The green building industry has blown up in the past decade. Green building has become a part of our sustainable vocabulary. But one aspect of the green building industry that’s been somewhat overlooked is road construction.
The U.S. road system contains nearly 4 million miles of roads, and each year more than 31,813 miles of new roads are built in the U.S. That’s a lot of pavement. Building these roads in a sustainable manner has a huge impact on construction as a whole.
Greenroads, a non-profit started in 2010, is a third party certifier of road construction sustainability that’s setting the bar within the industry. The criteria is similarly rigorous compared to the U.S. Green Building Council and contains various requirements and means of attaining voluntary credits, which amount to gold, silver, or evergreen status. It’s about both the construction practices and the end product sustainability of a roadway.
According to Natural Resources Defense Council:
In addition to third-party status, you need an analytically robust certification system. Greenroads offers that with a system modeled after USGBC’s industry-leading “LEED” (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) product lines, with points allocated to different project characteristics in different categories. There are 11 project requirements and 37 voluntary credits project sponsors can apply for. Depending on point totals, projects are either not certified or receive bronze, silver, gold or evergreen awards.
One project in Bellingham, Washington named the Meador Kansas Ellis Trail was built using the porcelain from 400 crushed up high flow toilets diverted from the landfill as well as asphalt made with 30 percent recycled concrete. The new roads were lined with LED street lamps.
“Sustainable roadways are not just a dream. This certification means that Greenroads’ five years of research and development has finally become a reality,” Jeralee Anderson, Executive Director of Greenroads Foundation said to KOMO News. “The Meador Kansas Ellis Trail project is a great example of the mission of the organization and further defines the practical steps that can be taken to green our roads–both nationally and internationally.”
After abiding by the 11 requirements, road systems are given a score similar to Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) scores of certified, silver, gold, or evergreen.
“The Greenroads Rating System can be used to help manage, improve and communicate sustainability,” said Steve Muench, a founder and board member of the Greenroads Foundation. “It represents an independent verification of sustainable features that truly matter and make a difference.”
Greenroads is currently working on 12 projects globally including new roadways, bridges, and sidewalk systems. With the Great Recession, road construction slowed but as the economy picks up, more roadways will be built or redone. It’s the perfect time to take an aerial view of how our road systems are constructed and what we can do to make that construction more sustainable. There’s room for the expansion of programs such as this globally.
How are the roads where you live? And should they be redone sustainably?
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Image of a rural highway from Shuttershock