Sustainability has often been associated with the East and West coasts of the United States, but increasingly, Midwestern cities have become strong supporters of sustainability activities as well, especially as they relate to civil infrastructure development. Some, such as Kansas City, Mo., have embraced the concept of sustainability and made it a core value for both new and existing infrastructure. Through the application of the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure’s Envision program, Kansas City is becoming a model for sustainable development.
The City of Kansas City’s commitment to the Envision program begins with city leadership and extends down to the departments — in particular, the Water Services Department. In 2013, Kansas City’s Mayor Pro Tem Cindy Circo became one of the first elected officials in the nation to achieve accreditation as an Envision Sustainability Professional. As an elected official with significant interest in infrastructure projects, she has encouraged Kansas City Water Services to incorporate the Envision principles into the long-term plan for the utility.
“As an Envision Sustainability Professional and an elected official, I am able to better understand, promote, and encourage sustainable decision-making as part of our community’s long-term infrastructure investments,” Circo said. “This is an exciting program that I am proud to be a part of and I look forward to applying it here in Kansas City.”
Kansas City Water Services is uniquely positioned to incorporate the Envision philosophy as part of programmatic development and implementation. The city’s Overflow Control Program was the first in the nation to include green infrastructure as part of a Federal Consent Decree to improve water quality by reducing sewer overflows.
The program represents an estimated $4.5 to $5 billion investment over a 25-year period and is the largest infrastructure investment in Kansas City’s history. While Kansas City’s Overflow Control Program will provide a launching point for the application of Envision principles, Kansas City Water Services also plans to incorporate Envision processes and protocols throughout future programs and projects.
Kansas City Water Services began by applying the Envision philosophy to the very foundation of the utility. With Circo’s support, the department has achieved certification as a public sector agency, nine Water Services staff members have become credentialed as Envision Sustainability Professionals, and the department has plans to establish Envision project management specialists in the near future. Kansas City Water Services is also examining and revising existing procedures to incorporate Envision protocols. This complete approach encompasses the standardization of language in requests for qualifications and proposals, identification of sustainability tasks in the project scope of work, standardization of construction details and specifications, and revised communications protocols. Water Services has a goal of establishing two Envision-certified projects by 2016, with an overall goal of achieving a systemic framework for community, environmental, and economic benefits for all projects.
“The application of Envision will support Water Services’ goal of maximizing the return on the investment our customers are making through the Overflow Control Program,” said Terry Leeds, Water Services director. “Sustainable decision-making is a key attribute that will continue to impact our work today, and for generations to come.”
Kansas City is committed to reaching city-wide goals for sustainability. The city has allocated more than $68 million to green infrastructure projects, the first of which was completed in 2012 as part of a 100-acre green solutions pilot project. Kansas City will be applying the Envision process, along with lessons learned from the pilot area, to the next phase of this project, which encompasses sustainable practices as part of the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of constructed improvements in the 644-acre project area.
“Kansas City will be incorporating the principles outlined in all five categories of the Envision program to guide sustainability improvements as part of this important infrastructure investment,” said Andy Shively, Water Services engineering officer. “The principles will be implemented from the onset of the project, allowing Water Services to maximize the benefits to the community.”
Design professionals have applied the Envision principles to the project planning process beginning at the project’s inception. Project plans include green infrastructure improvements at strategic locations to capture rainwater, ultimately reducing the occurrence of sewer overflows. The project will also create amenities for the community and serve as a national model for green infrastructure best management practices. Based on an initial assessment, the project is expected to achieve a high score in three of the five Envision credit categories: Quality of Life, Leadership, and Natural World. Kansas City Water Services intends to enhance the project to meet requirements in the remaining categories, which will bring the project to a potential achievement level of Platinum, the highest Envision rating possible.
The measureable outcomes applied through the Envision process directly support Kansas City’s vision for becoming a national model for sustainable practices. Kansas City will continue to use the Envision principles to guide future projects as part of the city’s Overflow Control Program, as well other key infrastructure investments.
Jennifer Rusch is media relations coordinator with Kansas City Water Services. More information about Kansas City’s implementation of Envision and the city’s Overflow Control Program is available at www.kcwaterservices.org. More information about the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure and the Envision Sustainable Infrastructure Rating System is available at www.sustainableinfrastructure.org.