Platinum for Digester Gas Utilization Project

The Digester Gas Utilization Project at the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant (HWRP) in Los Angeles, California has earned the Envision Platinum award for sustainable infrastructure.

The $127 million Digester Gas Utilization Project is a combined-cycle cogeneration system that converts 7.5 million cubic feet of biogenic digester gas produced daily at the HWRP to electricity and steam which is used as the primary renewable fuel source to meet the Plant’s power and heating demands. The implementation of this system reduces the Plant’s carbon footprint and lowers operating expenses as the Plant is able to reduce the amount of electricity and steam it imports for its operations. In order to accommodate this new system, the project team modified the interior of the HWRP’s Energy Recovery Building—a building that has largely sat vacant since the late 1990’s—to house the new equipment for the Digester Gas Utilization Project.

To learn more about this project, Click Here

Making the Business Case for Planning Sustainable Infrastructure

by John F. Williams II, CEO and Chairman of Impact Infrastructure – makers of Autocase


Over two days in March, I had the privilege of attending an outstanding event sponsored by the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at Harvard University. I have been attending Zofnass events at Harvard since participating in its Sustainable Industry Advisory Board in 2008.

A decade ago, I represented HDR, a large architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) firm, and was advocating for the inclusion of economic analysis in the evaluation of green Infrastructure and buildings. There were approximately 40 major AEC companies typically attending these events as well as leading asset owners, public agencies, the finance community, and academic researchers. We all shared an awareness of the long-term and locked-in implications of decisions made that shape the built environment. I did my best to stress that each decision has costs and benefits that can last for many decades. My Impact Infrastructure partners, John Parker and Steph Larocque as well as their HDR leader, Dr. David Lewis, had successfully risen to my challenge to find a way to measure “green.” I worked with the Zofnass Program and subsequently, the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) to incorporate economic analysis and comprehensive business cases in their work. This was meaningful and rewarding work – everyone involved was involved because we felt we were doing the right thing. While we were convinced that industry would benefit from building the right project and building the project right, we also were involved because the quality of life of communities and the environment would also be rewarded.

We had conviction and were on a mission. There were setbacks though. In the spring of 2008 or 2009, were convened at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and specifically focused on the implications of sustainable design in project finance. One of the speakers was an executive from rating agency, Standard and Poor’s. When asked how they view sustainability in government bond ratings, we were told that it made no difference. We were shocked and dismayed.

Fast forward a decade to this week and the event entitled, “Making the Business Case for Sustainable Infrastructure.” It’s as though we are living in an entirely new world. Speaker after speaker confirmed that it is essential that we determine the value associated with investments in infrastructure, buildings and the communities they form.  The value that we are now seeing generated from sustainable projects is the result of the informed design and construction decisions made by members the Zofnass and ISI circle.

And to the naysayer from S&P, there is now concrete evidence that sustainable design now results in lower cost financing. This was provided by Paul Brandley and John Markowitz of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Jeffrey Matthews from Barclays Investment Bank offered three case studies on best value project procurements that stressed the importance of maximizing the value of public benefits over lowest bid. Jack Hand from Power Engineers, presented on the new, Denny Street Substation in Seattle. In responding to the City’s Sustainability requirements, incredible changes have been made in substation design to incorporate public spaces so that it fits into an urban neighborhood as a valuable neighborhood asset and delivers public benefits. We heard from Cris Liban of LA Metro, running sustainability at a regional transportation agency severing more than 10 million residents in and around LA.

LA Metro is focused on sustainable design and operations to deliver valuable public benefits that create returns on investment that are being plowed back intoinnovation.

One of my favorite presentations hit close to home. Maria Lehman focused on the complexity of risk management and challenges of engaging stakeholders involved in the $4 Billion replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge (now the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge) across the Hudson River in New York. I know the project well as HDR played a major role in designing the new bridge.  The speaker described the development process including financing, planning, permitting, design, construction, environmental monitoring and technology that is built into the bridge, all with the goal of giving it a 100-year lifetime. They have done an amazing job. When asked about their assessment of value, we were told that the development team considered the life cycle implications of the project but did not determine the Triple Bottom Line Costs and Benefits associated with the project (financial/economic, social and environmental returns on investment). Given that much of the bridge planning work was done years ago, I understand why they did not attempt to determine the value of public benefits. Just imagine how much easier it would have been to replace the bridge had stakeholders would have seen the value the project would bring to them in terms of people, profit, and planet?

The new Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, the Denny Street Substation, Barclays best value cases and the MBTA have raised the bar. Today, the maximization of public value in exchange for limited resources is being made possible thanks to innovative financing, technology, contractor-led development teams, and designers who have embraced new roles in responding to the demand for sustainable solutions.  Triple Bottom Line Cost Benefit Analysis (TBL-CBA) and our Autocase tools helping to solve the value question.  We are making sophisticated economic analysis available to projects of all sizes.

