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,

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.

Sold Out: Our July Envision Verification Applicants Course!

The ISI Verification Team is back on July 13th and 14th with the third Applicants course of the year, and the course has been sold out! The next dates for this course are Oct 12 & 13, 2023.


In this course, ENV SPs planning to submit projects through ISI’s verification program, in hopes of earning an Envision award, will work with the tools and resources in place to support the development of effective Envision submittals and help navigate the verification process.

It’s much more than a sit-and-listen style training! Course participants will have the opportunity to discuss Envision concepts, such as determining applicability, developing pending credits, and establishing baselines. They’ll gain a better understanding of the verifier’s perspective, and engage with their peers to practice writing credit coversheets and compiling project documentation.

The ISI Verification Program staff leading this course offer valuable insights based on their direct involvement in the review of Envision projects.

In response to strong demand, this course is available on a quarterly basis; view other course dates here. Space is limited to intentionally keep class sizes small and interactive.

With the Envision Verification Applicants Course, attendees have an opportunity to:

✔️ Learn tips for effectively applying the Envision framework on their project(s),

✔️ Set their team up to develop successful Envision applications,

✔️ Reduce uncertainty and provide clarity regarding Envision guidance,

✔️ Gain a deeper understanding of the third-party Envision verification process.

This course will be virtually delivered via Zoom; a link will be distributed to all registrants in the weeks leading up to the live event.

To learn more and to register for the April course, visit this page. Contact ISI Verification Specialist, Kailey Eldredge, with any questions.

ISI Welcomes Two New Interns

The Station1 Frontiers Fellowship Program at Station1, a non-profit organization based in Lawrence, MA, provides post-secondary students with the opportunity to gain valuable experience through an internship in the area of socially-directed science and technology, and since 2021, ISI has been among the organizations offering internship placements.

This year, ISI is very pleased to welcome Rama Alsharif and Ethan Medeiros:

Ethan Medeiros (he/they) is a rising sophomore, majoring in Computer Science and Mathematics at Bunker Hill Community College, with plans to transfer to a four-year institution. Ethan possesses keen interest in and dedication to quantifiable outcomes and in the sociology of sustainability, which they’re excited to bring to their work.

Rama Alsharif (she/her) is a rising sophomore as well, studying Environmental Science and Data Science at the University of California, Berkeley. Rama is particularly captivated by a holistic approach to sustainability, alongside climate change mitigation and adaptation. She is eager to utilize her skillset and learnings to tackle the environmental challenges our world faces.

Both Station1 Fellows will be supporting ISI’s research efforts and learning about the Envision Sustainability Framework. Rama and Ethan begin their internships this week!

ISI welcomes Feniosky Peña-Mora to its Board of Directors

Washington D.C., 21 March 2023 — ISI is very pleased to announce the appointment of Professor Feniosky Peña-Mora of Columbia University to its Board of Directors. Professor Peña-Mora fills the member-at-large seat previously vacated by Martin (“Marty”) Janowitz, who completed his term in 2022.

“We are indebted to Marty for his contributions to the board and the tremendous support he has provided to the development of the Envision® sustainability framework over many years,” said Anthony Kane, ISI’s President & CEO. As communities and public agencies look to solutions like Envision to achieve sustainability, equity, and resiliency in the built environment, ISI is fortunate once again to be able to attract another infrastructure professional of outstanding calibre to join its board: Feniosky Peña-Mora, the Edwin Howard Armstrong Professor of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at Columbia University.

“Professor Peña-Mora has made exceptional contributions to infrastructure sustainability through his research, teaching, academic leadership, and practice, and in particular as the former commissioner of New York City’s Department of Design and Construction — the country’s largest municipal public works department,” Kane highlighted. “The Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure is privileged to be able to benefit from Dr. Peña-Mora’s wealth of expertise and significant prior board experience in shaping strategic direction at ISI.”

Feniosky Peña-Mora, ScD., PE(DR), NAS(DR), CCM(UK), F.CIOB(UK), NAC, Dist.M.ASCE, along with being the Edwin Howard Armstrong Professor, is a Professor of Earth and Environmental Engineering and of Computer Science at Columbia. He is the Executive Director of Columbia’s Center for Buildings, Infrastructure and Public Space, which identifies how best to design, construct, and manage buildings, infrastructure, and civic space, emphasizing functionality, sustainability, and resilience.

From 2014 to 2017, he was Commissioner of the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC). In response to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, DDC managed the creation and expansion of resilient and sustainable infrastructure projects to protect New York City against extreme weather emergencies and reduce green gas emissions. As part of the New York City Build-it-Back Program, he led the Program Management efforts to procure and manage three Construction Management-Design-Build contracts responsible for raising, rebuilding, and flood-protecting over 1000 homes in the three hardest-hit NYC Boroughs. Among the most significant projects of Peña-Mora’s tenure at DDC were the new $740 million Police Academy, the new $640 million 911 Site, and the Times Square reconstruction.

