Are you Limiting Yourself to One Sustainability Rating System (and Skillset)? 

The Terminal 2 Parking Plaza at San Diego International Airport

In this post, we rerun an article by ISI first published on USGBC-LA’s blog in August 2022. USGBC-LA is offering ISI Envision Training coming up on December 11th and 12th!

They’re coming together, and not a minute too soon. Multiple drivers are forcing sustainability to the top of the agenda. Climate change, investor focus on ESG performance, broader public awareness pertaining to environmental degradation, and a renewed focus on equity in the built environment are part of a powerful confluence of factors pushing the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) sector to build sustainably as never before. Industry, governments, and academia have responded with frameworks and rating systems that make it possible to plan, execute, and evaluate more sustainable projects. Also, many of these frameworks offer excellent training and credentialing opportunities. This makes it likely that more than one rating system will become part of any project’s DNA, either at its outset or at a later stage of its development.

When this happens, sometimes the tendency is to see different evaluation methodologies as “jockeying for position,” supported by their (credentialed) advocates. But in our experience with the Envision® framework & rating system at the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI), the rating systems are compatible and NOT in conflict. In every case, a highly coordinated team with expertise apply methodology with similar sustainability end-goals and it’s the specific context of the project that has called for their application. Even more importantly, the use of more than one rating system on a project is a story of co-benefits. For illustration, here are three examples:

In New York, LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B met specific sustainability benchmarks for energy efficiency, water conservation, site selection, material selection, and waste reduction to become the first airport terminal to achieve LEED Gold under more stringent LEED v4 requirements in July 2021. Less than two years earlier, in August 2019, the project had become the first to achieve Envision Platinum. The project team used the framework to improve resiliency, plan for long-term monitoring and maintenance, and quantify the economic, social, and environmental benefits of this project.

The Kansas City Streetcar was awarded Envision Platinum in 2016 after incorporating additional sustainability features throughout its planning and design. These were evident in the physical design and the strategy adopted for sustainable growth, economic development and long-term management of stakeholder processes and community relationship-building. LEED Gold was awarded in that same year in recognition of several achievements, including that 47% of the maintenance facility was made of recycled materials and nearly 90% of construction waste was diverted from landfill. The site incorporated innovative energy-saving methods covering sun-shading devices, LED light fixtures, and daylight sensors.

At the San Diego International Airport, the Terminal 2 Parking Plaza received Parksmart Gold in early 2019. It integrated natural light into the parking facility’s design, enhancing energy efficiency and elevating the user experience. Later that year (April 2019), this project was also awarded Envision Gold for improving mobility and access, using renewable energy, and managing stormwater runoff.

As for the Los Angeles area, it’s worth noting that L.A. is currently a hive of sustainability activity, and sustainable infrastructure projects in particular. At the time of writing (December 2023), there are twenty Envision-verified projects in L.A., five that are currently under review, and another thirteen that have registered to pursue Envision verification. That’s a total of 38 projects, several of which may be using sustainability rating systems in addition to Envision. For this reason, for those professionals trained on non-Envision credentials, getting the Envision Sustainability Professional (ENV SP) credential would be hugely beneficial.

Fun fact: It’s common to use Envision for airports and mass transit infrastructure projects containing both linear infrastructure and human-occupied, interior conditioned spaces (like the three project examples presented above).

It’s important to bear in mind that Envision was specifically designed to help infrastructure stakeholders implement more sustainable projects and be suitable for use on all types of both public and private infrastructure. However, it is not intended to evaluate interior buildings with the primary purpose of human occupation, such as offices, schools, and single- and multi-family homes. Envision can and often is used with rating systems that address these types of spaces. Anyone can use Envision, and the sustainability skills learned by earning the ENV SP credential are transferrable, regardless of the type of project.

Just as owners, engineers, planners, designers, and constructors — wherever they are in the ACE sector — don’t have to choose between one kind of rating system and another, nobody must choose one sustainability credential at the expense of another. When someone inquires about the ENV SP credential, we take the opportunity to emphasize the co-benefits of different rating systems that we have seen first-hand on several projects.

Sustainability frameworks and rating systems are more like fellow travelers in a common project we call sustainability. They’re assessment tools suitable in different contexts and phases of a project and may be used to raise performance in specific areas. The bottom line: choosing one system does not have to be a case of either/or.

