Tag Archives: Environmental science

From LEED to Envision: Expanding Green Design to Infrastructure

By Matt Alford, P.E., ENV SP, Senior Engineer at Pare Corporation and a member of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

Green design and construction practices have been around for some time, and there are several industry rating systems to help with implementation.  Leadership In Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a sustainable rating system for buildings, is the most widely used system around the world. The LEED program guides the design, construction, operations and maintenance of buildings toward sustainability. It has been 16 years since the first version of LEED, and the number of buildings receiving LEED certification increases each year. And it’s not just about the shiny plaque! It has proven to increase building performance throughout the lifecycle of the building while enhancing the experience of the occupants.  The program provides real long-term cost savings in the operation and maintenance of these buildings. This was demonstrated during the economic downturn of 2008-2009 when, despite the economy, the number of registrations increased. “Green” sustainable design can increase the efficiency of a building, provide long-term cost savings, increase public recognition of a project, and improve quality of life.

But, what about infrastructure? Infrastructure changes the way we get around, communicate, and view the world—it is an essential element to our culture. However, it has different challenges than buildings. Often coordination between several organizations that each have their own agendas and budgets is one of the major challenges when implementing sustainable design for infrastructure.

Similar to how LEED is focused on the occupants of the building, the new Envision Rating System focuses on the stakeholders affected by the project.  Envision is an objective framework of criteria and performance achievements that helps users identify ways in which “green” sustainable approaches can be used to plan, design, construct, and operate infrastructure projects. It also looks to enhance the social, environmental and economic aspects of a project by providing a holistic project assessment and guidance tool to tackle these challenges.  Using the design and building of a new industrial plant as an example, Envision encourages cohesive planning so that how the new plant impacts the historical value of the community is as important as how clean the air is being released thru its smokestack.  The goal of the program is to best use taxpayer dollars, reduce our environmental footprint, and enhance the overall quality of life in our community.

Types of Infrastructure Envision Will Rate

 

Envision is broken down into five categories to evaluate how a project contributes to the overall sustainability of the community.

  • Quality of Life – addresses a project’s impact regarding the health and well-being of individuals and the community as a whole.
  • Leadership – engages the project stakeholders and team leaders to provide meaningful commitment, collaboration and communication with each other.
  • Resource Allocation – dives into the use of recyclable materials and overall waste reduction for the long-term operation and maintenance of the infrastructure and construction.
  • Natural World – how the project preserves and renews ecosystem functions.
  • Climate and Risk – looks at two main concepts: ensuring resilience and minimizing emissions of a project both in the short-term and long-term future conditions.

Using Envision demonstrates an organized and comprehensive approach to decision making.  It embraces the use of best practices and garners support from stakeholders. Effective sustainable infrastructure development cannot be completed without involving several parties.

Similar to the LEED program, Envision has four award levels: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Even if an award is not pursued, it is strongly encouraged to use Envision criteria as a guide or a set of standards for creating sustainable infrastructure. Envision is laying the groundwork for making sustainable design the new standard for all infrastructure projects.

Instrumental Parties

 

And why not!?!   Here are some advantages to doing so:

  • Quantifying the qualitative benefits, including preserving local character
  • Applying a consistent, transparent approach to sustainability
  • Helping communities address long-range needs
  • Evaluating environmental and economic benefits
  • Extending the useful life of a project
  • Improving the efficiency of a project
  • Demonstrating good governance of resources

Just as using a sustainable building rating system as a guide for development has proven to be worth the investment for new building construction, Envision will help guide decisions about sustainable infrastructure projects to be made proactively instead of re-actively in our communities. Imagine a world with less congestion, cleaner waters, purposefully-developed communities, and tax dollars being used more efficiently.  Envision provides the framework to improve the way we develop the infrastructure and its impact on our daily lives

Notes:

Why the Northern Long-Eared Bat Should Be On Your ‘Radar’

Usually bats fly under the radar (no pun intended). However, the Northern Long-Eared Bat was recently listed as a threatened species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service due to a quick-spreading fungal disease, White Nose Syndrome. Discovered in 2007, the disease has caused unprecedented mortality of the Northern Long Eared Bat across the United States and Canada.

Northern_long-eared_bat_with_visible_symptoms_of_WNS_(8510785002)

Myotis septentrionalis, northern myotis (Vespertilionidae) showing signs of White Nose Syndrome (WNS). LaSalle County, Illinois. January 2013 Photo credit: University of Illinois/Steve Taylor

Bats play an important role in the ecosystem by controlling insect populations, so protection of a threatened species is understandable and justified. But our clients and colleagues should recognize that this recent threatened species listing could affect their construction and development projects. This listing is of particular concern for projects where federal funding or permitting is required. Schedules may also be impacted, as the removal of one acre or more of trees from a development site will be prohibited during the months of June and July. While this species of bats reside in caves throughout the winter, they move their habitat to trees during the summer months. Because the Northern Long Eared Bat will live in any tree species, projects that involve tree removal may be an obstacle for permitting.

