Could a LEED for Roads Spur Greener Infrastructure?

In a recent interview for American Public Media’s Marketplace, President Obama once again acknowledged America’s crumbling infrastructure, and the fact that no one in Congress seems too terribly concerned about it:

“…we’ve got $2 trillion of deferred maintenance: roads, bridges, an air-traffic control system that’s creaky, an electrical grid that wastes too much energy and is highly inefficient, and we could be putting hundreds of thousands of folks back to work right now and not only put a big boost to the economy in the short term, but also lay the foundation for economic competitiveness in the long term. That creates a lot of middle-class jobs. The challenge we have is not that we don’t know what to do. The problem is that we’ve got a Congress right now that’s been saying no to proposals that would make a difference.”

In case you missed it, the 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gave the performance and condition of the nation’s infrastructure an overall grade of D+, up from a D in 2009 (hooray?).

The fact that bridges and dams are literally falling apart in this country seems an apt example of…everything, but that’s a discussion for another time. Regardless of bank account or political persuasion, every American relies on this infrastructure for survival. And from the highest levels of government on down, we’re scrambling to figure out which projects to tackle first, and how to ensure the updates are enough to bring us into the next century, and beyond.

The increasingly unpredictable consequences of global warming demonstrate our need for infrastructure that’s not only sound, but also smart and eco-friendly. Applying green building concepts to infrastructure is still a very new idea, one that there has been no comprehensive, standardized way to quantify — until now.

Introduced in 2012, the Envision rating system, created by the Zofnass Program and Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, strives to be for infrastructure what the LEED certification system is for buildings.

“Roads are the connective tissue of commerce and make economic growth possible,” Bill Bertera, president and CEO of the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, told “Since connectivity drives GDP, how we prep our infrastructure for the future is an important consideration, especially for the business community.”

“The USGBC focuses on the vertical infrastructure and we focus on horizontal infrastructure,” Bertera continued. “Between the two organizations, we can offer a community a complete palette for making itself more sustainable.”

The Envision system is built on the idea that infrastructure products are most successful — and sustainable — when they employ a holistic approach that takes the environment into account during planning instead of applying mitigation “bandages” after the fact. At its most basic, Envision is a checklist for engineers and city planners. Structured as a series of yes/no questions, the system assesses projects across five categories — quality of life, leadership, resource allocation, natural world and climate and risk — for a total of 60 sustainability criteria, called credits. “As with LEED certification, Envision helps projects achieve different levels of designation from a third-party evaluator,” reports GreenBiz.

Although a lack of funding might make it difficult for current projects to achieve certification, the tools are freely available as a foundation for anyone interested in making a project more sustainable.

So far, 300 infrastructure projects are using Envision, and about 30 are expected to go through the verification process.

Image via Thinkstock


Warren Webber
Warren Webber3 years ago

Live long and prosper!

Alexandra G.
Alexandra G3 years ago

thank you for sharing

Maria Teresa Schollhorn

Thank you.

Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage se3 years ago


Ben Oscarsito
Ben O3 years ago

"Sustainable infrastructure"...? -Well, what's the alternative...???

Aud nordby
Aud n3 years ago


David B.
David B3 years ago

it's never gonna happen as long as the republicians are in , in the numbers they are . they refuse tax increases and taxes are what the government spend to do there job . so no new taxes , no new money , no new repairs . thank you republicians for the disinagration of America .

Elizabeth F.
Elizabeth F3 years ago


Catrin K.
Catrin Schuetz3 years ago

Greener infrastructure sounds good , now if we can just get them to agree and approve it before it is all beyond repair ....

Alan Lambert
Alan Lambert3 years ago

We need a 10 year-$9 TRILLION infrastructure plan.
Every bridge rated C or lower should be repaired or replaced.
Every town or city that has sewer or water systems over 30 years old should be inspected and repaired or replaced as needed.
Every mile of the electrical grid should be replaced with more efficient and better monitored lines.
Every house should be wired for Broadband Internet access.
Every oil well that flares natural gas should be replaced with new pipelines that transport the gas to refineries.
Every mile of Interstate Highway should be augmented with electrical generating equipment and the electricity sold to advertisers or traded to electrical utilities for service to the poor and elderly.

I'm sure there are more, but this'll do for a start.