See also:

Dunford, E. & K. Gillis. 2019. “Duel or Dual: Co-Benefits of LEED and Envision.” Paper presented at the International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructure 2019: Leading Resilient Communities through the 21st Century, Los Angeles, Calif. ASCE,

Yeeles, A., Sosalla-Bahr, K., Ninete, J., Wittmann, M., Jimenez, F. E., & Brittin, J. (2023). Social equity in sustainability certification systems for the built environment: understanding concepts, value, and practice implications. Environmental Research: Infrastructure and Sustainability3(1), 015001,

Ethel Rubio Leads 2 More In-Person Envision Workshops in LA

Ethel G. Rubio, ENV SP, Assoc. AIA will lead an ENV SP Training in Los Angeles on on December 4th and 11th! Details on our workshops page: This is a great opportunity for those in the Los Angeles area who would prefer to receive in-person training for the ENV SP credential.

The session is open to all professionals in the A/E/C sector including engineers, architects, designers, consultants, contractors, business development professionals, procurement professionals, investors and developers. Anyone with an interest in sustainability who is involved in the planning, design, development and construction of civil infrastructure projects can benefit from earning their ENV SP (Envision Sustainability Professional) credential. Envision® is the only sustainability framework and rating system developed for use on all types of civil infrastructure projects, and the ENV SP designation is an increasingly sought-after credential in infrastructure.

Ethel Rubio is the principal/ owner of Ethel G. Rubio, Assoc. AIA, a consulting firm specializing in construction/ project management, and strategic outreach and engagement. Her multi-disciplinary career path that spans over 30 years includes work in the built-environment (architecture/engineering/construction) and nonprofit sectors. Read the rest of her bio.


Thank you to our speakers, moderators, and attendees!

Los Angeles River Way, San Fernando Valley Completion Project (Vanalden to Balboa) Awarded Envision Gold

A transformational bicycle path and greenway project along the L.A. River corridor has earned an Envision Gold award from ISI: the Los Angeles River Way, San Fernando Valley Completion (Vanalden to Balboa) Project.

Read the project profile to learn about this project’s sustainability achievements, including ones related to quality of life and mobility, responding to habitat fragmentation, preparing for long-term adaptability, and improving infrastructure integration.

The project will be featured by Andrew Nickerson, Vice President and Principal at Psomas, in the session “Head of the Class: Three Trailblazing Sustainability Projects, at 10 AM ET on Day 2 of ISI’s Virtual Conference (Nov. 8). 

ISI releases Envision by the Numbers for Q3 2023

This PowerPoint presentation has data on Envision use and related statistics from our Verification, Credentialing and Membership Programs. It was designed to equip Envision Sustainability Professionals (ENV SPs) and other champions of sustainable infrastructure with Envision stats and graphs, which may be used to support presentations on the framework and Envision business cases.

Please credit ISI if you are using this slidedeck, which will be updated on a quarterly basis in January, April, July, and October.

Link to the resource.

ASCE has officially released Standard 73-23

Congratulations to our founder American Society of Civil Engineers on the publication of Standard 73-23 on sustainable infrastructure. The standard is harmonized with Envision and complements the rating system by providing policy level guidance for owners.

ISI is proud to have been involved in the standard development. We are grateful to ASCE for their efforts and vision from the beginning to align the standard and Envision in order to provide consistent and supportive sustainability resources for our industry.

From ASCE’s announcement:

ASCE has released a first-of-its-kind standard, ASCE/COS 73-23: Standard Practice for Sustainable Infrastructure, which provides guidance for infrastructure owners to develop and implement sustainable solutions throughout a project’s entire life cycle.

The standard is a non-mandatory, performance-based consensus standard designed for civil infrastructure ranging from transportation projects to water systems and the energy grid…

Read the release.


ISI Zofnass Research Program Workshop – November 1

The ISI Zofnass Research Program Workshop will be held in Washington DC on November 1, 2023. The workshop is planned around presentations and discussions of our ongoing research efforts, and future research directions in support of ISI Envision. Registration link below!

The workshop sessions are centered on our two ongoing research efforts: 1) understanding the influence of Envision implementation on costs, and 2) the nexus of Envision with the environmental review process in the U.S. through NEPA or in Canada through IAA.

The Zofnass Research Program Workshop will be hosted at Stantec‘s new offices in Washington DC. For this event, we’re collaborating with EFCG (Environmental Financial Consulting Group), which is holding its Sustainability & ESG Forum on Thursday, November 2nd. By collocating the two events, we are giving participants the opportunity to fully leverage the insights they offer, should they wish to attend both.

Agenda and registration: 

Agenda in PDF format


Seeking Public Input? This Study Lends Support to Envision’s Role

Envision’s ability to capture the interlocking benefits and trade-offs of infrastructure improvement options, clearly and compellingly, is one of its key strengths. By setting a common language and metrics, the framework is valuable in stakeholder decision-making, as practical experience—and now research—is demonstrating.

One example is a new study looking at how aiding the public to construct preferences may help increase their willingness to support green stormwater infrastructure (e.g., incorporating elements like bioswales, rain gardens, and permeable pavements) over conventional stormwater infrastructure.

