Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Green Infrastructure Getting A Green Light

How can you tell if your airfield runway is “green?” This month the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure released Envision, a new yardstick for measuring and providing third party certification for sustainable infrastructure projects. Use of Envision is supported by the American Council of Engineering Companies, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Public Works Association. The new rating system employs points to evaluate five categories of 60 discreet criteria for evaluating the environmental impact of infrastructure construction.

Hoping to become the LEED of infrastructure projects, Envision offers a framework for engineers, owners, developers and policymakers to objectively determine the lifetime impacts of new infrastructure construction. “The infrastructure platform is begging for a rating tool that will balance development and environmental concerns and return on investment,” according to American Council of Engineering Companies President and CEO David Raymond.

Green infrastructure policies are already being adopted by local governments in some regions, notably by the District of Columbia Department of Transportation for the Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue Green Streets Project; the City of Boston Complete Streets Project; and Chicago’s Green Streetlights installation. Beltsville, Maryland based Low Impact Development Center Executive Director Neil Weinstein describes Envison as a tool for concentrating on the “triple bottom line” cost benefit analysis of infrastructure construction’s economic, social and environmental impacts. “we’re really starting to look at infrastructure, and the way that we develop it is quite different,” Weinstein remarked. Paul Zofnass, of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and one of the collaborators in Envision’s creation, summarizes the need for the new measurement tool: “There has never been a government that has survived if they could not provide their society, their people, their civilization with adequate and improved infrastructure.”

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