Prior to his public service leave at DDC, he was dean of the school of engineering and applied sciences of Columbia and an endowed professor. Previously, he held endowed professorships at MIT, where he had earned his MS and PhD in civil engineering, and at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where he also served as Associate Provost. Peña-Mora is a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the FIATECH Engineering & Technology Innovation Award, as well as numerous awards from ASCE.

Professor Peña-Mora is a member of the Boards of New York City Health and Hospitals, the ACE Mentor Program of Greater NY, and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). At ASCE, he chairs the Industry Leaders Council (ILC) and the Board Strategy Advisory Committee (BSAC), which is currently updating ASCE’s strategic plan.

At ISI, Prof. Peña-Mora will serve alongside Board Chair Michael Murcha (Madison Metropolitan Sewage District) and Board Members Erin Cooke (San Francisco International Airport), Lauren Evans (Pinyon Environmental), Sergio Pecori (Hanson Professional Services Inc.), Mark Pestrella (Los Angeles County Public Works), and Renee Ring (Environmental Financial Consulting Group).

Research Paper Considers the Equity Lens in Envision and Other Rating Systems

Social equity, historically overlooked in the A/E/C industry, is receiving more attention of late as stakeholders have pushed for more diverse approaches to project delivery for communities. When considering equity in the A/E/C industry, it can be instructive to look at how different rating systems grapple with the concept, says new research, published in the journal Environmental Research: Infrastructure and Sustainability.

Sustainability frameworks all attempt in different ways to encourage social equity achievement, the authors find. Moreover, they argue that differences in how these systems understand and value the idea can contribute to substantial differences in actual project conception and implementation.

Titled “Social equity in sustainability certification systems for the built environment: understanding concepts, value, and practice implications,” the article cautions that project teams need to bring a clear set of goals regarding equity of what and for whom. Also fundamental are “the ideas of how to measure and evaluate the distribution of social costs / benefits in order to put social equity into practice.”

The research, authored by a team from HDR, Inc., was published at the end of January and can be freely accessed at:

“Equity and social justice refer to the responsibility of a society to ensure that civil and human rights are preserved and protected for each individual, and that all persons are treated equally and without prejudice. These issues are particularly relevant to infrastructure development, which often involves the provision of significant benefits as well as potentially significant impacts.” — Envision v3, Introduction, p. 15

Envision® and Equity

Envision provides a consistent, consensus-based framework for assessing sustainability, resiliency, and equity in civil infrastructure. The equity dimension is embedded in Envision and paired with the term “social justice.” The dedicated Credit titled QL3.1 – “Advance Equity & Social Justice” is designed to ensure equity and social justice are “fundamental considerations within project processes and decision making.” The evaluation metric to be used is the degree to which equity and social justice are included in stakeholder engagement, project team commitments, and decision making. Higher levels of achievement for this credit call for empowerment of communities to engage in the development process, or even positively addressing or correcting an existing or historic injustice or imbalance.

The “Advance Equity & Social Justice” credit is related to these other Quality of Life Credits: QL1.2 (“Enhance Public Health and Safety”), QL2.1 (“Improve Community Mobility and Access”), QL2.2 (“Encourage Sustainable Transportation”), and QL3.2 (“Preserve Historic and Cultural Resources”). It is also related to Leadership Credits LD1.3 (“Preserve Historic and Cultural Resources”), LD2.2 (“Plan for Sustainable Communities”), LD3.1 (“Stimulate Economic Prosperity and Development”), and LD3.2 (“Develop Local Skills and Capabilities”).

The Envision framework ties equity goals to a wide array of other project goals and activities. For example, in QL.1 (“Enhance Public Health and Safety”) the historic factors of equity and social justice within the project context are among the criteria that the project team should consider. This is to demonstrate that health and safety risks and impacts are not disproportionately borne by one community over another.

ISI welcomes Mark Pestrella to its Board of Directors

Washington D.C., 25 January 2023 — ISI is very pleased to announce the appointment of Mark Pestrella, P.E., the Director of Los Angeles County Public Works, to its Board of Directors. He fills the seat vacated by Gary Lee Moore (City of Los Angeles), who completed his term in 2022. ISI thanks Gary for his tireless leadership and dedication to ISI.

As communities and public agencies look to solutions like ISI’s signature Envision framework to achieve sustainability, equity, and resiliency in the built environment, ISI is fortunate to be able to attract dedicated infrastructure professionals of outstanding calibre to join the leadership team at ISI.

“Mark Pestrella brings nearly four decades of experience providing leadership in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of complex infrastructure systems of every description at LA County Public Works, and his department, from the beginning, has also been a key member and partner for ISI in advancing sustainable and resilient infrastructure practices,” says Anthony Kane, ISI’s president and CEO, and ex-officio member of the Board.

As Director of L.A. County Public Works, Mark Pestrella serves as the Chief Engineer of the Los Angeles County Flood Control District, the County Road Commissioner, and the County Engineer. With an annual budget of more than $2.7 billion and a workforce of 4,000 employees, Los Angeles County Public Works is the largest municipal public works agency in the United States, providing vital public infrastructure and civic services to more than 10 million people across a 4,000-square-mile service area. Its diverse operations are defined within the following business areas: Water Resources, Transportation, Environmental Services, Construction Management, and Municipal Services.

