Aging and outdated infrastructure is one of the greatest challenges facing federal, state, and municipal leaders across the U.S. right now. Determining the best way to move forward on a major project can be difficult, but there is a new tool to make the decision-making process easier. An independent, non-profit organization called the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) has developed a rating system called Envision™ to evaluate the sustainability of infrastructure projects such as water and wastewater treatment plants, pipelines, bridges, and roads. Basically, the rating system is intended for infrastructure projects that are not already covered by the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. The tool can be used for existing infrastructure, new projects, and infrastructure renovations.
Envision is based on the “triple bottom line” concept of sustainability, which considers a proposed project or existing infrastructure’s environmental, economic, and social impacts. ISI describes Envision as “the only comprehensive assessment system that strives to improve a project’s social and environmental performance, while also accounting for economic benefits and creating a better long-term value for the community.”
The Envision system is organized into five categories: Quality of Life, Leadership, Resource Allocation, Natural World, and Climate and Risk. “The Envision rating method is a defensible decision support tool. When a project is considered through this lens, local leaders can go back to their city councils, boards, and tax payers and show exactly how a project will benefit their community in three important ways – financially, environmentally, and socially,” says Nate Weisenburger, certified Envision Sustainability Professional (ENV SP) and AE2S Great Falls Operations Manager.
Similar to the LEED certification, projects can be Envision-certified if they meet certain criteria. However, certification is not necessary. “Many cities will just want to use Envision as a toolbox for making sustainable infrastructure decisions. They do not have to get their projects certified at the Platinum, Gold, Silver, or Bronze level unless that is something that is important to them. This is not about having a plaque on the wall – it’s about making sound decisions that will stand the test of time,” says Jared Heller, ENV SP and AE2S Fargo Assistant Operations Manager. “I’m passionate about Envision because this rating system will help us determine the most sustainable way to complete projects now, so they will still be viable for future generations.”
To become an ISI credentialed practitioner, a candidate must have a four year engineering degree or hold a Professional Engineer (PE) designation, complete a series of Envision courses conducted by ISI, and pass an exam regarding the use of Envision, among other requirements.
ISI was cofounded by the American Council of Engineering Companies, American Public Works Association, and the American Society of Civil Engineers. The non-profit organization offers free membership to public utilities, governments, and government agencies. Click here to access the application for membership. You may also contact Jared Heller at Jared.Heller@ae2s.com or 701-364-9111 to learn how Envision can be used to help plan your next infrastructure project.
AE2S is a charter member of ISI as well as the first engineering consulting firm in North Dakota to have certified ENV SP on staff, and among the first in Minnesota, Montana, and South Dakota. AE2S currently has five employees who are ENV SP certified.