City Rising 2: The Future of Green Buildings with Angelica Ciranni
How can we make the buildings in which we live, work and play more sustainable?
With over 410 MILLION square feet of commercial building space and 960 member organizations, 2030 Districts are rapidly emerging as a new model for urban sustainability. 2030 districts are unique private/public partnerships committed to reducing energy use, water consumption, and transportation emissions.
Find out how the 2030 District model in Pittsburgh set goals to improve building performance with 50% reductions in energy use, water consumption, and transportation emissions by the year 2030, with new construction reaching carbon neutrality.
City Rising Episode 2: Pittsburgh 2030 District with Angelica Ciranni
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EPISODE TWO OF CITY RISING – Pittsburgh 2030 District TRANSCRIPT
We’ve transcribed City Rising to help make the message more accessible.
Julie Hancher: Welcome to city rising, a podcast that compares how different cities are working towards climate solutions. I’m Julie Hancher, Co-founder, and editor with Green Philly,
Brady Halligan: and I’m Brady Halligan, the director of strategy and business development with the green program. Our goal is to chat with diverse stakeholders about our changing environment on how it connects people planet and creates future opportunities.
Julie Hancher: Green Philly as a website that helps you live a more sustainable lifestyle by making sustainability simple, accessible, and fun. Find recycling tips, news about local changemakers and upcoming events by visiting www.Greenphillyblog.com.
Julie Hancher: The 2030 district model provides measurable goals for improving building performance and enhancing resiliency, such as 50 percent reductions in energy use, water consumption and transportation emissions below baselines by their 20 slash 30 with new construction reaching carbon neutrality by 2030. This international program consists of 19 cities working on the initiatives since 2013. Pittsburgh Twenty district is the largest with 69 percent of its total square footage. Actively collaborating with 506 buildings committed to over 81 point 7 million square feet. Today. We had Angelica Ciranni, the Pittsburgh 2030 District senior director at Green Building Alliance. Angelica, welcome and thank you for joining us today.
Angelica: Thanks for having me. I’m happy to be here.
Julie: How is everything in Pittsburgh?
Angelica: Hot? No. Things are things that are great over here in Pittsburgh. We don’t have a summer slowdown over here with the 2030 District, so there are lots of exciting things happening on the western side of the state.
Julie Hancher: I was actually in Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago, and it was funny because I was looking around and I was looking at the skyline from PNC park actually, and I was wondering what’s happening in all those buildings inside right now.
Angelica: Yeah, and a lot has really been going on. As you mentioned, we started the district back in 2012, so we’ve been working in downtown for six years now with most of those buildings that you can see directly from PNC Park and actually including PNC Park as well.
Julie Hancher: Do you have to do any monitoring at the stadium then or what is working with the PNC park like?
Angelica: Yeah, so actually with our partners, you know today in Pittsburgh we have 506 buildings, 81 point 7 million square feet committed to the 2030 challenge and with that, we have 104 partners who own or manage this building. So you know back in 2012 when we were starting the district, it was very important for us to have on board not only, you know, the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County and other major property owners, but there was some great visibility around working with our sports teams. So with the Pirates at PNC Park, with the Steelers at Heinz Field and with the penguins at PPG paints arena.
Julie Hancher: We’re obviously here to talk about 2030district. But I also was looking at your background before the show today, and it looks like you’ve had quite a lot of experience with sustainability. So before we really get into the nitty-gritty of the 2030 district, let me know how you got to be working as senior director at the Green Building Alliance (GBA).
Angelica: Sure. So actually I’ve been at GBA for a little over a year and a half, but prior to that, I was managing the Green Building Program for PNC bank. I know PNC also has a big presence out in the Philadelphia area as well, so I was responsible for their program, and they actually have more newly constructed LEED-certified buildings than any company in the world. So I was on the ground there all along PNC’s footprint. And prior to that I actually worked at the sports next submission authority, which is our local government authority that owns those professional sports stadiums that I mentioned as well as the David Dot Lawrence Convention Center, which is now triple LEED certified. So through new construction and then twice under the existing buildings at the platinum level. So for a little over six years, those buildings were all under my purview. And then actually, interestingly enough, prior to all of that, I was an intern at Green Building Alliance, uh, 10 years ago and you know, came back a little over a year ago, a nice homecoming after being heavily involved in the sustainability community and a green building alliance events and all things over the last 10 years.
