UW team creates way to certify sustainable road projects

A UW team has helped develop the world’s first system to rate the sustainability of road construction and maintenance projects. “Roads are a big chunk of the construction industry that has an opportunity to participate more fully in sustainability practices,” says Steve Muensch, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at UW, the faculty member involved in the project.

Certification programs for buildings and appliances have been highly successful at bringing attention to sustainability in those areas, but there was no similar system for road construction—an $80 billion-per-year industry in the United States.

Muensch worked with graduate students—the principal researcher was first Martina Soderlund, an exchange student from Sweden, and is now doctoral candidate Jeralee Anderson—and with the consulting firm CH2M Hill to develop the system, which is called Greenroads.

To achieve Greenroads certification, a project must meet certain requirements such as completing an environmental review process and making a plan to reduce noise pollution, plus gain up to 118 points for things such as habitat restoration, improving bicycle accessibility and using recycled and local materials.

For now, the program is still in the on-ramp stages. A handful of pilot projects are under way around the country, and the first certifications are expected later this year.