Public Works takes lead in sustainable construction

Kansas City’s Public Works department is making moves to integrate all things green into projects citywide. The department, which manages street construction and maintenance throughout the City, was the test-bed for aggressive adoption of the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure’s Envision system. Seventeen project managers have become Envision-certified and Coordinating Services Manager Patty Hilderbrand was recently named to ISI’s Board of Directors.

Envision is an infrastructure rating system developed to help designers, builders and infrastructure owners design and build projects with a focus on environmental sustainability.

“It’s basically LEED for horizontal construction,” Hilderbrand said, referring to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standard. “Envision allows us to define sustainability in our everyday construction practices.”

Using the Envision rating system, projects will be certified Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum based on five categories: quality of life, leadership, resource allocation, the natural world and climate and risk.

“Three of the categories are expected for this sort of program, but quality of life and leadership are a bit different,” Hilderbrand said. “Quality of life and leadership really speak to our best practices as an organization. They’re a way to make sure that sustainability becomes part of who we are as a department.”

Currently, Public Works employees are adding Envision-specific language to design and construction contracts and establishing methods to track Envision process through a web-based project tracking system. Each of the Envision-certified project managers is also selecting a project in his or her portfolio. Some projects are complete and will be reviewed to see how they fit Envision’s categories. Other projects are in design and will allow project managers to see Envision in action.

“Envision is a good fit for our organization,” Public Works Director Sherri McIntyre said. “We’re always thinking about how sustainable something is when we build it. If we don’t have to replace a road in 20 years but can perform practices that’ll let us replace it in 40 or 60, that’s already responsibly stewarding resources and enhancing its sustainability.”

The Public Works department received an Envision Platinum award for the Kansas City Streetcar, the first transit project to ever receive an Envision sustainable infrastructure rating.