Julie Hancher: It’s always funny how those things come full circle, how you were interning there and then you’re back 10 years later.
Angelica: Yeah, it’s really, it was really exciting for me. It certainly did feel like a homecoming, but I actually got interested in all of this, doing my undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh in civil engineering. Actually, the one of the staff from green building alliance came to speak to one of my classes about green building back in 2007. And that is what sparked my interest and got me into sustainability and green buildings.
Julie Hancher: That’s awesome. Two of my brothers actually went to the University of Pittsburgh.
Angelica Ciranni: Oh Great. I bet they’re very smart.
Julie Hancher: Well, I always joke around because I’m a Penn-stater and there’s a little bit of family rivalry.
Angelica Ciranni: It’s really exciting to see how specifically at Pitt the programs there have increased and the value I believe of my degree is getting better all the time, especially now at the University of Pittsburgh, they are a partner in the 2030 district and have actually just released a new sustainability master plan to start looking at these things comprehensively on our campus.
Julie Hancher: I know you were just talking a little bit ago about LEED certified and I know some people who are listening may not know what LEED actually is, but they might see that seal on different buildings. Can you give a quick explanation about what is LEED and what that means for our building to be LEED certified?
Angelica Ciranni: LEED stands for leadership in energy and environmental design, although you’ll never need to know what the acronym stands for. What you do need to know is that it’s a green building rating system that is the third party verified, so what that means is that instead of a building just saying, hey, we’re green, and we’re doing all these things, and you have to believe them.
They actually go through a certification process with the Green Building Certification Institute. GBCI who actually verifies that they are a green building and so there are different levels. There’s certified which is the lowest level, silver, gold and platinum and one of the interesting things about lead is that there is, there are lots of different flavors of it, so I mentioned new construction and also existing buildings, so there are different ways that you can certify the green construction or operations of your building. And then there are also specific categories for things like LEED for neighborhood development, LEED for homes. I’m lead for commercial interiors, so there really are a bunch of different flavors there. The other interesting thing is that lead continues to raise the bar and come out with new versions as things progressed with the market because what they’ve really been pushing, you know over the last 25 years and in green building alliance kind of was coming up at the same time as the US Green Building Council, which is the administrator of LEED certification.
Angelica Ciranni: They’ve been working over the last 25 years to really move the market, and as the market begins to move and cut up, they want to set the bar higher to continue that progress and that transformational change. So it sounds like Pittsburgh 2030 is leading the pack was exceed 90 percent of the total square footage actually collaborating. So what does that like and how is, you know, how do you feel about Pittsburgh being the leader? Well, Pittsburgh, all of this really does go back 25 years. Um, when green building alliance was first being formed as I mentioned, along with the US Green Building Council. So it was actually starting as LEED certification was also developing. So Pittsburgh has actually been a leader in this effort for a long time now in one of the reasons why our 2030 district is so successful is because we are embedded as a program within green building alliance, similar to the Philadelphia 2030 district at Green building united with GBA, working in the architecture construction developer community.
Angelica Ciranni: You know, for 20 years before we actually started the 2030 District, we had brand value. We’ve created trusted relationships, so that is what we really needed to create the momentum around this idea of the 2030 district. We knew that we were asking a lot of our building owners and managers to commit to these very aggressive goals, but we as GPA, being a trusted advisor in this community already were able to rally support around this idea perhaps more quickly than a new organization may have been able to do.
Julie: I think my favorite antidote about Pittsburgh that I’ve seen in recent times is when president trump tried saying America isn’t Paris America is Pittsburgh and the mayor of Pittsburgh came back and actually said, hey, Pittsburgh actually is doing a ton around climate change, and you know, fighting that. What is your take on that?
Angelica Ciranni: Yeah. The Paris not, or the Pittsburgh, not Paris remark is actually very famous here in Pittsburgh as well as you mentioned our mayor, Mayor Bill Peduto took that up as a challenge to commit the city to, uh, all of the, uh, climate goals and kind of make a new commitment and also add in some new items to the climate action plan version three point. Oh, which was just recently approved by our city council a little over a month ago. So in, in that plan, they’re actually adopting a lot of the 2030 challenge goals around the 50 percent reductions in energy water and transportation emissions as well as looking to be using 100 percent renewable energy and looking towards zero waste. So there are some very aggressive goals that are in that climate action plan. And there are a ton of organizations here in Pittsburgh, both government agencies as well as the nonprofit sector and corporations who are all working together to figure out how we get Pittsburgh there.
