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A New Way to Measure Sustainability

Monica Mosure

April 4, 2012

The Institute For Sustainable Infrastructure aims to create a scorecard for building sustainable horizontal infrastructure projects with its envision™ Rating System.

 

Still under development, the Institute For Sustainable Infrastructure’s envision™ Rating System is being designed to provide a sustainability scorecard for horizontal infrastructure projects, including roads, bridges, pipelines, railways, airports, dams, levees, solid waste landfills, water supplies, and other facilities in our cities, towns, and local communities.  The system assesses infrastructure projects from a 360 degree perspective using a triple bottom line approach, which considers economic, environmental, and social metrics.  Through this methodology, envision™ is able to measure how projects affect entire communities.

 

So what does all that mean? The Institute For Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) gives the following example to demonstrate how its rating system ensures infrastructure sustainability differently than other existing sustainability measuring systems.

 

A new highway system can be designed to preserve wildlife corridors, treat and infiltrate stormwater runoff and be constructed using recycled materials, but unless infrastructure projects…integrate with and strengthen the infrastructure systems within a community, their overall contribution to community sustainability is diminished and may even be negative. In other words, regardless of how much recycled materials were used or the extent of the wildlife corridors preserved, a new highway system that creates more urban sprawl and results in the deterioration and abandonment of existing multi-modal mixed use urban centers should not be recognized as a contributor to sustainability.

Impacts to Projects and to Engineering

USGBC’s LEED-certification process has increased the awareness and desirability of green architecture, and the envision™ Rating System will likely have a similar impact on infrastructure engineering projects. In the future, project scopes will look more closely at the interaction between infrastructure and community, as well as sustainable construction solutions. Project funding may also begin to hinge on these elements, particularly as owners weigh short- and long-term costs against each other and the current economic conditions.

 

More to come in 2012 on the finalization of the envision™ Rating System

 

In support of our efforts to improve local communities and to ensure their sustainability for future generations, ms consultants is a charter member of the Institute For Sustainable Infrastructure. To learn more about ms consultants’ sustainable design experience or involvement with ISI, please contact Shawn Arden in our Columbus office.

 

To learn more about envision™ and ISI, please see below or visit their website.

About the Institute For Sustainable Infrastructure

Founded in 2011 by the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), the American Public Works Association (APWA) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the Institute For Sustainable Infrastructure is an independent non-profit organization formed to develop and administer a sustainability rating system for North American infrastructure.