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Sustainable Infrastructure Rating Systems

By Mark Everett

July 24, 2018


Sustainable design has been on the upswing for years now. With the success of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, the infrastructure world has come on board with several rating systems of its own developed within the last decade.

These sustainability rating systems are organized in a variety of ways and most possess the following key tenets:

  • Project-specific rating systems through the full project life cycle (planning through operations)
  • Credentialing programs that allow individuals to earn program-specific credentials.

While various sustainability rating systems exist throughout the world, this summary will focus on programs popular in the U.S. and concentrate on infrastructure as opposed to buildings or community design.



Envision is a rating system for sustainable infrastructure developed by a collaboration between the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at Harvard and the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI). The ISI, the entity currently overseeing this rating system, is a nonprofit founded in 2010 by the American Public Works Association (APWA), American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC).

The ISI describes Envision as a “comprehensive framework of 60 sustainability criteria that address the full range of environmental, social, and economic impacts to ensure sustainability in project design, construction, and operation. These criteria—called “credits”—are arranged in five categories:

  • Quality of Life
  • Leadership
  • Resource Allocation
  • Natural World
  • Climate and Risk

Envision applies to all types of civil infrastructure projects. After receiving training, individuals can also earn the Envision Sustainability Professional (ENV SP) credential.



Developed by Greenroads International, the Greenroads Rating System is a collection of sustainability best practices that relate to transportation design and construction. Per Greenroads, there are 61 “credits” in the current version, including mandatory project requirements that create a baseline for a project to be considered “green” and voluntary credits designed to encourage performance beyond the minimums.

Greenroads’ mandatory project requirements span all aspects of a project lifecycle, including: early environmental planning, social and community decision-making, economic considerations, construction planning and operational management. Voluntary credits are organized into five core categories:

  • Environment & Water
  • Construction Activities
  • Materials & Design
  • Utilities & Controls
  • Access & Livability

Extra credits are also available in a “Creativity & Effort” category. In addition, Greenroads offers four levels of Sustainable Transportation Professional (STP) credentials that can be earned by individuals utilizing the system.



INVEST (Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool) is a voluntary, free tool developed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to assist transportation agencies assess and enhance the sustainability of their projects and programs.

While INVEST doesn’t have credentialing opportunities, the web-based tool is comprised of sustainability best practices and criteria that cover the full lifecycle of transportation services.  Per FHWA, these include:

  • System Planning
  • Project Planning
  • Design
  • Construction
  • Operations and Maintenance

The criteria are divided into four modules, with each module containing between 14 and 33 criteria.

While not required, use of these sustainable infrastructure rating systems can help spur project teams, jurisdictions, and transportation agencies to enhance the sustainability of their projects and programs. With the challenges we all face on a global level, this approach is sure to continue to grow in the years ahead.

Topics: Insights, Ecological Resource News, Sustainability

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About the Author

Mark serves as a Senior Environmental Scientist for RS&H's Transportation-Infrastructure Practice. He has 19 years of experience in the environmental and planning fields. His experience includes a large variety of projects within the public and private sectors, with an emphasis in transportation.

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