Angelica Ciranni And you know, one of the major roles of the 2030 district has been that a one on one work with the city. So one other way that we’re working with them right now actually is on the first benchmarking legislation, so our benchmarking legislation was approved back in October of 2016. Philadelphia, of course, has been doing this for many years and our first disclosure just happened in June. And so with that disclosure and now having all of this information available, it just creates a better way to measure ourselves against the metrics and these aggressive goals that the mayor has set for us. So we saw that as, as a great opportunity to recommit Pittsburgh and also kind of put us on the national stage for all of the work that we’ve been doing related to climate change.
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Julie: Since we’re talking about a lot of the initiatives that you’re focusing on and Pittsburgh, but what are some of the biggest priorities that you’re focused on right now?
Angelica Ciranni: Well, actually there are many, many things that we’re constantly balancing, but one that I’m focused on actually this morning is a regional commuter survey that we facilitate in order to understand how we meet those 50 percent reductions for transportation emissions. Uh, transportation emissions, while of course may not necessarily in some, in some ways fall under green building. They certainly do because we’re talking about commuters and how they’re getting to buildings. And so, and a lot of ways what, uh, initiatives that employers choose to enact some of the infrastructure issues that are happening, how to invest in transportation. All of those things affect a carbon emissions and of course, affect our path to achieving the 50 percent reduction.
So in Pittsburgh, back in 2015, we launched the first regional commuter survey of its kind. We caught it, make my trip count to make sure that all of the citizens here in Pittsburgh, new that we really wanted to hear from them, not just looking at the census data and things like that, but actually hearing from our commuter base, how they’re getting to work, what types of changes they’d like to see, what would make them do a mode shift, all of those types of things. And without effort, we received almost 21,000 responses which did meet our goal of 10 percent of our commuter base into downtown in Oakland, which are the two large areas that we’re working into the 2030 district. So we are now getting ready to launch in September. The second version of make my trip count. We have convened a table of about 15 different transportation partners and stakeholders here in Pittsburgh, including everyone from, of course, the city and the county in our port authority to um, the southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, which is our metropolitan planning organization that makes all of the major transportation funding decisions. So we’ve got a huge table. We of course want to way exceed the 21,000 responses that we got last time and that’s something that’s really in front of mind for me right now. Do you see everyday citizens changing some of their transportation actions or what do you really. What trends are you seeing in Pittsburgh right now? Well, honestly that’s one of the reasons why we’re doing rerunning the survey because with the information that we had last time, that was the first time we’d ever our citizens to, to take a survey like that. One of the things that we know is happening between 15 and 2018 is that more businesses are moving toward I’m telecommuting or you know, kind of flexible schedules which can have of course impact transportation emissions, but there’s also been a adoption of electric vehicles. So even looking at single occupancy vehicles and how those affect admissions.
And then finally, you know, Uber and Lyft did not exist in Pittsburgh in 2015. So we’re also wondering how the ride sourcing has changed people’s commutes. So I think we have a lot to learn there and are excited to also make that data better available to all of our partners and to the public. Once we’ve completed the survey and have that analysis later this year, what are some of the biggest lessons you’ve had since you’ve started working on the 2030 district in 2012? Well, I think that one of the things that surprised me most kind of being on this side of the table, because I should mention that I was one of the founding partners of the 2030 district in my role at the sports and Exhibition Authority with the Convention Center of course, committing to those goals. And so one of the things I think that surprised me most on this side of it and actually facilitating the program is that how much work there still is to do.
We still meet with buildings who have never looked at an energy bill, um, or who have, who do that kind of in a silo through their finance department. And perhaps the property manager or the other folks who were responsible for the building don’t actually understand how the decisions that they make every day have a huge impact on energy efficiency and on the greater idea of what’s happening here in Pittsburgh. Like one of the kind of ulterior motives behind the 2030 district is creating this community of people who then see themselves as part of the system and as part of the solution for, you know, economic improvement and prosperity here in Pittsburgh when you know, the property managers who we work with and building owners. A lot of the time, you know, they’re very focused within their four walls and thinking about things like, you know, someone calling because they’re hot or cold or there’s chairs broken or whatever the thing might be.
