Skanska’s involvement with Envision started four years ago when I cold called Harvard University’s Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure, one of the collaborators behind this sustainable infrastructure rating tool.
I had heard about Envision, which was not yet rolled out, and it greatly interested me: After all, it seemed only natural that infrastructure be sustainable, and therefore that we should seek to minimize negative effects on communities and the environment while pushing to maximize resiliency, public benefits and flexibility over generations of use. Skanska’s desire to be a leader in green construction motivated me to share with company leaders what Envision meant for our industry, and how our company might support this initiative, which aligns with the Skanska Color Palette strategic green business framework.
Fast forward to today, and Envision is quickly becoming the industry standard by which to measure, guide and improve the long-term sustainability of civil infrastructure. Skanska’s senior leaders see the value in Envision, and have made it a priority to target Envision certification on key design-build projects, such as the I-4 Ultimate public-private partnership highway undertaking in Orlando, Fla. Even more, we have further demonstrated our commitment to Envision by becoming a charter member of the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI), the non-profit now managing the system.
Orlando’s I-4 Ultimate public-private partnership stands to be among the largest and highest-ranked projects certified by the Envision sustainable infrastructure rating system.
Envision’s next phase will extend it beyond its current planning and design focus and into construction. To that end, ISI is drafting a Construction Module that focuses on key issues during the relatively short typical construction duration; such issues include reducing excavated material taken offsite and mitigating temporary noise impacts. This will build upon big-picture topics such as climate adaptability and alternative transportation covered by the current Envision version. ISI has set up technical workgroups in each of the five Envision credit areas to review this module – I am heading up the Resource Allocation workgroup. Additionally, I am leading the Construction Workgroup that is overseeing the entire Construction Module, including the credit reviews done by the five workgroups. It is quite the honor to be involved with redefining the boundaries of design and construction in this way, and in addition my colleague Beth Heider, Skanska USA’s chief sustainability officer, also has a role to play in all this by contributing her expertise to ISI’s Envision Review Board, which provides general oversight for Envision.
Envision’s real power is that by following its guidelines – which are a list of best practices – you help positively shape projects. This leads to environmental benefits, certainly, but it also aids project teams in better mitigating risks, more efficiently managing resources, lowering costs through operational efficiency, and delivering projects that best meet both client and public needs. The actual certification at the end is an ancillary benefit. Even with Envision providing so much value, I spend a great deal of effort dispelling misconceptions, including that Envision is just about the environment, or that it adds costs, or that it’s only a paper exercise or a marketing tool with no value to core design and construction activities. Skanska is committed to Envision, and beyond my ISI responsibilities going forward I will be playing an integral role in leading Skanska’s Envision efforts.
It’s been very gratifying to see the quick pace at which the Envision system has been adopted. What provides me with even more motivation is knowing that the work I and others are doing really is improving how U.S. infrastructure is designed and built, resulting in even more benefits to local communities. Envision is truly a way to Build What Matters.