Infrastructure that can adapt, withstand, and recover from disruption helps communities thrive both economically, socially and environmentally. The American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) recently recognized the critical role engineers play in sustainability and resiliency, especially as it pertains to advancing materials and structural design that improves infrastructure performance. They asked the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) and VHB to help provide advanced sustainable project training to their members via the ISI’s Envision® Sustainable Infrastructure Framework.
VHB is a Charter Member of ISI, who developed the Envision Rating System as a tool to measure and facilitate the achievement of social, economic, and environmental sustainability goals through capital improvement projects. Sierra LePore, ENV SP, a Senior Aviation Planner at VHB, is collaborating with ISI and ACEC to provide Envision Framework approach training to the organization’s member engineering firms. She says it is critical that engineers today be future-focused about sustainability and resiliency.
“Engineers benefit from the Envision Framework’s broad perspective, as there are many opportunities over an infrastructure project’s lifecycle to elevate sustainability,” said Sierra. “Envision asks engineers to consider best practices about material selection and embodied carbon, stormwater management, vulnerabilities to climate change, stakeholder engagement, life cycle costs, and many other areas critical to creating a sustainable and resilient project. It’s a mindset change but so important as infrastructure projects are large-scale and long-lasting.”
VHB is uniquely qualified to train industry professionals in ISI Envision as the company is a recognized industry leader in sustainability. The Envision Framework’s holistic approach fosters a necessary improvement in the performance and resiliency of physical infrastructure that mirrors VHB markets and services, including energy, transportation, and landscape. More than 75 VHB employees have earned ENV SP credentials and three additional employees besides Sierra are also certified Envision trainers that provide education to employees and clients. VHB has provided third party verification services to ISI for more than 15 infrastructure projects such as solar, water treatment facilities, high speed rail, highways, parking/vehicle facilities, viaducts, and more.
“We don’t look at sustainability as something extra or an add-on service we offer clients; it’s inherent in everything we do,” explained Ryan Prime, VHB Sustainability Practice Leader. “Sierra’s advanced Envision Framework certification and experience is instrumental in helping ACEC members understand how the decisions they make across a project lifecycle have sustainable impacts in development, infrastructure, and the environment. All of our Envision Framework Trainers and Verifiers provide a unique perspective on sustainability, and it provides our clients and employees a comprehensive understanding about how to think sustainably with our projects.”
A number of VHB projects are currently undergoing Envision Framework verification for a project award. In New York, its framework is being applied to the Port Authority of New York-New Jersey infrastructure projects, and Penn Station Access project for the MTA , and Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Battery Project. In Florida, the Envision Framework is being applied to the West Central Streetscape project in St. Petersburg. And three airports are utilizing Envision Framework to prepare for future climate events and air travel growth: BOS Runway 9/27 and 15/33, Worcester Regional Runway 11/29, and T.F. Green Airport Runway 5-23 Extension.
ISI partnered with the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design to develop the Envision Framework. ISI’s founding organizations include ACEC, American Public Works Adminsitration (APWA), and American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).