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DEP takes big step for sustainable infrastructure with ‘Envision’


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Riverkeeper is proud to see a progressive approach take hold in the infrastructure world: The “Envision” protocol, a system to make sure projects are designed sustainably, using smart, energy-efficient features.

We’re especially proud of the role we were able to play, through the work of our board member Paul Zofnass.

The Envision protocol grew out of the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Akin to the LEED rating system for green buildings, it is being embraced by engineers and government agencies alike.

Paul Zofnass funded the three-year Harvard program, which brought together about 20 professors, dozens of graduate students, and the sustainability directors of 30 engineering firms and government agencies. When that program teamed up with the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, founded by three major engineering associations, they created Envision.

We’ve just seen a major milestone for this forward-thinking approach. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection last month announced the first Envision-verified project in NYC, and the first Envision project for water infrastructure: A $150 million upgrade at the 26th Ward Wastewater Treatment Plant in Brooklyn.

This puts DEP at the forefront nationally. Its project is only the seventh Envision-verified project in North America. The plant is on a 57-acre site in southeast Brooklyn and serves about 283,000 residents in East New York, Canarsie and Brownsville. According to the announcement:

“DEP will be adding a fifth preliminary treatment tank and installing new energy efficient and durable main sewage pumps, process air blowers and LED lighting. Additionally, a green roof will be added to the facility, large blowers will be put indoors to reduce noise pollution, and all materials will be reused and recycled whenever possible.”

Riverkeeper helped connect the dots to make this happen. Like so many of our efforts, the key is bringing the right experts and visionaries together to solve problems.

Back in 2012, Riverkeeper helped connect the DEP, the Zofnass Program and the ISI. The upshot: DEP certified a number of its staff members in the Envision rating system and will apply the approach, at least internally, to all of its infrastructure improvement projects – about $1 billion to $2 billion in capital construction annually.

This effort is just getting started. Riverkeeper will be working with ISI to review the progress of the program and continue to revitalize and renew its operation. We will work with other infrastructure agencies to make new connections and spread awareness of this forward-thinking program.

Kudos to New York City for carrying this initiative a huge step forward. And kudos to the Zofnass Program and ISI for showing the way.

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