Envisioning Smart Cities through Sustainable Infrastructure

By Meghna Tare

Meghna is the Executive Director, Institute for Sustainability and Global Impact at the University of Texas at Arlington where she has initiated and spearheaded many successful cross functional sustainability projects related to policy implementation, buildings and development, green procurement, transportation, employee engagement, waste management, GRI reporting, and carbon management. She is a TEDx UTA speaker, was featured as Women in CSR by TriplePundit, has done various radio shows on sustainability, is an active blogger, and graduated with an MBA in Sustainable Management at the Presidio Graduate School. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter @meghnatare.

Apr 2, 2014 | Smart Cities | 0 comments


Who will you meet?

Cities are innovating, companies are pivoting, and start-ups are growing. Like you, every urban practitioner has a remarkable story of insight and challenge from the past year.

Meet these peers and discuss the future of cities in the new Meeting of the Minds Executive Cohort Program. Replace boring virtual summits with facilitated, online, small-group discussions where you can make real connections with extraordinary, like-minded people.


 

Smart Cities take years of planning and innovative thinking and the approach varies depending on each cities stage of development, location, culture, demographics, and funding. According to research conducted by Alcatel-Lucent – there are three main motivators for smart city projects:

  • An economic motivator reflecting the need to construct or invent a new economic model.
  • An eco-sustainability motivator reflecting the need or desire to reduce energy consumption.
  • A social motivator reflecting the need to improve the quality of life in a city environment.


Sustainable infrastructure is one such economic motivator and part of a new economic model adopted by cities planning departments integrating sustainable techniques in infrastructure design and construction.

What is Envision?

After the success of U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for green buildings and SITES for sustainable landscape, The Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) launched the Sustainable infrastructure rating system Envision™ in January 2012. Envision™ is the product of a strategic alliance between The Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI), a nonprofit organization co-founded by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Public Works Association, and the American Council of Engineering Companies; and Harvard University’s Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure.  Envision has similarities to the LEED rating system for sustainable building but with a broader focus on civil infrastructure and how projects integrate with community goals and policies, economic goals and the environment.

In contrast to traditional sector-specific methods that focus solely on sustainability within one type of infrastructure (streets, for example), Envision™ takes a new approach by establishing a holistic framework for evaluating and rating infrastructure projects ensuring that sustainable development is addressed by considering the entire life cycle of projects at a systems level.  Nationwide, several prominent communities are exploring the benefits of the tool on their projects.  The City of Berkeley, California is proposing to use Envision™ for prioritizing street and watershed improvements and the City of Edina, MN, is using it in its draft Living Streets policy. Envision™ can be used by design teams, infrastructure owners, urban planners, community groups, regulators, environmental organizations and policy makers to

  • Meet their sustainability goals as outlined in the planning document or strategic plans
  • Be publicly recognized for high levels of achievement in sustainability similar to LEED or SITES
  • Help communities and consultants/engineers to collaborate and understand if they are on the right track and making the right decisions
  • Make choices about the investment of scarce resources and natural capital like water.
  • Involve community in civil infrastructure projects


In addition, this infrastructure rating system encourages and rewards sustainability performance by recognizing efforts that restore natural capital and ecosystems. The system has ratings for design and planning, construction, operations, and decommissioning.

The Institute of Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) was specifically created to develop this industry-wide rating system. ISI prepared the Envision rating tool, using five categories – quality of life, leadership, resource allocation, natural world, and climate and risk – with 60 possible credits. Within each category, a project is scored based on its performance. This is done on a graduated Performance Level scale that ranges from Improved to Enhanced to Superior to Conserving to Restorative. Importantly, not every performance level can be achieved for every credit.

