Taking Green to the Streets: The Greenroads Performance Metric

Date: March 17, 2010

In development since 2007, a green rating system that addresses sustainable design features and strategies for new and reconstructed roads has recently been released. Greenroads is a cooperative between the University of Washington and CH2M HILL, an international engineering firm with strong ties to the energy, construction, and transportation industries. Similar to the United States Green Building Council's LEED rating system, Greenroads is a performance metric with point values assigned to various sustainable design components and achievements. Earning a minimum threshold of points will yield one of four possible ratings for a project: certified, silver, gold, or evergreen.

The creators of Greenroads market the program as "(1) a holistic way of considering roadway sustainability, (2) a defined and quantitative means to assess roadway sustainability, and (3) a tool for decision-makers, agencies, consultants and contractors that enables informed design and construction decisions regarding sustainability." In addition to establishing the requirements for certification, the system is intended to promote awareness, participation, accountability, and benchmarking among roadway and transportation stakeholders even when certification is not sought.

Greenroads certification is a fee-based system which operates in a manner similar to LEED certification - project teams register a project and submit documentation online to a liaison. There are 11 prerequisites, referred to as requirements, that must be met for any certification. These include an environmental review process, life cycle cost analysis, lifecycle inventory, quality control plan, noise mitigation plan, waste management plan, pollution prevention plan, low-impact development, pavement management system, and site maintenance plan.

Credits are available in the areas of environment and water (21 possible), access and equity (30), construction activities (14), materials and resources (23), pavement technologies (20), and custom-designed for an individual project (10). Like LEED v3, the U.S. Green Building Council's most recent iteration of its green building rating system, the available credits are weighted to reflect the varying benefits and burdens associated with each. Notwithstanding the 11 requirements , 32-42 voluntary credits are currently needed to reach certification. Silver requires 43-53 credits, gold requires 54-63 credits, and evergreen requires 64 or more credits.

The official Greenroads Version 1.0 was released in January 2010 and has accepted a limited number of pilot projects. It will likely be improved and undergo further development after those initial applications are complete and feedback is available. The University of Washington is considering introducing classes for accrediting Greenroads professionals in the same manner as the Green Building Certification Institute tests Green Associates and LEED AP's.

While Greenroads is the first third party rating system for the sustainable development of roads, other initiatives are emerging which address the same sustainable transportation strategies. New York City engineer Scott Snelling has proposed a rating system for the design and construction of green bridges, which could potentially become an extension of the Greenroads program. Moreover, several states and the Federal Highway Administration are also considering sustainable roadway programs of their own.

As more rating systems and performance metrics become available and even mandatory, consumers, businesses, institutions, and governments are increasingly able to evaluate the efficiency and sustainability of everything around them.