Thanks to cloud based computing, our collaborative partnerships with: Autodesk; the world’s top AEC companies; feedback from cities, counties and state agencies; public utilities; major airports; commercial real estate companies; and, public companies, our world class team of economists and software developers are enabling the practical creation of objective, transparent business cases.  Our cases address internal costs and benefits as well as the value of public benefits.  By answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” we are unlocking the potential for investments in sustainable infrastructure and buildings.

A decade since the Standard and Poor’s no impact prediction, their competitor, Moody’s has shown them the way. They are joined by impact investors and I predict that insurance companies are close behind[1].

It’s a different world in many ways. Anyway you look at it, the value of benefits is now the focal point. At the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure we have been promoting long term value in addition the traditional focus on short-term costs. Zofnass has planted a leadership flag for sustainable infrastructure and Impact Infrastructure, our Autocase products and partners are proud to have been along for the adventure.

Think forward another decade and I predict you will see sustainability as standard. Infrastructure sustainability will be wrapped into Building Information Modeling (BIM), artificial intelligence and generative design, project finance, best value procurement, performance reporting procedures and most importantly, societal norms.

[1] “The fingerprint of climate change is now clearer…and it’s sticking around” Simon Fowell and John Parker, APWA Reporter May 2018 – forthcoming

Team Members “Envision” the Future

Members of the Environmental Sustainability Team (EST) and other DPWES, Park Authority and Vehicle Services employees reached another milestone through training in Envision on November 2 and 3. Chris Meoli, Engineer III, Solid Waste Management Program, and chair of the Environmental Sustainability Team took the lead in arranging for county employees to take the Envision training. Envision is a groundbreaking resource for professionals involved in planning, designing, building and maintaining civil infrastructure, according to the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) which developed the tool in collaboration with Harvard University’s Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure. Twenty-three employees participated in the training on the first day and their knowledge was tested on the second day.

Envision is:

  1. A rating system for sustainable infrastructure:
    1. It provides the public works industry with detailed guidance and metrics to help infrastructure projects of every type and size become more sustainable.
  2. A decision-making guide not a set of prescriptive measures
    1. It guides owners, communities, designers, builders, regulators and policymakers in collaborating to make more informed decisions about the sustainability of infrastructure.

Through Envision an agency involved in infrastructure design, construction or operation – like DPWES – can form a unique community of partners, practitioners, other government agencies, and contractors. For example, the City of Roanoke’s Stormwater Utility intends to incorporate sustainable practices and measures into all of their future stormwater infrastructure projects through the use of the Envision rating system. “Envision is for infrastructure what LEED is for buildings,” states the ISI web page. Envision was created by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure and focuses on the importance of sustainability and protecting the environment. To quote the City of Roanoke web page, “Using Envision in the various stages of stormwater improvement projects will enhance the health of streams and reduce flooding and will move Roanoke toward a more sustainable and resilient future.”

“We think Envision can assist us in our quest for a holistic approach to sustainable infrastructure and service provision which is at the heart of our mission to improve quality of life, and protect the health and environment in Fairfax County,” said Juan Reyes, Assistant Director, Business Support Services, DPWES.

Denise Nelson, P.E., ENV SP, and LEED AP, of the Berkley Group taught the class. “It was an honor to introduce Envision as a tool to support Fairfax County, a leader in the industry with a strong commitment to sustainable infrastructure practices,” Denise said. Envision encourages collaboration among departments and stakeholders, provides a common language for transparency, includes metrics for quantifying impacts, and encourages life cycle considerations. “Using Envision will expand the county’s procedures for a more holistic and comprehensive approach to meeting community goals,” she said.

Denise is a leading expert on the Envision system. While at Greeley and Hansen in Richmond, she was one of the first people to earn the ENV SP credential, become an ISI-approved Envision trainer (one of only two in Virginia), and become a third-party project reviewer and she reviewed the first project to receive an Envision award. Later she joined ISI staff to serve as the “Face of Envision.” In her role as ISI Vice President of Public Education, she was responsible for all education, outreach and marketing efforts. She also served as the manager of the third-party review and recognition program. In her current role at the Berkley Group, she provides Envision training and support in integrating Envision concepts into infrastructure development procedures. To date she has trained 230 professionals to earn the Envision credential including staff at Roanoke, Newport News and Blacksburg.

James Patteson, Director DPWES, said, “I’m excited to get this many folks trained (in Envision). Each business area is taking a couple of projects through the program next year and then we are going to do a ‘lessons learned’ review and decide on our next steps from there.” The Environmental Sustainability Team and trained ENV SPs will be working with business areas in the coming months to select projects to evaluate and rate using Envision. The Huntington Levee project, now under construction, has already been formally evaluated using Envision and an application for an award has been submitted to ISI.