Mo Hu, an assistant professor in the department of construction science, Texas A&M School of Architecture and her co-author conducted a national survey with 946 participants in the U.S. Their views were sought on two stormwater management options: one using traditional pipes and pumps and another using natural systems.

Half of the participants were encouraged to think about sustainable design before making a decision, based on a prompt developed using questions from Envision. This group was presented with five Envision credits that were applicable to the case study, as well as an Envision stormwater project example (Buffalo’s Willert Park Green Infrastructure Project), as a guide.

Helping to shape preferences

Among the findings: those who were encouraged to think about the advantages of sustainable design rated the green infrastructure option as significantly more beneficial, and were more likely to recommend it. (When the participants in this experiment were engineers, in a 2022 study by the researchers, the results were similar).

The latest finding is noteworthy, because decision-makers with little prior knowledge or experience tend to construct preferences as they evaluate options, write the authors. Other impediments can also arise. In one study, Krisha Dhakal and Lizette Chevalier showed that people tend to fixate on the traditional functions of stormwater runoff reduction, which can lead to a more pro-traditional mindset.

Professor Hu and Professor Tripp Shealy from Virginia Tech, write that their findings help illustrate how “interventions to this preference construction process for the public can help encourage them to adopt more green infrastructure design.”

[Note: The authors, who are not affiliated with ISI, published the study in J. Env. Psych, June 2023]

On a wide variety of infrastructure projects, the Envision framework is providing a consensus-based system and a common language around sustainable design objectives, and similarly with this study, considering sustainable design earlier encourages support for sustainable infrastructure by offering an attractive, well-articulated justification for decision-makers.

In this study, simply asking the public to consider how each option contributes to achieving predefined sustainability goals prior to making other judgements about cost, risk, or benefits “significantly increases their preference for the more sustainable design option.”

For information on Envision, view the Use Envision page and the Envision packet.

A Week of ISI Outreach: Capital Hill Briefing, Virginia AWWA, CFD Breakfast

Anthony Kane with ASCE Executive Director Thomas Smith, Jennifer Goupil, Chief Resilience Officer, ASCE, and  Carol Haddock, Director, Houston Public Works following a congressional briefing on Sept. 12.

Sept. 11 – 15 marked a busy week of outreach for ISI. President & CEO Anthony Kane took part in a Capitol Hill Briefing for congressional staff on Sept. 12, joined by speakers from ASCE and the City of Houston. He had the opportunity to provide a short presentation on the Envision framework at this briefing. ASCE Executive Director Thomas Smith, Jennifer Goupil, Chief Resilience Officer, ASCE, and Carol Haddock, Director, Houston Public Works also presented.

On Sept. 11, Anthony was in Virginia Beach, Va. for the WaterJAM 2023 Event. This is the Joint Annual Meeting of the Virginia Water Environment Association and the Virginia Section of the American Waterworks Association, and there is a special “Envision for Water/Wastewater Projects Workshop” on the agenda this year. Anthony joined in a discussion with seasoned professionals in the water sector, from Prince William County Service Authority, HRSD, Ulliman Schutte Construction, Arcadis, Arlington County Government, and Hazen and Sawyer.

On Sept. 13, Anthony attended the Committee For Dulles’s 2023 Sustainable Infrastructure Breakfast in Herndon, Virginia. A panel of technical experts, industry influencers, stakeholders, and community leaders will examine opportunities and challenges ahead in sustainability and resilience: Robert W. Lazaro, Jonathan Matheny, Emily Feenstra, Matt Reiffer, Anthony Kane, and J. Michael Sawyers (moderator).

Bear Creek Solar Project earns an Envision Platinum award

A 50-megawatt (MW) solar project in Richland County, Wisconsin producing enough clean, low-cost energy to power approximately 13,000 homes has been awarded Envision Platinum from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI). It is the second Alliant Energy project announced this year to receive an award, with the Wood County Solar Project earning Envision Platinum award in April.

The Bear Creek Solar Project is one of Alliant Energy’s 12 utility-scale solar projects in Wisconsin. In all, the company expects to add nearly 1,100 MW of solar generation in the state by mid-2024. It’s part of the company’s transition to a more diversified energy mix that includes adding more clean energy generation, as outlined in its Clean Energy Blueprint.


“This Envision Platinum recognition from ISI supports our decision to transition to cleaner energy through projects like the Bear Creek Solar Project,” said Barbara Tormaschy, senior vice president of sustainability and regulatory strategy at Alliant Energy. “The sustainable development and construction of renewable projects allows us to create a healthier environment while providing the reliable energy our customers expect.

Read the full announcement here.