A points-based rating system for infrastructure projects called Greenroads is taking off in the U.S. with 18 projects in five states slated for certification.
But, Canadian jurisdictions won’t be as quick to adopt the program, thanks to existing high standards set out by the provinces.
Greenroads, developed over five years by the University of Washington, comprises best practices for the design and construction of roadways, storm water systems, and other infrastructure components.
Builders must meet 11 specific requirements and can voluntarily meet up to 37 additional points-based credits to achieve one of four levels of certification: Bronze, Silver, Gold or Evergreen.
Roadbuilders in Western Canada are aspiring for greener, more sustainable infrastructure projects, but it won’t take a credit-based rating system to get them there, said Jack Davidson, president of the B.C. Road Builders & Heavy Construction Association.
“Our industry has demonstrated leadership in addressing environmental challenges,” he said.
“There is no added incentive required. We know reducing the environmental impact of the entire transportation network is good for the environment, for our children and grandchildren, and good for business.”
“If implementing a Greenroads rating system in B.C. could help us in meeting our goals—and I don’t see how it can—we would embrace it,” Davidson said.
The difference between green buildings and green roads is that green buildings have a number of owners and there is a financial reward for having a green building, said Davidson.
“Our owner is the B.C. Government and one of their priorities has been to make our roads as green as possible so we don’t need a unit by unit incentive.”
Kate Trotter, public affairs officer at the B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said the province has explored Greenroads, but finds it limiting because it applies U.S. laws and regulations.
The ministry is, however, a contributing partner to the Transportation Association of Canada’s Green Guide for Roads, to be completed later this year, she said.
Rather than a rating system, the guide is a collection of guidelines, suggestions and best practices for building or maintaining roads, while reducing environmental impacts.
The province has also worked with B.C. Road Builders to produce a best practices manual titled, Reducing GHG Emissions in the B.C. Road Building and Maintenance Industry, which addresses engineering technicalities.
The guide includes information about right sizing on road fleets, modernizing fleets, alternate fuel, idle reduction programs, solar and grid-based power, and driver behaviour.
Topics relating to paving include reducing aggregate stockpile moisture, improving dryer combustion, upgrading paving plant insulation, hot in place recycling, reclaiming asphalt and use of warm mix.
“We’ve shared our guide with other roadbuilding associations across Canada and it’s been well-received,” Davidson said.
The Alberta Ministry of Transportation was one of the first jurisdictions in North America to adopt an EcoPlan for its transportation routes.
EcoPlans are International Organization for Standardization (ISO) plans that consider environmental factors in the design and construction of roadways.
The province adopted the plan in 2004.
“When we built the Northeast Calgary ring road, we created a drainage program that replaced adjacent wetland habitats at a ration of five to one,” said Trent Bancarz, public affairs officer for Alberta’s Ministry of Transportation.
“We basically left the area in better condition than it was before the project.”
Alberta roads are constructed with flatter side slopes and careful attention to ditches and drainage.
The province is experimenting with recycled asphalt and warm mix, and uses staged paving, which involves laying an initial layer of asphalt and then using the road for three to five years before applying a second layer.
“This allows us to see any deficiencies in the road and protects the road so it doesn’t need to be resurfaced as often,” said Bancarz.
Staged paving can increase the surface lifespan from ten years to 15 or 20.
The only other rating system in Canada that applies to infrastructure projects is the Living Building Challenge created by the International Living Building Institute (ILBI).
It is operated in Canada by ILBI and the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC).
Projects can seek certification and credit for roadways, water systems, street lighting, bridges, and parks and other public spaces as stand alone projects. They can also seek certification as part of a whole building or community planning development.
Sarah Costello, ILBI vice-president of communications said there are Canadian infrastructure projects seeking certification under the system, but most of them want to remain confidential for now.
“Teams go so far out on a limb to try to hit our ambitious goals that they tend to stay confidential until they’ve achieved certification,” she explained.