Researchers Design Potential USGBC Rating Framework


A team from Colorado State University was recently asked by the U.S. Green Building Council to design the framework of an infrastructure resiliency and sustainability rating system. 

Associate Professor Mohammed Mehany and Ph.D. candidate Shantanu Kumar from the Department of Construction Management have reportedly delivered an investigatory study and organizational foundation of a potential rating system to the USGBC.

System Background

CSU says that the process began when Brian Dunbar, the Executive Director of the Institute for the Built Environment, spoke to the USGBC CEO at the 2020 national conference.

“When I mentioned the research that Shantanu had accomplished, along with Mohammed’s research focus, he agreed to meet with them at USGBC’s Washington, D.C., headquarters,” Dunbar said. 

Kumar reportedly researches how to improve sustainability and resilience in transportation projects while lowering greenhouse gas emissions, while Mehany studies infrastructure asset management and resilient systems and sustainability.

Afterwards, the USGBC reportedly awarded CSU a grant to fund the research for a new ratings system. Dunbar said the goals were to analyze various infrastructure-related systems worldwide, determine any gaps in those techniques and determine a comprehensive structure. 

The university notes that while the USGBC could use a system similar to their green building rating method LEED, an infrastructure rating system could be used to guide any scale of construction.

“It could be used from airports to big roads to water infrastructure, electrical infrastructure,” Mehany said. “All of these are in play.

“In the past 20-plus years, people realized that a guidance and rating system with some flexibility can be extremely helpful in identifying what a sustainable system is and how sustainable it is. It is the same thing with resilience.” 

Mehany explained that a main difference between sustainability and resiliency is that the latter is more about a disaster-oriented view of structures after earthquakes, tornadoes, flooding, hurricanes or other destructive incidents. 

“After those events, what is your recovery time and how can you return everything back to functionality and adapt to the future?” Mehany asked. “Those are what we are looking at within resiliency.”

CSU reports that the team completed a literature review, case studies and interviews focused on compiling existing research around global sustainability and resiliency rating systems across sectors of the building industry. This included areas such as heavy-civil (transportation), water/wastewater systems, energy systems, building construction, aviation, communications and more. 

Mehany said the ratings could include categories that will be delineated further by credits and points, that could then be scored to determine infrastructure’s sustainability and resiliency. 

According to the release, the potential system will promote the USGBC’s objective over the four pillars of addressing sustainability, resilience, equity, and health and wellness. The final report also examined all USGBC rating systems and assessed their compatibility within any final scheme. 

“The USGBC came to us. That is how this whole thing came to be,” Mehany said. “They can take what we’ve developed and start making it into their own.” 

Dunbar said the USGBC will review the infrastructure sustainability and resiliency rating framework developed by CSU. 

“Our team performed a thorough study of the existing infrastructure systems and devised a structure for how a LEED for Infrastructure system could be created,” Dunbar said. “We presented our findings and recommendations to the USGBC. 

“While they are not currently in the mode of fully implementing new rating systems, the USGBC leadership was complementary and assured us that, when they are able to implement an infrastructure rating system, they would involve us.” 

Other Recent LEED News

At the beginning of April, the USGBC, Green Business Certification Inc., and the International WELL Building Institute released a streamlined process for projects pursuing certifications for the LEED green building rating system and the WELL Building Standard.

According to the release, the process streamlines documentation for projects that are pursuing both certifications at the same time or that have already earned one certification and are looking to add the other.

The USGBC reports that a new suite of tools and resources is available to applicants interested in pursuing LEED and WELL certifications, including:

  • LEED + WELL Crosswalk: This tool shows how individual LEED credits map to specific WELL features and vice versa. As buildings are being designed, project teams can use the crosswalk to identify where LEED and WELL are aligned and which strategies and initiatives support both programs;
  • LEED + WELL Submittal Form: This form is required for both LEED and WELL certification reviews. Project teams complete the form to identify which compliance paths are being utilized and communicate that information to the review team;
  • LEED + WELL Streamlined Certification Process Guide: This document outlines the process, requirements and implementation tools available to project teams; and
  • FAQ / Help Center Questions: Found in the USGBC help center and the USGBC website, these FAQs speak to specific project questions and scenarios.

Additionally, the organizations note that the versions of LEED are now eligible for streamlined certification with WELL v2: LEED v4 BD+C, LEED v4 ID+C, LEED v4.1 BD+C and LEED v4.1 ID+C.

Later that month, the USGBC announced 13 cities to participate in its LEED for Cities Local Government Leadership Program. The program aims to help local governments set goals, collect data, and validate performance through LEED for Cities certification.

According to the release, the 2023 cohort joins 77 local governments that have participated in the program since its inception. The program provides peer-to-peer networking opportunities, technical assistance and access to educational resources, and covers fees for USGBC membership, registration and certification reviews for participating governments.


Tagged categories: Certifications and standards; Colleges and Universities; Construction; Environmental Controls; Good Technical Practice; Green building; Green Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; LEED; LEED v4; LEED v4; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Projects - Commercial; Research and development; Sustainability; U.S. Green Building Council; United States Green Building Council (USGBC)

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