And how do we get them to start thinking more regionally about how all of their decisions impact the Pittsburgh area in general. So that’s been, you know, the power of the collective is probably one of the best parts of the 2030 district is that we’ve got whether a person works for, you know, a large employer like, like a PNC bank versus perhaps our museum system or even something that’s a small business, religious institutions. While all of these buildings are very different and maybe their day to day jobs are different, there’s still a lot that people can learn from one another and being able to create this network that didn’t exist before is what’s so powerful about the work that we do.
Julie Hancher: Are there any companies or you know, organizations working the district that has surprised you or that you know, are really great advocates of this initiative?
Angelica: Well, it’s funny you should mention that because that’s actually what I was just thinking about elaborating on a bit. One that I think surprises a lot of people is religious institutions. They’ve actually been a huge advocate for our efforts. There’s a great alignment between kind of the environmental perspective and climate change work that we’re trying to do. That also is embedded in a lot of religious institutions work, so we’ve had a great support, not, you know, not from one religion in particular, but for many of the diverse religious institutions that we have here at Pittsburgh. And one of the things that’s very interesting about that is that a lot of them, you know, have aging buildings and perhaps they even have historic designations and some of these things are directly relatable to folks who are looking to do renovations to an existing historic building that’s, you know, perhaps a developer or something more conventional.
Angelica: So there are lots of opportunities for cross collaboration. But yeah, that was one. I think that that probably surprised me the most. I, the other thing that really surprised me was how we’re able to bring together folks who maybe are competitors in other respects into the same room to share information. So whether those are, you know, major developers vying for the next project or, or the two land that next great tenant in the rooms that we facilitate through the 2030 district, they’re able to share best practices to learn from each other, to actually use some of that information in order to drive their own initiatives. So I think that collaboration and partnership between, you know, what you would perceive as competitors is very interesting.
Julie Hancher: That is, it’s funny you mentioned the religious institutions. I’ve been writing the website Green Philly for about 10 years and we interviewed a nun, it was maybe five or six years ago and it was so fascinating to hear her perspective on how religion and climate change and sustainability can really be more connected because I think people tend to separate those concepts. So is this a really interesting. I’ll have to put that in the show notes of our old throwback post because that’s actually our 10-year anniversary.
Angelica: yes, congratulations.
Julie Hancher: Yeah, it’s been a fun and interesting ride. So as you know, you mentioned Philadelphia a few times since city rising is based here in the city of brotherly love. And I know one of the key differences between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are the actual county lines. So Philadelphia, the city exists within the county, but Pittsburgh actually existed in Allegheny County, which also includes other municipalities. So I was curious how this may have impacted some of Pittsburgh’s green building initiatives.
Angelica: Yeah. So actually while the city of Pittsburgh has certainly been a very important partner for us, Allegheny county has one as well, so we’re really interested in how to take a lot of the work that we’ve been focusing in the city and taking that outside of the city to other communities. We as an organization are focused on all of western Pennsylvania. A lot of our work though is really centered in the city of Pittsburgh and then also up in northwest pa in Erie where we do have a part time staff person. So that’s kind of one other thing. We have actually an emerging Erie 2030 district, which is a whole separate topic, but just wanted to kind of make a shout out there that there’s a lot of great work happening there as well. But we do see a lot of opportunity to expand our reach and one way that we’re doing that with the 2030 district is through a new program that we launched in April called the 2030 district affiliates.
So what we’re doing now is inviting any property in southwestern Pennsylvania to commit to the 2030 district, not just the boundaries that we have created and allow them to play along with the goals and we would be providing similar resources and education and all of that to really expand our reach. There’s, there’s a lot of development and exciting things that are happening within Allegheny County, you know, that are outside of the city and also in the surrounding counties. And we want to make sure that we can provide the same opportunities and access to communities that are outside of the city. And we think this program is one, a gateway to doing that.
