Taking the Lead in Sustainability
Creating a sustainable world is a critical challenge facing society and civil engineers throughout the world. ASCE is taking a leadership role in fostering collaboration and creating a pathway towards sustainability.
Civil engineers are "entrusted by society to create a sustainable world." This year, the Society took several major steps on the path to achieving that vision.
Introducing the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure
As stewards of our nation's infrastructure, ASCE, along with the American Council of Engineering Companies and the American Public Works Association, founded a new non-profit organization, the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure. ISI is charged with the creation and administration of a new sustainability rating system for North American infrastructure.
Assigning Infrastructure a "Sustainability" Rating
The ISI rating system will cover all civil infrastructure projects aside from buildings. At its core will be what we call the "triple bottom line" of sustainability -- the economic, social and environmental impact of each project, recognizing that we are building much of the world of 2050 today. The new rating system 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 three founding organizations engaged the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Federal Highway Administration and other owners/owner agents to develop the framework for the rating system as well as review interim versions. The owners also identified potential projects provided by USACE, FHWA and APWA and participated in the pilot testing phase. In the fall of 2010, a framework and working model of the rating system was developed and approved by the ISI board. Preliminary testing of the rating system showed very positive results. The system is now being reviewed by more than 50 technical experts across the U.S. More than 25 organizations have submitted projects for pilot testing of the rating system.
Sustainability Education and Certification
ASCE is developing educational offerings to help civil engineers become better prepared to incorporate sustainability into their work. The Society offered its first pilot course in the fall 2010, Fundamentals of Sustainable Engineering. This entry-level course will be a foundation course for the multi-class online Certificate in Sustainable Engineering program under development.
ASCE Headquarters Aims to Take the LEED
With sustainability a top priority for the profession, ASCE considered whether there might be a means of improving the sustainability of the operations of our own six-story headquarters building in Reston, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C. In 2010, we realized that the building might be a prime candidate for the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED-EB certification for existing buildings.
After a comprehensive assessment, the building’s owner, the ASCE Foundation is moving forward with a goal of achieving LEED-EB Gold certification. The required upgrades will cost about $403,000, which is projected to be recouped over the next 10 years by the operating cost savings of the renovations. Our headquarters will qualify for certification 12 months after the upgrades are completed.
ASCEville Is Made Greenville
The Society’s sustainability efforts also extend to one of our major outreach tools to kids, parents and teachers. The online city of ASCEville introduces children to civil engineering concepts via an interactive full-page graphic of a downtown community. In 2010, it was upgraded extensively to add several sustainability elements, and introducing a sustainability scavenger hunt throughout the city. The game challenges players to solve “What makes ASCEville Greenville?” as they travel through the city, identifying permeable pavement, solar panels, recycling centers and other “green” elements. To promote the enhancements, posters and educational resources were created and provided to teachers.