Civil infrastructure – roads, bridges, railways, airports, and utilities – are an essential foundation of modern society. Infrastructure connects people, enhances access to services, education, and work opportunities.
Infrastructure also plays a crucial role in addressing climate challenges. According to the New Climate Economy, the world’s existing infrastructure is responsible for more than 60% of greenhouse gas emissions. Designing sustainable infrastructure is critical to building a better future for the planet and its inhabitants.
What is sustainable infrastructure?
Sustainability is often linked to the term “green”, meaning the infrastructure or building has been built with environmentally sound principles. There’s broad consensus that green infrastructure can save cities billions of dollars.
“…sustainability should seek to devise infrastructure that is tailored to local social, economic and ecological environment and caters the need for infrastructure services in the most effective and efficient way.”
There is also a financial aspect to sustainable infrastructure which is particularly important given the need to replace aging infrastructure:
“Sustainability also requires assuring financial resources to maintain infrastructure over its entire lifespan, considering users’ preferences and needs in the design (for maximum effectiveness), and understanding the institutional and political dynamics in order to guarantee projects’ endurance through the political cycle,” suggests IDB.
What are some best practices?
To help infrastructure professionals design and build in a more sustainable way, Autodesk has assembled a series of independent resources and best practices that can help you focus on greener civil infrastructure.
LEED standards, for example, are being used by more than 90 cities and communities worldwide to create resilient, green, and smart cities.
In addition, these guiding principles from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), offer a useful resource for ensuring your city’s green infrastructure initiatives are most effective. USGBC stresses the importance of using data-driven tools during the planning phase, such as GIS mapping, census data, and visualization. Many of these principles have already been utilized by cities such as Chicago, Baltimore, and Portland, Oregon.
“Envision is an objective framework of criteria designed to help identify ways in which sustainable approaches can be used to plan, design, construct and operate infrastructure projects. Envision not only asks, “Are we doing the project right?” but also, “Are we doing the right project?”.
In practice, Envision helps civil planners and engineers verify how their projects contribute to the sustainability of the surrounding community and is used by Los Angeles County Public Works, New York Department of Design and Construction, Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District, and more. The reconstruction of Oregon Avenue in Washington D.C., for example, earned the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) the Envision Silver Award.
Envision’s framework includes 64 sustainability and resilience indicators that it calls “credits” across five categories: quality of life, leadership, resource allocation, natural world, and climate and resilience. Envision also offers expert training and an Envision Sustainability Professional designation and a ratings tool.
Read more about how technology and design tools can help create smarter, more sustainable cities and infrastructure.