An infrastructure sustainability rating system has been in the works since 2009. Leading the charge is The Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI). ISI is a collaboration of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), the American Public Works Association (APWA) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). According to ISI, their key mission is ‘to work with public and private owners, designers, contractors and materials/equipment manufacturers and suppliers to forge a new vision for sustainable infrastructure’.
The new rating system called envision™ is based on the concept of ‘Triple Bottom Line’ – economic, environmental and social impacts. The rating system is designed to evaluate, grade and give recognition to infrastructure projects that make progress and contributions to a more sustainable future. The goal is to develop a standardized way of assessing sustainability benefits of a wide range of infrastructure projects including roads, bridges, pipelines, railways, airports, dams, levees, solid waste landfills, water supplies, wastewater treatment plants, power transmission lines, telecommunications towers, and public spaces.
With this new rating system, the project manager and/or designer will be able to measure and influence three key areas:
- Objective values – Have impacts of the infrastructure project been lessened by reducing material and resource consumption? Have efficient use of human resources to produce an effective solution within the economic constraints for that project been made? Has the project delivery approach been inclusive, transparent, balanced, and durable?
- Outcome-based solutions – Has an appropriate solution for a given situation and regulatory setting been developed so the configuration or framework of the project reflects supportable community values while delivering an effective solution or decision in a timely manner?
- Competitive solutions – Has the approach identified an effective use of natural, human and economic resources so a case is firmly established that benefits all interested parties? Sustainability should be affordable in all respects — it should enhance and restore environmental values, it must create net societal benefits and it should create a positive return on investment for both public and private owners.
envision™ will offer performance-based outcomes instead of being prescriptive. It will also be flexible in order to accommodate a range of projects, from highly complex to more common-place endeavours. The infrastructure rating system is the first of its kind and will supplement already existing rating systems, such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED system – a rating program that rewards building owners and designers based on the a buildings’ energy and environmental performance.
envision™ comes at a critical time. A time defined by the confluence of ageing infrastructure in need of significant upgrading and of burgeoning growth, particularly in the prairies and southern Ontario that will require new infrastructure. It also comes at a time when sustainability is at the top of many private and public sector agendas. Confronting this infrastructure deficit is vital for Canadian cities to be able to compete globally – economically and environmentally.
Andrzej Schreyer , R.P.P. is a senior land use and environmental planner with Hardy Stevenson and Associates and a member of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute and the Canadian Institute of Planners. His experience includes developing and implementing public participation and communications plans, managing social impact assessments and land use studies in support of infrastructure projects and preparing community-based strategic plans.