The first step in using Envision is to create a report card or benchmark for recently completed projects. The Envision sustainable infrastructure rating system is a comprehensive framework of 60 sustainability criteria that address the full range of environmental, social, and economic impacts to sustainability in project design, construction, and operation. These criteria—called “credits”—are arranged in five categories: Quality of Life, Leadership, Resource Allocation, Natural World, and Climate and Risk. Benchmarking projects – or taking a ‘snapshot’ of projects – is essential to ensure future infrastructure improvement projects are sustainable and resilient.

Once the benchmark evaluation is complete, a summary of the findings includes recommendations for future projects. The recommendations may span all phases of a project, including planning, design and construction. For example, in the planning phase a recommendation may be made to update the capital project rating system; in the design phase a recommendation to incorporate street trees may be made; in the construction phase it may be recommended that only regional materials be used and to maximize the use of recycled products. At that point the process includes applying the recommendations to projects that are already designed but await funding, so changes can be made to a current design before the project goes out to bid.

“We learned through training and credentialing how powerful a tool Envision can become to influence decision making to help integrate sustainability in public works infrastructure projects,” Chris Meoli said.

Istanbul’s New Airport is First European Infrastructure Project to Seek Envision Sustainability Verification

The İstanbul New Airport infrastructure project in Turkey aims to become the first and largest infrastructure project outside North America to obtain Envision sustainability verification. The Envision system rates sustainable infrastructure projects across the full range of environmental, social, and economic impacts.

With a vision of İstanbul New Airport as one of the world’s top aviation hubs, the airport project strives to set an example not only as an innovative infrastructure project, but also a driving force making significant contributions to Turkey’s sustainable development.

The İstanbul New Airport will operate to more than 350 destinations with two terminals, six runways and an annual passenger capacity of 200 million people, once all the phases are complete. As part of the project, Istanbul’s New Airport will follow all internationally recognized sustainability practices, particularly related to the environment, biodiversity, ground improvement, local employment, supply chain and subcontracting network, human rights and stakeholder relations.

İGA, the company responsible for constructing and operating the project for 25 years, completed an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Study for the İstanbul New Airport project in 2015 according to International Finance Corporation (IFC) Standards and the Equator Principles, and now the project is targeting verification in accordance with the Envision Rating System program, offered by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure.

Through this reporting process for Envision, İGA has vastly improved its sustainability practices and achieved a sustainability culture within its organization. For today’s world, sustainability is key for development, and many infrastructure projects are working to adopt sustainability practices. Communication of sustainability programs plays a vital role for popularization among stakeholders and sector players. As a leading company with sustainable development projects, İGA also sets high standards for the communication strategies in its market and creates a model for others to follow.

“With Envision we have the best possible partner on board”, says Ulku Ozeren, Director of Environment and Sustainability; “Sustainability culture is crucial to us. We constantly strive for the best. The verification process will help us building an exemplary airport which will further enhance the development of Turkey.”

As a collaborative effort between ISI and the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, the Envision system rates the impact of sustainable infrastructure projects as a whole. The ISI Envision system measures sustainable infrastructure in five categories: Quality of Life, Leadership, Natural World, Resource Allocation, and Climate and Risk. These key areas contribute to the positive social, economic, and environmental impacts on a community.

“We are delighted to see interest in Envision expand to Europe and globally,” said ISI President and CEO John Stanton. “We are looking forward to reviewing the sustainability of such a large, high-profile project as the İstanbul New Airport with the Envision system.”

To learn more about the İstanbul New Airport, please visit

Airports’ Increasing Interest in Envision

(Image Caption: Nashville International Airport Water Source Geothermal System)

By Carly Shannon, ENV SP, LEED AP BD+C, C&S Companies

On June 15, 2017, nearly 70 airport representatives, consultants, and partners participated in an Envision & Airports webinar hosted by the Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) Sustainability Working Group. Organized by the group’s leadership, Brendan Reed of San Diego International Airport and Danielle Bower of Philadelphia International Airport, this was the second of two webinars focused specifically on Envision and its use in the aviation industry. The first provided a general overview, while the more recent event dug into actual application of the rating system to airport projects. Speakers included representatives from Nashville International, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County, and Portland International airports. Sharing benefits, lessons learned, and key takeaways from their personal experiences, the speakers will help inform other airports as they move toward more sustainable infrastructure.

The variety of projects—a runway reconstruction, water source geothermal system, and a quick-turnaround rental car facility—demonstrate not only the wide-ranging applicability of Envision, but also its flexibility. Each of these diverse projects benefitted from the rating system through cost savings, stakeholder inclusion, reduced environmental impacts, and improvements to the design process. Although there is a learning curve associated with any new guidance or tool, each airport is looking forward to integrating Envision into future efforts.

