Sustainable, Eco-Friendly & Green
In our communities, we partner with other businesses, not for profit organizations and universities in adopting, modeling and advocating for sustainable solutions. Sustainability at our company is both a collaborative effort and a guiding value. In addition to "working green" in our offices, we consider how we can be a model of sustainability for our members, group plans, medical providers and other customers while also offering them eco-friendly options for managing health coverage and doing business with us.
Leading by example and lending a helping hand
Environmental stewardship encompasses both our everyday efforts and our innovative initiatives. We're particularly proud of these successes, which represent unique and effective approaches for addressing key environmental concerns.
- We installed six electric vehicle charging stations in Pittsburgh and four in Wilkes-Barre with $40,000 in state grants.
- We won in the large company category of the Sustainable Pittsburgh Challenge, formerly Green Workplace Challenge, for the third consecutive year.
- Fifth Avenue Place receives the ENERGY STAR recertification and meets the 2030 District energy goal of 50 percent reduction of energy use below baseline by 2030.
- We are recognized by Sustainable Pittsburgh as the winner in the large company category of the Green Workplace Challenge for the second year. Additionally, we won Top Water Saver in the competition.
- Three facilities are recertified for ENERGY STAR, signifying that over 80 percent of Highmark's owned office space is among the most energy efficient nationwide.
- We achieve ENERGY STAR certification for Highmark West Virginia headquarters, Highmark Health's corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh, and recertification for Center Street, signifying that over 80 percent of Highmark's owned office space is among the most energy efficient nationwide.
- We are recognized by Sustainable Pittsburgh as the winner in the large company category of the Green Workplace Challenge for its achievements related to energy conservation, its support of bicycling initiatives and its other environmental efforts.
- We achieve recognition as a "bicycle friendly business" from the League of American Bicyclists bronze level for Highmark West Virignia headquarters and silver level for Highmark's Pittsburgh location.
- We achieve LEED Gold for Commercial Interiors for the first fully renovated floor in Fifth Avenue Place Highmark offices.
- We achieve 20,000 tree donations through the Arbor Day Foundation, who we have been partnering with to plant trees since 2010.
- We achieve ENERGY STAR certification at our data center facility and Center Street location, signifying that the facilities are in the top 25 percent of energy efficient buildings among similar buildings nationwide.
- We become a founding partner of the Pittsburgh 2030 District, a community of high performance buildings in downtown Pittsburgh whose goals include 50 percent reductions of transportation emissions and energy and water consumption by the year 2030.
- Our company joins 150 other organizations of the Breathe Project, a coalition of community and business partners in southwestern Pennsylvania dedicated to improving the region's air quality.
- Our energy savings projects like lighting upgrades and the installation of variable frequency drives throughout our corporate headquarters save over 1.5 million kWh per year with an average return on investment of less than two years.
- TreeVitalize Pittsburgh plants 19 new native species trees around Fifth Avenue Place. Thanks to a grant from the Colcom Foundation and our company's support, ten of the newly planted trees use Silva Cell technology that allow trees to retain more water and roots to grow healthier without damaging the sidewalk.
- Parkhurst Dining introduces the Penn's Corner Farm Alliance CSA (community supported agriculture) programs to our employees.
- We celebrate United Nations World Environment Day in Pittsburgh, North America's host city.
- Working with our food services partner, Parkhurst Dining, we eliminate Styrofoam use from all employee cafeterias.
- We celebrate our first company-wide Earth Day with educational fairs attended by more than 1,100 employees.
- Highmark West Virginia's 127,000 square-foot headquarters in Parkersburg achieves LEED Silver Certification for New Construction.
- We debut our 22,000 square-foot green roof at Fifth Avenue Place in Pittsburgh and our company is named the #1 Green IT Company by Computer World.
- We hire our first sustainability coordinator.
- We build an award-winning 87,000 square-foot data center near Hershey, Pa., achieving LEED Silver Certification for New Construction. At the time, this data center was one of the first data centers certified under the LEED rating system.
- We locate offices in Penn Avenue Place, which were designed and renovated based upon green building principles before there was a LEED rating system. The building, a turn of the last century department store, was renovated as opposed to being torn down and rebuilt. Other renovations include energy efficient lighting; paints, carpets, and finishes with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs); an atrium to bring in natural light; and bike racks for employees and guests.
LEED Silver-Certified Data Center
Our computing "hub" is an 87,000-square-foot building with LEED Silver certification that's home to 80 employees as well as numerous high-efficiency computer systems, which securely manage our company's member information, health claim data and more.
Near Hershey, Pa., it is green from the ground up. It was built on a "sustainable" site a location where the construction process had minimal impact on the landscape.
Eco-friendly construction techniques and features
As with other renovations, building materials were reused and recycled during the Data Center's construction, which helped to reduce landfill waste from the project by 67 percent.
The building itself contains a portion of recycled materials as well as local materials that were manufactured or extracted within a 500-mile radius of the site.
Our Data Center's notable environmentally friendly features include:
- A 100,000-gallon water tank built underneath the facility that collects rainwater from the roof and uses it to cool the building, which evaporates about 9,000 gallons of water per day
- Landscaping with hardy native plants that absorb rainwater run-off from the building's roof, driveway and walkways instead of allowing it to flow into storm drains
- State-of-the-art, energy-conserving technologies including server virtualization and next-generation air- and equipment-cooling processes
- Natural light brightens nearly all employee work areas in our Data Center, creating a pleasant environment while also saving electricity
Although the center, which was built in 2005, is three times larger than its predecessor, our electricity costs in the new larger building have remained approximately the same. In July 2012, it achieved ENERGY STAR certification, signifying that the facility is in the top 25 percent of energy efficient buildings among similar buildings nationwide.
Energy-Saving Green Roof
"Green roofs" designed gardens or planted meadows created on top of conventional roofs are actually a beautiful "solution" for a common environmental problem like stormwater management.
Our company's 22,000-square-foot green roof was designed to be both lovely and low maintenance. It's planted with more than 25,000 carbon-dioxide-absorbing, oxygen-producing, drought-tolerant species of varying heights and textures, including grasses and sedum, which are well adapted to the local climate.
The green roof, which debuted in 2008 at our Fifth Avenue Place building in Pittsburgh, is one of the largest in the region and one of a handful located in downtown Pittsburgh.
It has helped to create a healthier environment in two key ways:
1. Rainwater management and runoff prevention: Pittsburgh gets about 37 inches of rain yearly on average. The roof's 180 tons of soil media absorb rainwater and snowmelt, helping to reduce "run-off" into the area's overburdened stormwater systems. Run-off can carry fertilizers, pesticides, sediments, oil and other pollutants from yards, streets and rooftops into streams and rivers. In summer, run-off from rooftops, parking lots and streets can even be warm enough to harm aquatic life in streams.
2. Lower energy usage and costs: The green roof helps to act as an insulating blanket that regulates both the roof and internal building temperatures, keeping Fifth Avenue Place warmer in winter and cooler in summer. It helps to reduce the need for heating and air conditioning, cutting our energy consumption and utility costs.
As another plus, green roofs typically last twice as long as conventional ones because they protect roof materials from damaging ultraviolet rays, seasonal climate conditions and general weather elements.