Making Sustainable Infrastructure a Priority

night sky

A major infrastructure overhaul is long overdue.”

A necessity that authors Gerry Connolly, Doris Matsui, and Paul Tonko shed a light on, as they place a sense of urgency on the importance of infrastructures – how it relates to us economically, ecologically, as a whole, and why it is needed now.

With our current global state, where there is one environmental catastrophe after the other, “any old infrastructure plan simply will not do”. There is a need to rapidly reduce solid waste and build with sustainability as a priority, through advanced solutions and smart planning.

Read more here:  It’s Time To Move On Sustainable Infrastructure.

Total MSW Generated by Material, 2017

Photo retrieved from EPA.gov

The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that “the total generation of municipal solid waste in 2017 was 267.8 million tons of waste approximately 5.7 million tons more than the amount generated in 2015. Municipal Solid Waste generated in 2017 increased to 4.51 pounds per person per day. This is an increase from the 262.1 million tons generated in 2015 and the 208.3 million tons in 1990”. Earth911 states that, “as much as 40% of this waste comes from construction projects, which produce a surplus of unused building materials”.

This is why it is essential to focus on greener civil infrastructures.

What is Sustainable Infrastructure?

CRC Research defines sustainable infrastructure as:

…the designing, building, and operating of these structural elements in ways that do not not diminish the social, economic and ecological processes required to maintain human equity, diversity, and the functionality of natural systems…  The infrastructure we are building today will shape tomorrow’s communities.

Additionally, CRC Research notes five key areas of infrastructure that they believe are most critical to achieve sustainable development, namely: Energy, Transportation, Waste Management, Land Use Planning and Governance.

Over the years, the number of constructors that plan their infrastructures with eco-friendly materials have grown.

Read: Elements of Green Building Design.

See global examples of Sustainable Infrastructures: Four Sustainable Projects For Four Cities

Why is Sustainable Infrastructure Important to the Environment?

Infrastructure – roads, bridges, ports, power plants, water supply – drive economic growth in many countries by facilitating manufacturing, services and trade. But it’s not just a matter of building more. To achieve good development on a planet stressed by climate change and diminishing natural resources, infrastructure needs to be sustainable.

The World Economic Forum

Sustainable infrastructure is one of the paths leading to strong economic development by allowing job opportunities, plus the local purchasing of goods and services. It “enhances quality of life for citizens” with increased benefits, as well as increased security and protection for our environment and financial resources.

What is Meant by Sustainability in Construction?

Sustainable Construction Magazine quotes Charles Haine, director of energy infrastructure consenting, Royal Haskoning DHV. He explains the following:

When going green, investors tend to look at the environmental impact of a project in terms of carbon emissions and other factors. What people are missing is the embedded carbon in the steel and concrete, wood and asphalt.

They need to consider all the contractors using their own diesel generators for years of construction. At the moment, no one is capturing that side of things – but emissions from these activities are a significant part of the footprint.

So how do you get there?

A world with better infrastructures for future generations is on its way.

An article entitled “Green is the New Black: How to Build Infrastructure the Sustainable Way” discusses different studies on how green infrastructure can promote efficiency by “applying strategies such as green roofs, urban forestry, and permeable pavements” and adds that if done correctly can lead to the ‘triple bottom line’: economy, equity, and the environment.

The EPA wrote a report on Sustainable Materials Management: The Road Ahead  which serves as the foundation for constructing sustainable infrastructures through its recommendations and analytical framework highlighting multiple environmental benefits when developing materials management strategies, and a tool for estimating greenhouse gas reductions from sustainable materials management – the Waste Reduction Model (WARM).

The Agency continues to study and create additional tools that provide information on other environmental benefits on green infrastructures.

As the Sustainable Construction Magazine shares, “sustainability is any small step you can take as a contractor to improve your carbon footprint and, believe it or not, in the process potentially save  money and/or enhance your profit”.

Municipal Solid Waste Management: 1960 - 2017
January 22, 2020

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