The level of engagement during the June webinar and the speakers’ positive takeaways made one thing clear—Envision is gaining traction in the airport world.

(Water Source Geothermal at the Nashville International Airport Received Envision Silver Award )

Envision’s Impact on Our Company’s Approach to Projects

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport – Runway 4L/22R and Associated Taxiways Reconstruction
Photo Credit: Wayne County Airport Authority


By: Kailey Eldredge, ENV SP, C&S Companies

The Envision rating system has had a multi-level impact on C&S’s approach to sustainable airport planning and design. We have come to recognize the applicability of Envision to the aviation industry and have discovered the benefits of integrating its principles not only into projects pursuing verification, but into all levels of planning efforts as well as into the planning principles held by our employees.

To date, C&S has been involved in two Envision-awarded airport projects. The hands-on experience of fully implementing the rating system provides a deep understanding of the process and transforms the guidance from the theoretical to the tangible. Completing the full assessment and undergoing verification instills confidence into those implementing the process and opens up the possibility and desire to apply Envision on future projects.

Through our experience, it is clear that Envision offers the maximum value at the onset of design or even planning. At the very start of a project we will gather a cross-section of the involved personnel and project team to identify project priorities and potential challenges of implementing sustainable measures on the project. We then prompt the brainstorming of ideas related to all categories of sustainability, often using the Envision credit categories to guide the discussion. Identifying these possible initiatives and discussing their integration early on ensures that sustainability will not become an after-thought of the project. It also allows for greater ease in the implementation of these initiatives as it seeks to prevent any back-stepping and redo of efforts, which ultimately puts a project in the best position to achieve maximum sustainability benefits including cost savings, reduced impacts, and enhanced efficiencies.

Beyond specific projects, we have also sought to incorporate Envision’s principles into broader planning efforts. For example, C&S developed an aviation sustainability plan for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works Aviation Division, which owns five general aviation airports. In developing the plan we used Envision as a resource in determining a balanced set of goals, objectives and strategies. Los Angeles County recently adopted Envision as policy for its infrastructure projects, so incorporating this guidance into the plan will help support achievement of this policy in the future. C&S took the incorporation of Envision into the plan one step further and created a set of guidelines that can be passed on to contactors, which identifies the County’s priorities in addressing sustainability in all projects, whether pursuing an Envision award or not. These guidelines specifically used the Envision credits to provide clarity and/or support the pursuit of an award (e.g., by identifying credits that are likely not applicable to projects at the airports).

While C&S has been fortunate enough to take projects from start to finish through the entire Envision process as well as incorporate the guidance into our planning efforts, we have also embraced its principles in other, less formal forms. For example, we often use Envision’s categorization of sustainability credits to help generate and organize sustainability strategy ideas both internally and externally; we have referenced the individual credits to avoid overlooking opportunities; and we have utilized the ‘Related Envision Credits’ information, provided for each credit, to identify and prompt additional closely tied efforts that could be integrated to increase a projects sustainability.

As C&S discovered the agile nature of the Envision system and its broad applicability, the merit in increasing the depth of internal knowledge on the system became obvious. In the fall of 2016, we organized an in-person training opportunity for employees. Twenty individuals from varying positions and levels within the company participated in this event and went on to receive their Envision Sustainability Professional (ENV SP) credential. The efforts to support the integration of Envision did not stop there. A follow-up workshop that included staff and even client involvement was used to address and promote the implementation of Envision. These opportunities allowed employees who are not generally involved in the specifics of sustainable planning or design to develop their knowledge on the subject and gain a level of comfort integrating these concepts into their work. The broad inclusion of Envision at C&S allows for a broader inclusion of sustainability in all of the work we do.

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport – Runway 4L/22R and Associated Taxiways Reconstruction
Received an Envision Silver Award in September 2016


Nutrient Management Facility

The Nutrient Management Facility (NMF) located in Alexandria, VA is the recent recipient of the Envision Platinum award. The project, owned by Alexandria Renew Enterprises (AlexRenew) is the first in Virginia and the D.C. metro area to earn an Envision award.

The Nutrient Management Facility includes 18 million gallons in tank capacity with associated pumps, chemical analysis equipment, and an extensive odor control system. It also includes a lit, regulation athletic field located on top of the process tanks, created as a community amenity. As the largest construction project of the award winning State-of-the-Art Nitrogen Upgrade Program (SANUP), the NMF contains a sustainable planning, design, and construction program cooperatively developed by AlexRenew and lead consultant CH2M.

To learn more about this project, Click Here to visit the project award page.