How it Works

The system has four levels of assessment tools:

  • Stage 1 is a self-assessment checklist and educational tool that helps familiarize people involved in infrastructure projects with the sustainability aspects of the project. The Envision Self ‐Assessment Checklist (Checklist) is an educational tool that helps users become familiar with the sustainability aspects of infrastructure project design. It can be used as a stand ‐ alone assessment to quickly compare project alternatives or to prepare for a more detailed assessment using the full Envision rating system. The checklist is structured as a survey with Yes/No questions.
  • Stage 2 is a third-party, objective rating verification that allows the owner or project team to submit the project for independent verification and recognition. The tool includes a comprehensive guidance document and score calculator.
  • Stage 3 released in 2013, focuses on large multi-scale projects
  • Stage 4 due out in 2014, is an optimization support tool and will be able to assess multiple projects for an entire region.

Training and Education

ISI is also education and training sustainability professionals who are trained in the use of the system called Sustainability Professionals (ENV SP). ENV SPs are credentialed by ISI to be an integral part of a project team who guides the team in the implementation of the rating system. They also document project success and accomplishments, and submit the project for recognition.

The New Normal?

The United Nations (UN) Millennium Ecosystem Assessment acknowledged that over the past 40 years, the current rate of consumption of natural resources does not support renewal to meet the needs of future generations. The construction industry accounts for 30% of the energy consumed in the U.S. while contributing 6% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. The construction industry needs to evaluate and measure the environmental performance of projects. The Envision Rating Program Model is very progressive and innovative in many areas and is worth a try! Of course it will evolve and modify over time as we learn from our experiences!

Discussion

Leave your comment below, or reply to others.

Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org

Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology

No Equity, No Resilience: Minneapolis is All of Us

No Equity, No Resilience: Minneapolis is All of Us

This article was originally published on September 8, 2020.

Update for April 20, 2021:

After the murder of George Floyd we wrote this article as a kind of blueprint, a beginning to a new way of working with equitable resilience in our cities and beyond. Now, as the trial of Derek Chauvin comes to a guilty verdict in Minneapolis and the whole country reflects on the legacy of that verdict, we have to remember another senseless murder – another young Black man, Daunte Wright, at the hands of law enforcement, just miles from the courthouse. Again, Minneapolis is all of us. We have protested, we have voted. We stood up, we spoke out, we have raged about the anti-Black racism. We have seen people come together, we can feel a shift in this country. But there is so much more to do. No equity, no resilience.

-Ron & Stewart

How Affordable Green Housing Enhances Cities

How Affordable Green Housing Enhances Cities

Housing that is affordable to low-income residents is often substandard and suffering from deferred maintenance, exposing residents to poor air quality and high energy bills. This situation can exacerbate asthma and other respiratory health issues, and siphon scarce dollars from higher value items like more nutritious food, health care, or education. Providing safe, decent, affordable, and healthy housing is one way to address historic inequities in community investment. Engaging with affordable housing and other types of community benefit projects is an important first step toward fully integrating equity into the green building process. In creating a framework for going deeper on equity, our new book, the Blueprint for Affordable Housing (Island Press 2020), starts with the Convention on Human Rights and the fundamental right to housing.  

The Pandemic, Inequality, Housing Affordability, and Urban Land

The Pandemic, Inequality, Housing Affordability, and Urban Land

Since the Great Recession of 2008, the housing wealth gap has expanded to include not just Black and Brown Americans, but younger White Americans as well. Millennials and Generation Z Whites are now joining their Black and Brown peers in facing untenable housing precarity and blocked access to wealth. With wages stuck at 1980 levels and housing prices at least double (in inflation adjusted terms) what they were 40 years ago, many younger Americans, most with college degrees, are giving up on buying a home and even struggle to rent apartments suitable for raising a family.

What makes it hard for policy people and citizens to accept this truth is that we have not seen this problem in a very long time. Back in the 1920s of course, but not really since then. But this is actually an old problem that has come back to haunt us; a problem first articulated by Adam Smith in the 1700s.

The Future of Cities

Mayors, planners, futurists, technologists, executives and advocates — hundreds of urban thought leaders publish on Meeting of the Minds. Sign up below to follow the future of cities.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Wait! Before You Leave —

Wait! Before You Leave —

Subscribe to receive updates on the Executive Cohort Program!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This