects of the building,” says Christine Brondyke, senior manager of events and conferences.