Roadway Environmental Ratings: What’s Best for Your Agency?
Better Roads Staff
There’s a choice of programs to use in rating sustainable roads
By Tom Kuennen, Contributing Editor
The never-ending quest to define which pavements and highways can be considered “environmentally sustainable” has gotten a lot harder, just as it’s gotten easier.
It’s gotten easier because state, county and municipal agencies can choose from a variety of programs that enable them to evaluate and rate the “green-ness” of a particular pavement.
But it’s gotten harder because, well, there are so many to choose from.
Unlike the nationally recognized LEED system – which is the only accepted environmental certification program for buildings and structures – there are a variety of different evaluation/certification programs for roads or civil engineering structures at international, national and state levels.
For example, even as the Transportation Association of Canada’s Green Guide for Roads poses sustainability guidance for road construction for Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation is promulgating its own GreenPave points-based rating system.
Similarly, the New York State DOT has developed the GreenLITES (Green Leadership In Transportation Environmental Sustainability) pavement rating system, and in 2011Illinois introduced I-LAST, the Illinois-Livable and Sustainable Transportation rating guide.
Even so, in the United States Greenroads is the national leader by its entrenched position. Established in 2010, the Greenroads Foundation is developer of the Greenroads Rating System, and the foundation manages the certification process for sustainable roadway and bridge construction projects in the United States and internationally.
Greenroads rates a project’s sustainable elements in seven categories: Project Requirements, Environment and Water, Access and Equity, Construction Activities, Materials and Resources, Pavement Technologies, and Custom Credits, which are intended to accommodate good ideas that don’t fall under the previous headings. Accumulated points will position a project for one of four levels of certification: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Evergreen.
Joining these state and national programs in October 2012 was the full-scale release of INVEST by the Federal Highway Administration. An acronym for Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool, INVEST 1.0 follows a beta version from fall 2010, and a pilot version in 2011, and is a practical, web-based collection of best practices.
“Sustainability is an opportunity for an organization to adjust its course,” said Stephen T. Muench, Ph.D., P.E., Greenroads director, and associate professor at the University of Washington-Seattle, at the National Pavement Preservation Conference in Nashville in August this year. “It permits a look at organizational priorities to see if there’s a need to adjust them. Rating systems play a role in this adjustment because they are a reasonable means to manage and communicate sustainability efforts.”
Greenroads follows LEED
Whether acknowledged or not, these programs follow the footsteps of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. LEED recognizes environmentally sustainable building and neighborhood design, and LEED certification is administered by the U.S. Green Building Council.
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