He was nominated to ISI’s Board by the American Public Works Association (APWA), one of the three national engineering organizations that co-founded ISI, with the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC). He is a longtime APWA member and advocate for sustainable infrastructure and under his leadership, Public Works has set records in leading a sustainable infrastructure sector. In 2015, Public Works was publicly recognized by ISI as the first government agency in the U.S. to credential 100 Envision Sustainability Professionals, and the number has now grown close to 400. In 2016, he successfully assisted the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in adopting EnvisionTM as the infrastructure standard of the County, making the County one of the first public agencies in the U.S. to do so.

Mr. Pestrella will serve alongside Board Chair Michael Murcha (Madison Metropolitan Sewage District) and Board Members Erin Cooke (San Francisco International Airport), Lauren Evans (Pinyon Environmental), Sergio Pecori (Hanson Professional Services Inc.) and Renee Ring (Environmental Financial Consulting Group).

ISI to Collaborate with World Association of PPP Units & Professionals

Washington D.C. and Geneva, 13 January 2023 — The World Association of PPP Units & Professionals (WAPPP) and the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) announce their collaboration to further develop and promote #nextlevelppp infrastructure PPPs and design and implement bespoke capacity-building activities on sustainability and resilience in infrastructure targeted at governments, their private sector partners and PPP units and professionals.

WAPPP is a Geneva-based non-profit global association, which brings together public and private stakeholders in the field of Public-Private Partnership (PPP). Comprised of both institutions and individuals, WAPPP’s membership includes public PPP units, corporate investors, financial investors, and consultants across all sectors. More than a procurement tool, WAPPP considers PPP a tool for sustainable and reliable infrastructure that can provide an enormous benefit to people’s lives and help achieve the UN SDGs. WAPPP promotes best practices and the sharing of knowledge and expertise among its members.

ISI is a non-profit education and research organization founded by the American Public Works Association, American Council of Engineering Companies and American Society of Civil Engineers. ISI develops, manages, delivers, and maintains the Envision sustainable infrastructure framework and rating system, a system used to evaluate and rate infrastructure projects of all types, including infrastructure PPPs. ISI trains and credentials professionals and students; offers a third-party verification program that rates infrastructure projects; and works with members and partners to advance sustainable and resilient infrastructure practices.

“We are excited to be collaborating with the World Association of PPP Units & Professionals to further sustainability and resilience goals on PPP projects,” said ISI Managing Director Melissa Peneycad. “ISI and WAPPP have a significant depth of experience and resources in this area and our collaboration will support the continued evolution of PPPs and PPP approaches that achieve more for sustainability.”

WAPPP President, Ziad Alexandre Hayek, said: “We’re proud that ISI is collaborating with WAPPP to promote more sustainable and successful public-private partnerships. We’re looking forward to collaborating for sustainable and climate resilient PPPs.”


Envision Review Board Podcast

Great initiative here from ISI’s Envision Review Board! Richard Fernandez of Aquario Engineering interviewed Margaret Cederoth, Director of Planning and Sustainability at the California High-Speed Rail Authority for a special Envision Review Board Podcast. Have a listen …


Welcoming the Envision Review Board’s newest member: Patricia Gómez

ISI would like to take the opportunity to recognize the newest member of the Envision Review Board: Patricia Gómez, Deputy Chief Resilience Officer with Miami-Dade County. You can learn more about Dr. Gómez in her bio below.

Originally created in 2015, the Envision Review Board is comprised of industry-leading infrastructure professionals representing public agencies, private companies, and general interest groups. The mission of the Envision Review Board is to ensure the continued integrity and efficacy of Envision and its associated tools, resources, and documents; to provide for consistency in interpretation and development; and to assure the ongoing relevance of the tool and its associated best practices to the highest standards of scholarship and practice. In this way, Envision is a tool created and overseen by the infrastructure industry itself. More about the Envision Review Board.

Bio: Patricia Gómez

Patricia Gómez, Ph.D., PE, CEM, GBE, LEED AP, has more than 20 years of direct experience working on engineering and sustainability-related opportunities in both the public sector and private industries.

Dr. Gómez currently serves as the Deputy Chief Resilience Officer in Miami-Dade County’s Office of Resilience. During her county career Dr. Gómez has successfully implemented several projects that have increase the sustainability and resilience of the county operations and the community and reduced electricity consumption such as the enterprise-wide utility billing management software, and the Building Efficiency 305 (BE305), the Climate Action Strategy and on-site solar installations for county facilities.

She began her career with Miami-Dade County as an Engineer with the Department of Environmental Resources Management working on the County’s Climate Action Plan. Dr. Gómez is a LEED AP BD+C accredited professional, a Certified Energy Manager and a Professional Engineer in the State of Florida. Dr. Gomez holds a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Miami.