Sustainability: Reshaping the Future Transportation Design and Construction

by Salem Afeworki (ELP 2014), Chile (in USA)

Applying sustainability in infrastructure projects is the most important yet the least understood concern of our time. In the United States, transportation is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions after buildings and it is clear that the impact of climate change will bring more stresses on infrastructure in the near future.

For businesses and governments, sustainability ought to be more than just an ethical pursuit – it helps entities save money, increase profitability, while enhancing their reputation and allowing future risk mitigation. Various tools and third party rating systems are being developed to measure and implement sustainability at the project level. Port authorities, transportation agencies and airports in the United States are now adopting sustainability-rating tools for their infrastructure projects and are requesting “out of the box” sustainable solutions from their consultants on their project execution.

CaptureOne of the sustainable design tools for infrastructure projects is ENVISIONTM rating system. Envision measures the sustainability of an infrastructure project from design though construction and maintenance. Design teams and project owners use it to set and achieve sustainability goals, adopt and implement effectively sustainable choices, and help set standards for others to follow. The ratings system is administered by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, which was founded by three national engineering associations: the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), and American Public Works Association (APWA), and the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.

1Currently our team at PacRim is the prime contractor and Sustainable Design Lead at Port of Long Beach Terminal Island Wye Track Realignment Project developing the Sustainability Management Plan for the project using Envision Sustainability Design Guideline. This is the Port’s first major sustainability undertaking at the Port-wide effort, and pursuing to get the project Envision certified. This tool will also allow the Port to measure and follow up on sustainability goals on the construction and Operation and Maintenance (O&M) phases of the project. It will assess costs and benefits over the project lifecycle, evaluate environmental and social impact of the project and develop outcome-based and measureable objectives that will allow the Port to reach the highest levels of sustainability achievements and build its brand as the Sustainable Green Port.

As we slowly incorporate sustainability in our civil engineering projects and work towards economic growth and better connectivity – it is important to know what industry tools already exist to facilitate the integration and constantly educate our leaders about the value that sustainability brings to profitability and business continuity.

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