Infrastructure sustainability measuring tool in development

April 2011 Vol. 66 No. 4

A new, independent non-profit organization is tasked with developing and administering a sustainability rating system for North American infrastructure—the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI). The organization was founded by the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), the American Public Works Association (APWA) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

The ISI rating system is founded on the “triple bottom line” concept of sustainability, which includes environmental, economic and social considerations, and it is designed to identify the benefits of sustainable practice for owners, regulators and practitioners. It represents 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 rating system will launch in the summer of 2011 as a voluntary, web-based product. However, unlike other tools, the ISI system will include an option for third-party verification, and will be applicable to a wide range of infrastructure projects, from roads and bridges to energy and water systems. It will be designed to promote community and policy acceptance of sustainable solutions and encourage knowledge sharing, innovation and collaboration in the design, construction and maintenance of infrastructure.

“This is a groundbreaking effort that will give federal, state and local government agencies a new way to plan and carry out infrastructure projects that achieve broader and longer-term benefits for the American people,” said ACEC Chairman and ISI Board member Jerry Stump. “Right now, government agencies lack a comprehensive measuring tool that will assess major infrastructure projects in terms of sustainability and other societal needs – the new ISI rating system will fill this need.”

The rating system will be performance-based and adaptable based on project size and complexity, allowing state and federal agencies to use it for large projects, while allowing local governments to use it for smaller projects. The system will also include an option for self-assessment as well as third-party certification.

ISI membership will be open to individuals, organizations and agencies, and the organization will be developing certification and continuing education programs for rating system users.