Editor-in-Chief Elisabeth Lisican showcases a handful of features to read in the April 2017 issue of Water & Wastes Digest.
Designed to address nation's deteriorating infrastructure
The Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) in collaboration with the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) unveiled a new infrastructure rating system, called Envision. The system is designed to help policy makers evaluate the sustainability of infrastructure, set realistic national priorities and conduct a national discourse on infrastructure investment. Through a holistic approach, the Envision system rates all types and sizes of civil infrastructure projects, and does so in terms of environmental, economic and community benefits.
The holistic approach of Envision provides a complete framework of assessment, covering all major civil infrastructure project types, scales, contexts and project phases. Infrastructure owners, engineers, contractors and regulators can address all major infrastructure project stages: planning and design, construction, operations and maintenance and decommissioning.
“The new sustainable infrastructure rating system will evaluate, grade and give recognition to infrastructure projects that provide progress and contributions for a sustainable future. Its purpose is to foster a necessary and dramatic improvement in the performance and resiliency of physical infrastructure,” said Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure Executive Director Bill Bertera.
“We are at the height of a national discussion concerning the condition of our nation’s civil infrastructure and how to finance its future development,” said Paul Zofnass, founder of the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure. “Designers, infrastructure decision-makers and the public currently face a proliferation of sustainability rating tools, most of which focus on the performance of a particular infrastructure element. Envision is unique in that it focuses on infrastructure’s total contribution to the environment, economy and society.”
Envision directly ties rating system points to measurable benefits, as estimated by state-of-the-practice economic analysis. Using evidence from economic research, the full value of infrastructure would be captured and aligned with the credits and points in Envision across various infrastructure characteristics. In this way, the rating system will be used to more fully account for the impacts that are not included in standard financial measures, and do so in ways that are consistent with economic theory and evidence.
“The professionals who design and build these projects face a tall order to satisfy ever-growing demand for infrastructure, while at the same time responsibly addressing potential environmental and economic effects,” said Tim Psomas, chair of the ISI board of directors. “EnvisionTM will allow project sponsors to better articulate the costs and benefits of infrastructure development by revealing the full value of projects including contributions to job creation, triple bottom line outcomes (social, environmental, economic), enhancements to community resilience and regional competitiveness.”
Educational programs will be offered in conjunction with the rating system’s release, to not only train individuals to use Envision, but to incorporate systems-level thinking into their approach to sustainability, considering the broader, often-overlooked impacts of a project. In addition to the release of EnvisionTM, the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure and the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure plan to release two companion tools this year; a pre-planning checklist for assessing project sustainability in increasing awareness of issues, and a comprehensive guidance document and score calculator that allows users to analyze and rate a project’s levels of achievement for sustainability objectives. Both tools are under development and are important steps in realizing the goal for a holistic system.