Julie Hancher: I know you just mentioned Erie, Pennsylvania, which is such a cool example of another city getting involved. And I see some of the other 2030 districts include smaller cities like Erie, Grand Rapids. So if someone was listening to the show, you know, from another state that does not have a 20 slash 30 initiative, what do you think that this is something that other people are getting on board with or how do you think more people can get involved with these types of big initiatives when we’re talking about climate change and changing our buildings?
Angelica Cirani: Well, I think first of all, if someone’s interested in forming a 2013 districts, they should absolutely reach out to our 2030 districts network. Um, so, you know, we’ve got the website and all of those kinds of things in there. There’s a person behind all of that that can help get the process started, which is what we did both. Well it was less so in Pittsburgh because the process had not yet really been formalized. We were the third 2030 district, but the network didn’t exist at that time. Um, but that’s really how we started the process and earring. I would also say that, you know, there are other flavors of models that may work better in other cities. You know, there are other cities that are committed to the better buildings challenge or maybe are just working to meet their climate goals. One of the things that is really nice about the 2030 district specifically the network is that we have other cities to call upon and of course you know, Philadelphia being our sister city and in many ways and our work with green building united over all of the years has been really I think beneficial to both organizations and then kind of blowing that up and looking at it at the scale of North America is really useful.
There are a lot of similarities and things that we can learn from one another and I believe that, you know, the plan for the network is to continue to expand and how, how we do that intentionally both through cities that are interested in becoming 2030 districts and also, um, ones that we maybe need to target because there are locations that seem ripe for this type of model. Definitely. I’m glad you mentioned Philadelphia because we’re actually going to be interviewing Alex dues from green building united to talk about the Philadelphia 2030 districts and in upcoming episodes. So that’s a really exciting thing to come soon. We are road about Philadelphia coming online as the 2030 district. We’ve been working with Alex and his team at Green building united for years and specifically you know, most recently on as they were developing the 2030 district.
Angelica: They launched very strong last year and you know while today we are the largest here in Pittsburgh, we know that Philadelphia won’t be far behind us and we hope that’s the case. You know, we want to encourage everybody to be continuing to expand their reach and to have a larger impact. You know, one of the things that Philadelphia really has a huge advantage on the Pittsburgh doesn’t have is the benchmarking and disclosure ordinance that’s been in place in Philadelphia for a long time. Of course, you know, Alex was instrumental in that in his role in the government there in Philadelphia, but because Philadelphia has already had this benchmarking and looking at buildings, that’s something that we did not have in Pittsburgh, so we were really starting from scratch with getting people to look at their utility bills and understand why it’s important to benchmark. So in a lot of ways I think, you know, Philadelphia has really hit the ground running and I expect them to be very successful.
Angelica: Definitely. And I was gonna say we always have that, the competition with New York, so we have that complex or wherever we can try to work hard. We will definitely do that as the city. Yeah. And you know, I was going to say it’s been so fascinating hearing about everything with Pittsburgh. Twenty, 30. Can you tell me what’s most exciting for you or what’s next about working with the 2030 district? One of the other things I’m excited about in addition to the make my trip counselor of a and also the 2030 districts affiliate release is our work on indoor air quality. So this metric is unique to Pittsburgh, actually all of the 20 slash 30 districts are welcomed to create their own fourth metric if they’re interested in doing so to add to the energy, water and transportation emissions. So for example, in Seattle, they’ve been doing really fantastic work around storm water for a number of years as their fourth metric here in Pittsburgh.
Angelica: We’ve decided to go with indoor air quality for a lot of reasons. Of course, one of those having to do with the outdoor air quality issues that Pittsburgh continues to have A. I know that many people still have the perception of Pittsburgh as the smoky steel city that it was, although hopefully not many, not many people in Philadelphia, hopefully, all of you have been out to Pittsburgh recently. But because of the industrial past we still continue to have air quality issues and of course, that can translate directly into indoor air quality environment. So over the last four years, we have been working with the University of Pittsburgh’s Mascara Center for sustainable innovation on the development of an indoor air quality based sign and protocol. So we have done testing in eight buildings, pretty intensive indoor air quality testing and realized that the testing of that level just isn’t scalable for a number of reasons at this time.
