Offering a Consistent Framework for Implementing Sustainability through Envision

Antoinette Quagliata sat down with Anthony Kane, president and CEO of the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) to discuss the Envision® rating system, to consider recent and emerging trends in Envision usage, and the future of this sustainability rating system.

To hear the full interview, listen to this short podcast:

Quagliata: Why do owners seek Envision verification for their projects? What benefits do they see?

Kane: There's a lot of owners that use Envision on all or many of their projects as a self-assessment tool or as an internal tool. Having a more rigorous review process and assessment ensures that sustainability criteria are carried throughout by incorporating social, environmental, and economic considerations.

As a project goes through different phases, having that commitment to a verification ensures that those goals are carried through and that there’s accountability at the end. The project is recognized by this independent organization for the good things that it’s doing.  

The number one feedback for them is that they find the verification process leads to better project delivery, better project management, and more effective communication. Additionally, project teams find that Envision verification leads to more innovative solutions, less errors and challenges in the project." Anthony Kane

Quagliata: What emerging trends do you see in the types of projects pursuing Envision verification?

Kane: We are seeing a shift in the sectors pursuing Envision verification. When Envision was first rolled out, we saw early adoption in the water/wastewater sectors. Transportation, including airports, light rail, roads, and bridges, was the next big sector to come along. Public transit transportation was a natural fit, and we have a large number of airport projects.

The growing sector is on the energy side as we are noticing more and more energy generation projects. And while there are not a lot on energy transmission, we are hoping that will grow.

As for types of projects, we are seeing a real increase in the multi-benefit projects, those that layer value. These projects are finding a way to incorporate the community into the infrastructure project, focusing on how the asset itself can be an amenity.

Quagliata: What’s next for ISI beyond the U.S.?

Kane: Established in 2010, ISI is a relatively small organization making an outsized impact. ISI has witnessed exponential growth in recent years and has built a network of more than ten thousand individual practitioners, companies, government agencies, and other organizations that are recognized members.

Envision is growing in Canada, Italy, and around the world through project verification and credentialing. It has established itself as a proven tool, with more than 6000 credentialed professionals, and $110 billion worth of verified infrastructure projects.

ISI’s current focus is promoting Envision on a national and international level, including a recently signed partnership with the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering. We’ve also been working with the Mexican Federation of Civil Engineers. In 2021, we translated the manual into Spanish, and training will soon be offered in Spanish. We’re excited to see how Envision can support not only Mexico, but Spanish-speaking countries throughout Latin America.

Quagliata: With the new infrastructure funding coming out with a shifted focus to climate and sustainability, how are you looking to engage with the federal government?

Kane: We're starting with awareness, just making sure that they're aware that tools like Envision exist that have been used for 10 years in various areas, and so we're not starting from scratch. Then it's working at different levels, because, I think with the infrastructure bill ultimately that money is going to go to state and then local government levels. The local level is really where we've always seen leadership around sustainability. We would love to engage at local, state, and federal levels to help push that money towards more sustainable solutions.

For example, ISI has worked with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to launch this great program to fund the Envision Sustainability Professional training for 50 transit professionals around the country.

In the future, ISI is looking for opportunities to engage with the USDOT and other federal agencies. ISI is interested in facilitating an online forum–a sort of user’s exchange to provide a shared community of practice through Envision. Additionally, there’s potential opportunities for ISI to collaborate with the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE), and other associations.