Big-eared-townsend-fledermaus

For project specific questions and more information, please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s webpage about the Northern Long-Eared Bat and the consequent regulations here.

Thanks to Lauren Hastings, Senior Environmental Scientist at Pare for bringing this issue to Pare’s attention!

And The Winner Is…..

“Back to Nature” by Allen Orsi, P.E., a Managing Engineer in Pare’s Geotechnical Division, is the winner of the 5th Annual Earth Day Photo Contest. This year, Pare employees were asked to submit a photo inspired by the Earth Day 2015 theme: Take a stand, so that together we can show the world a new direction. It’s our turn to lead. Our world leaders will follow.

The 2015 photo contest was incredibly close. There was a tie between photos for most of the week, but in the end, “Back to Nature” won by two votes!

Photo 2

The Bartlet Pond Dam, originally constructed in 1814, was a barrier to the natural ecology of the Wekepeke Brook for nearly 200 years. During that time, the presence of the dam resulted in increased water temperatures, lower Dissolved Oxygen, disconnected environments, and other environmental detriments. In 2014, the dam was removed, restoring the area to a natural stream channel and allowing for the natural healing of the ecosystem to begin, which will benefit both the Wekepeke as well as the Nashua River, located shortly downstream. In recognition of this achievement, state and local officials gathered to celebrate the project and other environmental initiatives being supported financially through programs being offered by EOEEA. Attendance at the event demonstrated the state’s commitment and progress in restoring our natural environment; the new growth embodies the power of nature to overcome man’s interference in the cycle of nature.

Congratulations to our winner, Allen Orsi. Allen will receive a gift card to Briggs Garden & Home.

You can check out the rest of the photo entries here.

A special thanks to all who contributed to this year’s Earth Day Photo Contest. This year’s entrants were:

#1 Andrew Chagnon – Synthetic Turf Field, Marshfield
#2 Allen Orsi – Back to Nature
#3 Dave Easterbrooks – Save the Bay Swim
#4  Marc Weller – Eco-Machine
#5 Lauren Hastings – Tread Lightly
#6  Tim Thies – S-s-s-s-s-s-springtime Buddies
#7  Dave McCombs – Solitude
#8 Nick Romano – Koi Pond
#9  Victoria Howland – Living Machine
#10  Mel Hebert – Aurora Borealis
#11  Brandon Blanchard – Do You Know Where Your Food Comes From?
#12  Cari Orsi – Living Green
#13 Scott Lindgren –  Follow us, together we will lead.

Pare Congratulates Walter Burke on Environmental Achievement Award

Pare Corporation is excited to recognize a long-time client, Bristol Parks and Recreation Director Walter Burke, as the recipient of Save the Bay’s annual Environmental Achievement Award. Walter was recently honored for his efforts to eliminate stormwater pollution entering Narragansett Bay in the Town of Bristol and, in particular, for his efforts to improve water quality at the Bristol Town Beach.

walterburkecropped

Working with Pare’s civil engineering and environmental teams, Walter initiated the Bristol Town Beach project to eliminate the frequent beach closings caused in years past by stormwater pollution. Historically, Bristol was forced to close its beach an average of 15 to 20 times per summer due to a stormwater system that carried bacteria, salt, and pollutants directly into the bay. David Potter, Senior Project Engineer in Pare’s Civil Division explains, “Pare worked together with Walter, the CRMC (RI Coastal Resources Management Council) and the DEM (RI Department of Environmental Management) to obtain a joint permit for the first-ever permitted GWVTS (Gravel Wet Vegetated Treatment System) in Rhode Island.”

Bristol Beach Plan

This design uses a vegetated permanent pool split between two cells to temporarily capture stormwater runoff from the adjacent residential neighborhood and treat for pathogens, total suspended solids, and other constituents. The two cells within the GWVTS are planted with a variety of aesthetically pleasing flowers and shrubs that feed on bacteria and pollutants before releasing this “filtered” water into the bay. The GWVTS is one of the solutions incorporated by Walter Burke on the Bristol Town Beach to treat stormwater runoff and reduce the number of beach closings.

The new system worked so well in the summer of 2013 (its first full season) that beach closings went from 15+ to zero. Briscoe Lang, Pare’s Principal Environmental Scientist, stated, “This system has proven successful in removing pathogens, and it should be used in all possible settings. It also provides significant aesthetic benefits.”

Bristol Bioretention Pond

When discussing the dual-functionality and success of the project, Pare’s team unanimously noted Walter Burke’s “vision” and his “get it done” attitude. As Briscoe Lang said, “Talk is nothing without action.” David Potter added, “He not only has the vision, but the patience and energy to achieve it.”

Bristol Beach Wetland

Congratulations to Walter Burke, who was presented the Environmental Achievement Award on Wednesday, May 21, by Save the Bay. For press coverage of Walter Burke’s achievement and additional GWVTS details, click here.