Orange County Branch Newsletter

April 2013

President's Message

President's Message - Sustainability

By Tapas Dutta, P.E.

One of three areas of focus for ASCE is “Sustainability”.  As Civil Engineers, we have an obligation to our communities to lead the way in sustainable planning, design and construction.  ASCE defines sustainability as “a set of environmental, economic and social conditions in which all of society has the capacity and opportunity to maintain and improve its quality of life indefinitely without degrading the quantity, quality or availability of natural, economic and social resources”.  Simply stated, our planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of our nation’s infrastructure should include sustainable elements in order to maximize the use of resources.  We must recognize that our natural resources are not infinite, and we know that our economic and social resources have limitations.  From a purely engineering point of view, increasing the efficiency of using our resources in planning, designing and implementing various systems should be a challenge that we should embrace as a Best Value Practice.

In the building industry, the successful LEED program has fostered innovations that have produced increasingly green and energy efficient buildings.  Although sustainable design elements have long been part of civil engineering (e.g. using recycled material in asphalt concrete), until recently, there has not been a mass movement to evaluate and create a standardized rating system for civil engineering infrastructure projects.  

In 2007, research on a rating system for roadways “Greenroads” originated at the University of Washington.  Greenroads™ is a collection of sustainability best practices, called "credits," that relate to roadway design and construction. Achieving these credits can earn points toward a total score for the project, and in general, this Greenroads™ score can be used as an indicator of sustainability for the roadway. Four different certification levels (ratings) are available depending upon total score on a voluntary basis.

In 4 years of development, Greenroads™ has been tested on over 120 design and construction projects, of various types, shapes, sizes and stages of design and construction. Certification is now available through the Greenroads™ Foundation (a non-profit organization) for a nominal fee.  See [url= ] [/url]; for more information. 

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has launched an initiative to support transportation agencies in making highway projects more sustainable. This new initiative provides a practical tool, called the Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool (INVEST), for integrating sustainability best practices into transportation projects and programs. INVEST is innovative in that it is a self‐evaluation tool that allows users to assess for themselves how sustainable their programs or projects may be. Application of the tool is voluntary, allowing users to determine for
themselves how best to achieve a desired level of sustainability in their programs and projects.

INVEST 1.0 was launched on October 10, 2012.  FHWA is seeking partnership with local agencies for using this tool.  For more information, go to

A more comprehensive rating system was launched in January 2012 named Envision which was developed jointly under three organizations:  ASCE, American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) and American Public Works Association (APWA) in collaboration with the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

The rating system is administered by the Institute of Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI). The ISI’s mission is to provide sustainability products and services that will transform infrastructure design, construction, and operation by taking into account the Triple Bottom Line.  ISI is a joint-venture, 501(c)(3) non-profit, with ASCE, ACEC and APWA as founding members, and will house all programs and products specific to the new rating system.   The “triple bottom line” refers to the goal to support environmental, economic and social needs and benefits when considering sustainable elements.

The Envision™ tools can be used for infrastructure projects of all types, sizes, complexities, and locations. It helps the project design team:
1. Assess costs and benefits over the project lifecycle.
2. Evaluate environmental benefits.
3. Use outcome-based objectives.
4. Reach higher levels of sustainability achievement.

The Envision™ has 60 sustainability criteria, called credits, divided into five sections: Quality of Life, Leadership, Resource Allocation, Natural World, and Climate and Risk. Each Envision™ credit is described in a 2-page write-up that includes the intent, metric, levels of achievement, description, an explanation of how to advance to a higher achievement level, evaluation criteria and documentation, sources, and related credits.

In order to assure that there exists a cadre of qualified professionals to guide individual infrastructure projects to a successful level of sustainability in accordance with the best practices outlined within Envision™, ISI is offering both a training and credentialing program to qualify individuals in the use of Envision™.   Eligible candidates need to apply to be credentialed, and on passing the on-line test will have the designation “Envision Sustainable Professional (ENV SP)”. For more information on Envision™ and the ISI, please visit:

The ASCE OC Branch has an active Sustainability Committee under the committee chair Sam Ali, PE, LEED AP.  Please visit the Sustainability Committee page in the ASCE OC website for more information:  We are seeking motivated members to be a part of this and other committees.

On April 26, 2013, we are hosting a seminar on Sustainable Infrastructure from 8 AM to 12 Noon at the Irvine Ranch Water District in Irvine.  For more information and to register, please visit:

Let’s work together for a more sustainable future!

Related Groups/Committees