Angelica: And so what we’ve decided to do is take the results from that testing together with best practices from green building certifications like LEED and come up with a 26 question. I wish it was 25, but it was 26, uh, indoor air quality survey. So we asked all of our partners to tell us whether they had implemented a green cleaning program or used walk-off mats at their entrances, what type of filtration they used, all those sorts of things and collected responses from over 300 buildings earlier this year. So we’re going to be analyzing those results along with what we’ve learned so far over the last four years to come up with a, an ongoing kind of baseline for indoor air quality as well as a performance metric. And this is really interesting because I think maybe one of the things that we’re seeing at the national scale and international scale really around green building is the move toward the focus on human health and comfort and productivity and happiness.
Angelica: And so indoor air quality has a huge role to play there. So I’m hoping, you know, with the work that we’re doing that we’ll will be inspiring other cities to do the same and will also be tracking real improvements to our indoor environments here in Pittsburgh. Yeah. And it sounds like all the work that you’re doing is so inspiring and it’s really exciting to hear about. So thank you so much for sharing and you know, telling us about Pittsburgh have 20, 30. Yeah. No thank you. I am really thrilled to be able to share some of what is happening here in Pittsburgh with those out in Philadelphia, but also, you know, just want to give one other shout out to green building united and all the work that’s happening in Philadelphia, especially around the policy. There are some really great things that we also continue to learn from Philly and see a green building united as probably one of our strongest partners.
Julie Hancher: Definitely. It’s so exciting to hear about all the collaboration and how different cities are working together and you know, we think of ourselves as different cities so often, you know, when you’re living in somewhere and you’re talking about where you’re from, whether it’s internationally or nationally and you know, it’s just cool to see how people are learning and making the climate better. It’s now time for our quick tip of the episode, which helps you, the listener make one small change that will help fight climate change. Angelica, what is one action that someone can take to fight climate change?
Angelica: That is a very tough question, but I think that one thing that I would say is to actually pay attention to your home utility bills. So similar to what we’ve been asking all of our buildings to do in the 2030 districts, uh, initiative, is to track performance. So how many of you have ever actually taken a hard look at your year over year, electricity, gas, water, use, those things are really important and so understanding where you are, you know, perhaps where you stack up to your neighbors and then starting to make small changes and seeing how those winds accumulate over time. It’s one thing to change out, you know, obviously changing out light bulbs, looking at new appliances, but when you can really see the impact that you’re having on your utility bills, I think that’s what generates people to, to take more action. So I would say, you know, get a hold of where you are on utilities and start chipping away at it. And especially once you start making changes in your utility bill, you’ll also be saving some money. Right, exactly. It’s a win-win.
Julie Hancher: Yeah, of course. Was there anything else you wanted to mention or any tidbits you want to share before we conclude?
Angelica: One other thing I would mention, I don’t know where this would fit in, and I kind of said it already, but is that probably the most exciting thing about the 2030 district is the people, you know, I know we’re talking a lot about benchmarking of buildings and thinking about systems and improvements and money and all of that stuff. But in the end, it comes down to the people who are actually operating and taking ownership of the buildings and so, you know, paying attention to the network that we’ve created and you know, fostering those relationships over time, making connections between them. You know, every year we do have a one on one meeting with all we try to meet with all of our partners, which you can imagine is a pretty monumental task. We’re in the thick of that right now over the summer, but last year we met with about 70 percent of the buildings committed where we, you know, talk about performance, what are their challenges and successes and where can we be helpful.
Angelica: And so, you know, I just want to emphasize the fact that it’s really about the people because honestly you can put in all the technology and wonderful things you want to in a building, but if it’s not operated properly and you know, that also goes down to the skilled workers that we have actually managing the buildings if it’s not operated properly, all of that is for naught. So paying attention to the people side of things and also letting them know when their performance is actually having a positive impact.
Julie Hancher: Definitely Angelica. I love it. You mentioned the people too because it’s so funny how it was talking about climate change and sustainability about saving or you know, I think the former message just to be about saving the earth and making sure that the earth is okay. Ultimately, we really think here, especially at Green Philly, our organization that, you know, writes about sustainability so often, we’re always talking about how that actually affects your day to day, right? Because it’s the only matter what’s going to happen to the earth if it’s actually our own livelihood.
Angelica: So that’s such a great point to exactly. Couldn’t agree more.
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