Saturday, January 16, 2010


While the recent explosion of interesting and application of Green Streets is well documented, the announcement of a new program to provide sustainability metrics for Greenroads comes at an opportune time when infrastructure seems to be one of the only things getting funded. From the website (which is still under construction): "Greenroads is a sustainability performance metric for roadway design and construction. It is applicable to new and reconstructed/rehabilitated roadways. It awards points for approved sustainable choices/practices and can be used to assess roadway project sustainability."

I have an increasingly growing stack of sustainable rating systems (beyond LEED) on my desk which seem to fall into three categories: 1) systems coming up with a different methods of measuring or delivering the same things (Earth Advantage, Green Globes), 2) ones that attempt to raise the bar of sustainability to new levels (Living Building Challenge), and 3) attempts to provide metrics for project types that are not addressed or applicable within current systems (Sustainable Sites).

I've just thumbed through it a bit, but the Greenroads system seems to incorporate many of these ideas and methods to include in the sustainable conversation the inclusion of roads - one of those ubiquitous elements of our world that seems lost in all of our LEED building and un-green stimulus work. It uses similar methodologies applied to a type of project that seems really difficult to make sustainable in any manner - much less, addressing some of the major issues of traffic impacts on climate change and air quality (or livability perhaps). Much like the Platinum rated McMansion, is the new 'green' roadway contributing to sustainability in a meaningful way, or merely some form of greenwashing? A question to be answered - perhaps a green road is less bad. Sustainable, debatable.

It may be oxymoronic, but it just may be the formula to transform the grey - perhaps making it possible to make it green - or better yet, Evergreen.


  1. Jason, my understanding was that the Sustainable Sites Initiative has come about because enough people commented on how sparse and limited the USGBC's LEED Site requirements were. I thought that the USGBC was supporting the Sustainable Sites Initiative, and that the new SSI guidelines will now be incorporated into LEED. Did I get that wrong?

  2. Deb. Totally correct on that assumption... the Sustainable Sites is the response to the limitations of LEED in sites, which is great. It looks like the Greenroads is doing something similar focusing on roadways infrastructure.

    While the USGBC and LEED is working on incorporating some of the Sustainable Sites information into future iterations of rating systems, it will never be able to include a significant quantity or breadth of items due to the fact that LEED is 1) more expansive in scope to include the entire building project, 2) is limited as it can't add an infinite number of new site credits to fill in all of the deficiences, and 3) is going to incrementally include new additions in small, palatable steps, adjusting and strengthening existing credits - versus adopting large-scale changes to the system.

    I'd say aside from a separate LEED-SS rating system (which I don't think is planned), LEED will never truly incorporate a significant approach to sustainable sites that will satisfy site designers, but rather still offer a limited adjunct for sites related to building design. That isn't to say it isn't beneficial in many ways, but no where near as comprehensive as it needs to be for truly addressing site sustainability or dare I say regenerative design.

    I'd guess multiple certifications is probably the future path - a LEED building with a SSI rated site fed by Greenroads certified infrastructure?

    It will be interesting to see how all of these systems work (or don't work) together in reality as we move forward.

  3. Hello, I'm new to your blog so this is my first post.

    Firstly well done for putting the effort in, I think you have a very worthwhile blog.

    Although I work in the UK and Ireland it is very interesting to know what is going on elsewhere.

    To my knowledge there is no sustainability system here for highways.

    There is the Breeam system.

    Which has growing influence in relation to building construction.

    Whilst I can understand the principle of rating the sustainability of road construction, I'm afraid can't help thinking that such a system is like placing a health value for different ways to manufacture cigarettes!

    Unless it is a road built purely to service sustainable forms of transport, then in my opinion it can only be considered as bureaucratic hypocrisy and a waste of time.

    Greenwashing? Yes!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.