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First project certified under Greenroads

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by Journal Of Commerce

A rating system somewhat similar to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has been developed in the United States, and the first project certified.
Korky Koroluk
Korky Koroluk

Construction Corner | Korky Koroluk

A rating system somewhat similar to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has been developed in the United States, and the first project certified.

The system is called Greenroads, and it’s the brainchild of people at the University of Washington, who set out five years ago to develop a sustainability rating system for the roadbuilding industry.

The certificate issued is for a project in Bellingham, Wash., which involved new streetlighting, stormwater management features, and improved walkways for pedestrians and cyclists.

It wasn’t a big job — just $850,000 — but it was an important first.

Roadbuilders, like contractors in other sectors of the construction industry, are faced with the need to develop means of building more sustainable projects and a rating system for roads is a step in that direction.

As is often the case when thinking about sustainability, innovation is part of it.

When project engineer Freeman Anthony heard that a local non-profit housing agency was replacing hundreds of toilets, he called a ready-mix company he had dealt with before and asked if the old toilets might be used.

“They said: ‘Yeah, I think we can do something with that’,” Anthony said. “We’ll throw it through the crusher and see what we come up with’.”

That is how the newly widened sidewalks and bicycle paths came to be paved with — wait for it —“poticrete,” which contains about five tonnes of crushed toilets.

Perhaps a bigger achievement, though, is that the project incorporated about 80 tonnes of recycled concrete in sidewalks, curbs and gutters, and pushed the roadway asphalt’s recycled content up to 30 per cent.

So just what is Greenroads?

It’s an international standard, a collection of sustainable roadway design and construction best practices that address the overall environmental and community impacts, stormwater management and the like.

There are 11 project requirements that must be completed in order for a roadway to be considered a Greenroad, as well as 37 voluntary credits that a project team can choose to pursue. After a rigorous review process, the Greenroads Foundation then assigns a project score based on the number of points earned by meeting the requirements and achieving credits. This score translates to one of four certification levels: Certified, Silver, Gold and Evergreen.

The Bellingham project scored a Silver rating.

Steve Muench, a professor at the University of Washington, has been a driving force behind Greenroads.

When I spoke with him a couple of years ago, he said the rating system has to take vastly different circumstances into account.

“In an urban project, you might spend a lot of time and effort building a surface that lasts decades with minimum maintenance or reduced tire noise,” he said.

“In a rural environment, you might be more focused on treating stormwater and including wildlife crossings.”

Now, he said, there are already off-shore collaborations under way in areas with different sets of problems.

Closest to completion, he said, is a project that will establish a rating system tailored to the sustainability problems faced by roadbuilders in South Africa.

And, one of Muench’s doctoral students is developing a framework for a rating standard that would work for any country in the world.

The foundation is also in the process of developing an accreditation process for people to become certified experts on the Greenroads system, somewhat similar to LEED accreditation. That program is likely to launch late this year.

As for now, Muench expects that the foundation will certify at least three more roads in the next few months. In all, there are 18 projects registered for Greenroads certification in five different states.

There are not yet any in Canada, although there is some interest. Greenroads has two members in Canada, one in the Vancouver, B.C. and one in Kitchener, Ont.

Korky Koroluk is a regular freelance contributor to the Journal of Commerce. Send comments or questions to editor@journalofcommerce.com.

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