Infrastructure Sustainability Assessment in US

State-wide statistics of certified projects

This research about sustainability in infrastructure has been developed under the guidance of Prof. Ibrahim Odeh and supervised by Skanska Chief Environmental, Health, and Safety Officer; Mr. Paul Haining. Sustainability in Infrastructure is an important topic nowadays, in a moment when the American’s infrastructure has been graded D+ due to delayed maintenance and underinvestment, and the estimated resources needed by 2020 are $3.6 trillion  (ASCE 2013). It is also a moment when the Public-Private Partnerships are slowly starting in the United States and might be incentivized by this new trend, thanks to the benefits that green construction brings to investors, users and the environment. It is well known that there is a lack of funds for building new infrastructure and a private injection of capitals would be welcomed, but these investments need to be made wisely, with solutions that will last in the future, protecting the environment and guaranteeing benefits for the future generations. The research started with a collection of all the information regarding existing sustainability regulations or tools, how they have been used and from whom. At a Federal level, specific governmental organs, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are dedicated to the protection of the environment, providing plans and manuals that cover certain sectors, such as energy, climate change, water resources and environment among the others.

Sustainable Assessment Tools

Moving then to the investigation of sustainable assessment tools recognized and used at a national level, LEED, is the first instrument to measure sustainability. Being the oldest and the most popular, LEED has been used as a barometer to understand the appetite for the sustainability of the states around the Country. Another tools dedicated to infrastructure are, INVEST (promoted in 2012, locally by the Office of Federal Lands Highway and its three Division offices (Eastern, Central, and Western)), Greenroads (developed in 2011 by University of Washington specific for roads and highways) and ENVISION (the only one usable for every type of infrastructure, initiated in 2012 by the Institute of Sustainable Infrastructure in collaboration with “Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure” at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design). The research also provides an overview of the “sustainable climate” in the four geographical regions; Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, and West. After an investigation about the interest in sustainability in the country, the research then tried to quantify and monetize the potential market of sustainable infrastructure. Analyzing the trend of LEED and green buildings, we established a hypothesis about the possible development of sustainable infrastructure. According to our analysis and considerations, the sustainable infrastructure market may see exponential growth due to benefitting factors.


 (A) Northeast, (B) Midwest, (C) Southeast (D) West

To conclude, this research focuses on the economic assessment tools used to quantify the benefits of using sustainable practices in comparison with traditional projects. The “Business Case Evaluator” (BCE), developed by Impact Infrastructure LLC, evaluates stormwater management projects and transit infrastructure using a standard cost-benefit analysis approach; while the “Prioritization Scenario Model” (PRISM) is an analytical tool for projects/programs prioritization through cost-benefit, regional economic impact and sustainability analysis. The “Sustainable Return on Investment” (SROI) weighs the social, environmental and economic benefits against costs and incorporating risk assessment. The last one, “Zofnass Economic Process Tool” developed by the Zofnass Program of Sustainable Infrastructure, uses the same criteria of Envision tool. The main attractive aspect indeed for people that operates in the sector and for public agencies that might consider the use of sustainability solutions for their infrastructure is how much can be saved using green constructions not only in terms of environmental impact but also of monetary return and these tools can support a decision.


Sustainable Building Construction Spending

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Richard McDonald
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Houssam Akra
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Omar Matar
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Chiara Aletti