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Envision is the Solution for Building Back Better — ISI’s ‘Sustain it or Explain it’ Blog

Envision is the Solution for Building Back Better — ISI’s ‘Sustain it or Explain it’ Blog

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Change starts with action, and there’s no better time to act than right now. Lawmakers in the nation’s Capitol are proposing infrastructure plans that allocate billions of dollars to build back better. That’s fantastic news for the architecture, engineering, and construction AEC industry, and it’s a tremendous opportunity for the industry to shine— delivering civil infrastructure that cuts GHG emissions, creates green jobs, promotes environmental justice, and addresses the climate-change crisis.

There’s only one problem: many public agencies, communities, and private organizations don’t have a viable pathway to meet those lofty goals. Many are searching for a proven solution, unaware that one already exists—the Envision® framework. 

Envision is a comprehensive roadmap for designing and delivering sustainable, resilient, and equitable civil infrastructure of all types (and sizes). It was created by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) in collaboration with the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at Harvard. The American Public Works Association (APWA), The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) founded ISI and remain integral supporters. 

Since Envision’s inception, hundreds of public agencies and private organizations have followed the framework to build sustainable and resilient roads, bridges, tunnels, dams, water plants, wastewater treatment facilities, parks, pipelines, renewable energy facilities, and more. 

John Williams, ISI’s Chairman of the Board and the CEO of AutoCase, says Envision is precisely what the AEC industry needs right now to foster dramatic change and build back better: “We finally have a broadly recognized system that meets the industry’s overarching goal of accessing the sustainability of a wide variety of infrastructure projects. Hundreds of charter firms have signed on. Many of them shelved their own efforts of creating proprietary tools. They were followed by major public agencies, like LA Metro, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Kansas City, Miami-Dade County, and other jurisdictions— and public officials at all levels of government have embraced Envision.”

Time and time again, public agencies, communities, and infrastructure owners turn to Envision because it sets the standard for what constitutes sustainable infrastructure and incentivizes higher performance goals beyond minimum requirements. Moreover, Envision requires project teams to work closely with the community to deliver better infrastructure, and it encourages teams to evaluate and incorporate innovative technologies to cut GHG emissions and protect natural resources. 

Project teams also recognize the value of embedding Envision into the process, and they feel more confident having Envision Sustainability Professionals (ENV SPs) guiding the process. 

Currently, there are six thousand active ENVSPs trained and credentialed in groundbreaking Envision concepts to help communities build back better. And, thus far, more than one hundred civil infrastructure projects have gone through third-party verification, including the California High-Speed Rail System (CAHSR), the Samuel DE Champlain Bridge Corridor project in Canada, and the San Diego International Airport green build project. (You can view all 106 verified projects on the ISI website in the Envision Awards Directory.)

“Public entities see value in making a case for sustainable and resilient infrastructure… and public policymakers and procurement officers have discovered that they can specify the use of Envision to know exactly what they are going to get. They’re going to get competence, comparability, incredible findings, and, not to mention, membership into a community of sustainability professionals who are making a huge difference for future generations,” says John Williams.

ISI’s managing director, Melissa Peneycad, agrees. She has worked for years with public agencies, ENV SPs, and communities to verify projects, and she has seen first-hand how Envision makes a difference. She sees this moment as an incredible opportunity for the industry to rewrite past wrongs: “If we use Envision to prioritize sustainability, resiliency, and equity, we can meet the needs of the 21st century. We can do our part. This go-around, we cannot afford to rely on outdated building methods. In fact, our failure to meet future challenges will hurt our communities, our economies, and the planet.”

That is not hyperbole. Moving forward, we need to put the climate crisis first in the equation. If we do not, everything else will suffer in the decades to come. That includes our health, profits, and economies.

We encourage you to learn more about Envision Verification and Credentialing. Better yet, consider making Envision a requirement. The earlier Envision is applied to a project the greater the value it can deliver.