Sustainability isn’t exactly a new concept to the mass transit industry. After all, the U.S. Green Building Council awards points in the Locations & Linkages category for LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certification which focuses largely on public transportation options. However, sustainability moves beyond the buses and rail systems transit agencies operate. The transit industry can be a leader in sustainability, and not just by offering the community a more sustainable way to get around. There are a number of ways to integrate sustainable principles into your facilities and capital projects.
“Public transportation is part of the sustainable story. If you look at the LEED score card, you get points for being in close proximity to transit. They recognize that transit is a more efficient way of traveling,” explains Seth Horton CPC, EIT, LEED AP, transit practice leader at Progressive AE.
According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), “sustainability is about practices that make good business sense and good environmental sense. It is balancing the economic, social and environmental needs of a community.” For the public transportation industry, APTA states that this means:
- Employing practices in design and capital construction, such as using sustainable building materials, recycled materials and solar and other renewable energy sources to make facilities as ‘green’ as possible.
- Employing practices in operations and maintenance, such as reducing hazardous waste, increasing fuel efficiency, creating more efficient lighting and using energy-efficient propulsion systems.
- Employing community-based strategies to encourage land use and transit-oriented development designed to increase public transit ridership.
“Once you develop a project that has sustainable features, it’s not like you check the box and say, I’ve done this, and move on. Sustainability is inherently part of continuous improvement,” explains Susannah Kerr Adler AIA, URS Corp., vice president/national director, Transportation Facilities. “So you may do a facility that is part of a program for a capital program that you can’t for a variety of reasons implement a whole slew of sustainable principles now, but you set targets and goals for the future where you either go back or implement other things that will help bring that project into a more sustainable side of things.”
Before a project can start, your organization needs to sit down and discuss your goals and objectives. Aliesa Adelman, LEED AP at Wendel Companies, stresses the importance of having all disciplines (design, engineering, the client, etc.) involved in the project to be thinking about it in the realm of sustainability. “Having it be a session where you have the landscape architects, the engineers there, the design team, including the owner, and bringing these ideas out and having it be a think tank, breaking outside of the mold and outside the box and being able to surpass what the client wants, being able to look at how this effects the community,” she says.
Kerr Adler agrees saying, “I think the first question an agency, and quite honestly any organization, needs to ask itself is what are the objectives, what are the goals for wanting to be more sustainable. For some it’s going to be we really feel it’s important to have a LEED-certified facility from a perception standpoint, this is really critical. Others perhaps may be more focused on environmental impacts, we’re not building any facilities per say but we want to focus on being a carbon neutral or having a zero carbon footprint; that’s an objective we want to move to. Then once the objectives or goals are set for the short term you can define the specifics to support those goals.”
Jeff Remtema, director of sustainability at Progressive AE, says before anything can start they need to understand where an agency stands on sustainability as an organization and where their values are. “That’s when we plug it into a score card; that’s when we find out if you are at a [LEED] certified level or something higher than that,” he says.