ASCE’s efforts to promote sustainable infrastructure development achieved a significant milestone on July 24, when the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure presented the first-ever Envision project award to the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery in Anchorage, Alaska.
Officially launched on April 3, 2012, the Envision rating system is a joint collaboration between the Institute of Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) and the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. The goal of Envision is to help project teams and communities meet their infrastructure sustainability goals and make decisions about the investment of scarce resources such as water and energy by assessing the costs by using a series of outcome-based objectives that will evaluate the environmental and social benefits of the project.
ASCE cofounded ISI, along with American Council of Engineering Companies and the American Public Works Association, in November 2010 as a key element of its sustainability initiative. ASCE Executive Director, Patrick J. Natale, P.E., CAE, F.ASCE, says that the partnership was formed with the goal of creating a sustainability rating tool, which could become a nationally recognized standard for higher sustainability performance in infrastructure projects.
“When we started this journey we realized some other organizations had interest—the American Council of Engineering Companies—who represent the firms that do this kind of work and the American Public Works Association, who are the owners of many of these civil infrastructure projects. What a great partnership to put the three of us together.”
The development of Envision was partially funded by a $300,000 grant from the ASCE Foundation.
The sustainability rating system is designed to promote new and innovative project design and delivery approaches and to increase project sustainable performance for social, economic and environmental factors. The rating system covers a broad range of infrastructure projects from roads and bridges to water systems to energy systems and is scalable from local projects up to highly complex regional systems.
“We are very excited that we have our first project award,” says ASCE President Gregory E. DiLoreto, P.E., P.L.S., D.WRE, F.ASCE. “It shows that the Envision tool can be applied successfully to large projects. It also answers those two basic questions: are we building the right project and are we building the project right.”
The 141,000-square-foot, $89.5 million Sport Fish Hatchery, designed by HDR, Inc., earned the Envision project award for the project’s commitment to improving the community’s quality of life, preserving greenfields, using recycled materials and innovative technologies, significantly reducing water and energy consumption, and protecting freshwater availability.
“I believe the Envision tool helped this particular project demonstrate publicly its value and contribution to sustainability,” DiLoreto said. “Importantly, there are other projects in the [Envision] pipeline. We believe this is the first of many projects that will use Envision as a guide for improving sustainable performance for the built environment. This is very exciting.”
Making a Difference in Civil Engineering Practice: The Past is No Longer Prologue
Natale says sustainability is an important issue for civil engineers and ASCE because it was recognized as part of ASCE’s Code of Ethics in November 1996 and it was identified by the Board of Direction in 2008 as one of the Society’s three strategic initiatives. As part of The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025, ASCE envisions civil engineers to be “stewards of the natural environment and the designers and master builders of the built environment.”
ASCE created the Committee on Sustainability to establish the Society’s leadership role, provide support and input to ISI, coordinate ASCE sustainability initiatives and programs, and foster engagement in sustainability among Society members through ASCE Institutes, Sections and Branches.
“Sustainability is going to be the biggest issue for civil engineers and others working in the built environment in the 21st Century,” notes William A. Wallace, M.ASCE, ENV SP, founder and president of Steamboat Springs, Colorado-headquartered, Wallace Futures Group, LLC. Wallace is a member of ASCE’s Committee on Sustainability and the lead developer of the Envision infrastructure rating system. “It is transforming the way civil engineers plan, design and deliver infrastructure projects—bridges, roads, buildings, wastewater treatment plants, whatever.”
According to Wallace, civil engineers can no longer just ask themselves the question: “Did you meet the project owner’s objectives within the bounds of codes and standards?” Engineers and owners must expand those concerns to sustainability, and that is where Envision can play a major part, he notes.
“I see ASCE’s role as helping civil engineers move up and out of the trenches into this new, expanded role as a sought after, trusted advisor,” Wallace adds. “So, contrary to Shakespeare, what is past is no longer prologue, at least for civil engineers working in the built environment.”
Natale concluded, “I believe that, down the road, projects will have in their request for proposals the requirement to use the Envision rating tool because the clients will want to demonstrate to their stakeholders and the public that their infrastructure project truly contributes to sustainability.”