Environmental Protection

University, CH2M Hill Create Sustainable Road Design Specs

University of Washington researchers and global engineering firm CH2M HILL recently unveiled Greenroads, a rating system for sustainable road design and construction.

Environmental, economic, and social impacts are included in the system, which outlines such minimum requirements as a noise mitigation, stormwater management, and waste management plans to qualify as a green roadway. It also allows up to 118 points for voluntary actions such as minimizing light pollution, using recycled materials, incorporating quiet pavement and accommodating non-motorized transportation.

“The LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] system has been really successful and has achieved a lot,” said lead author Steve Muench, a UW assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. “Roads are a big chunk of the construction industry that has an opportunity to participate more fully in sustainability practices. I think there’s a lot of opportunity there.”

The first complete version of Greenroads is available at www.greenroads.us.

The rating system was developed during the past three years by the UW Greenroads team and collaborators at CH2M HILL.

Greenroads’ aims are threefold: to recognize companies already using sustainable methods; to provide a catalog of ideas for greener practices; and to offer an incentive for agencies and companies to build more environmentally friendly roads. The system can be used either for new road projects or for upgrades on existing roads. “This helps our industry become more sustainable and shows the public that we can deliver sustainable roadways,” said Tim Bevan, west region technology manager at CH2M HILL. “To some, it has not been perceived to be that important, but more and more we’re finding the public is concerned about the environmental impacts of roadways.”

Managers can have their projects rated for a fee by contacting the Greenroads team. Right now, limited staff means only some projects can be rated. In the long term, the team hopes to allow qualified third-party consultants to do the ratings.

“This first version is just a starting point. We’d like to know what industry thinks of the system and get their help in developing it further,” Muench said.

Research funding was provided by Transportation Northwest at the UW, the State Pavement Technology Consortium, Western Federal Lands Highway Division and the Oregon Department of Transportation. CH2M HILL contributed staff time to the project.

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