Today is Earth Day, April 22, and AGC is celebrating all week long by releasing an article a day exploring how the construction industry contributes to building a green future. You can help us get the word out by linking to these articles via social media during “Earth Week.” Today’s article (the third in AGC’s five-day series) explores developments in green infrastructure.
An investment in communities and their sustaining infrastructure is an investment in the future, and that includes protecting our water and land resources to make our communities greener—and safer. Our nation’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure are in critical need of attention. Leaking pipes alone are responsible for billions of gallons of lost water every day and, in many parts of the country, wet weather events regularly lead to overflowing systems that release waste and chemicals into the environment—damaging aquatic ecosystems and causing human illness. In addition, our nation’s dams, levees and pumping stations are an important source of energy generation, water storage for drinking and irrigation, and flood control; yet they are increasingly unsafe and unreliable.
Notwithstanding the current political focus on adapting communities to withstand extreme weather patterns—from droughts to monsoons, blizzards to heat waves—as well as severe storms, the maintenance and improvement of these infrastructure are critical to sustaining our communities and building a green future.
Drawing on the interest in green buildings, programs are now available to address challenges specific to infrastructure and public works. These green infrastructure programs have found new partners in the green community to further galvanize efforts to improve our nation’s infrastructure. Below AGC explores two green infrastructure programs: Envision and Sustainable SITES.
Envision Sustainable Infrastructure Rating System
Envision™ is an emerging sustainability infrastructure rating system and planning tool released by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI). According to ISI, Envision “can be applied to all civil infrastructure other than buildings and can be used to assess the sustainability of an infrastructure project at any point in its life cycle–from inception on.” Envision is also a programmatic planning tool that helps communities identify their sustainable infrastructure needs and evaluate how projects are delivered and how long they are intended to last.
Envision provides sustainability criteria in five main categories: quality of life, leadership, resource allocation, natural world, and climate and risk. The criteria give guidance on sustainability concerns such as biodiversity, emissions, energy, materials, resilience, siting, and water to name a few.
According to ISI, Envision can be applied to the following types of projects:
- Airports and Hangars
- Bridges and Interchanges
- Fiber‐optic Communication Installations
- Mining, Cement, Chemical and Manufacturing
- Power Plants
- Rail Facilities
- Roads and Highways
- Sanitary Sewer Systems
- Underground Utilities
- Water Transmission and Distribution Lines
- Water Treatment Plants
- Water Treatment Projects
Projects can be certified bronze, silver, gold or platinum. ISI also provides a training and credentialing program for individuals using Envision. ISI was founded by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Public Works Association and the American Council of Engineering Companies. Go to www.sustainableinfrastructure.org for more information on Envision.
The SITES™ v2 rating system has been released by the Sustainable Sites Initiative™ for use by landscape architects, designers, engineers, architects, developers, policymakers and others who work in land design and development. SITES is applicable to public or private open spaces from streetscapes and plazas, national and city parks to public and private campuses, landscape projects at corporate headquarters, and residential neighborhoods or private homes.
The SITES v2 rating system and an accompanying reference guide provide a set of best practices, performance benchmarks and tools for creating and evaluating sustainable landscapes. Landscapes are considered sustainable if they reduce water demand, filter and reduce stormwater runoff, provide wildlife habitat, reduce energy consumption, improve air quality, improve human health, and increase outdoor recreation opportunities. Several of the SITES credits align with the sustainable sites credits in U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system to streamline dual certifications.
The SITES program structure was originally modeled after LEED with prerequisites for every project and optional credits for projects to pursue. Successful projects are recognized with certification. In March 2015, the last of the 100 pilot projects received certification. Negotiations are underway with the Green Business Certification Institute (the certification body for LEED) to provide project certification to the requirements of the SITES v2 Rating System and a related professional credentialing program.
The United States Botanic Garden, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin, and the American Society of Landscape Architects led the development of the Sustainable SITES program. Go to http://www.sustainablesites.org for more information on SITES.
If you have worked on an Envision or Sustainable SITES green infrastructure project, we would like to know. Please consider sharing your story with AGC’s Melinda Tomaino at email@example.com.
AGC’s Earth Week Article Series
AGC also reports on green or sustainability news through its @AGCEnvironment Twitter account. AGC’s upcoming 2015 Contractors Environmental Conference on Sept. 2-3, 2015, will also feature sessions on green buildings, roads and other infrastructure, click here for the conference details. For more information, contact AGC’s Melinda Tomaino at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 837-5415.