Greenroads Rating System is on a roll

If you are a contractor interested in working on roadway projects with sustainable certification, then the Greenroads Rating System is something you should consider.

The Greenroads Rating System is a sustainability rating system for roadway design and construction that awards points and helps quantify the sustainable attributes of a roadway project. It is applicable to all roadway projects including new construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation (even overlays), preservation and bridge projects.

Greenroads is a collection of sustainability best practices (credits) that relate to roadway design and construction. Achieving these credits can earn points toward a total score for the project, and in general, this score can be used as an indicator of sustainability for the roadway. Four different certification levels (ratings) are available depending upon total score on a voluntary basis.

Greenroads provides several benefits:

  • A holistic way of considering roadway sustainability
  • A defined and quantitative means to assess roadway sustainability
  • A tool for decision-makers, agencies, consultants and contractors that enables informed design and construction decisions regarding sustainability.

“Greenroads has been around for about five years,” explains Jeralee Anderson, P.E. LEED-AP, and Executive Director of the Greenroads Foundation. “However, the idea for certification is relatively new [two years], with the first project receiving certification earlier this year.”

Certification is under way

Greenroads has been tested on more than 120 design and construction projects of various types, shapes, sizes, and stages of design and construction. Certification is now available through the Greenroads Foundation (a nonprofit organization) for a nominal fee.

To date, four projects have received Greenroads certification (see project highlights within this article). The first, Meador-Kansas-Ellis Trail, was certified in late February.

One of the most recent Greenroads certified projects, SE Pioneer Way Reconstruction, involved adding multimodal and pedestrian-friendly streetscape enhancements and street improvements in downtown Oak Harbor, Washington. Strider Construction Co. Inc. in Bellingham, Washington, was the general contractor on the job. Nathan Cutler, P.E. was the project manager.

“You always want to keep a project going and come in on budget, whether it’s a Greenroads project or not,” says Cutler. “When working on a Greenroads project, it’s important to allocate enough time in the management structure to account for the proper documentation required.”

The SE Pioneer Way Reconstruction was identified as a Greenroads project before it went out for bid. Strider Construction won the bid and the process began. The project required numerous sustainable efforts including tracking water usage, recycling, noise mitigation and quality assurance. These are all elements that saved costs in the long run.

“In general, cost ultimately drives a project,” says Cutler. “Often, reusing and recycling materials is a lower-cost approach to construction. If it’s less expensive to haul pulverized asphalt to a recycling plant, that’s what you do. Greenroads takes this a step further by encouraging contractors to consider the environment through all aspects of construction.”

“We are very excited about all our certified projects,” adds Anderson. “And the financial savings really are there — all our projects to date have saved money. And one soon-to-be-certified project in San Jose will save 23% with cold-in-place recycling.

“All of the projects that have been certified thus far have been located in Washington and have been small, short-duration projects. There are some larger projects too, which take more time to build and certify. We have projects in other states that are still under construction [Texas, California and Nevada] with several others waiting to sign up in Oregon, Colorado and North Carolina,” Anderson adds. “We are also piloting the rating system in New Zealand and will be launching a similar program in Canada in September.”

Bright future expected

“It has been interesting to watch as projects become certified and those involved take something from the project to use in their future work,” says Anderson. “The next project they work on is often in a better position to be certified.

“We are always working on new ideas to see how they fit into the Greenroads Rating System,” she adds. “Electric vehicle infrastructure is just one of those ideas.” The SE Pioneer Way Reconstruction project and the Cheney Stadium project both earned Greenroads credit for installing electric vehicle charging stations.

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. This accreditation program is called Sustainable Transportation Professional (STP) and will launch later this year.

To read the full story on the Greenroads Rating System, click here to download the Fall 2012 issue of Sustainable Construction.