By Jennifer Hundl, PE, CFM, ENV SP
As an advocate for sustainability within our built environment, people outside the industry ask me how sustainable infrastructure is produced and graded. Often, the term ‘sustainable infrastructure’ can seem counterintuitive, but our industry has made great strides in producing functional, aesthetic structures and infrastructure that is self-sustaining, environmentally conscious or both.
I define sustainability of a project as having the quality of being effective and efficient use of our natural resources. It means the responsible investment of taxpayer dollars designed for needs now and generations to come. Given our current situation of entering year two of a global pandemic, the question must be raised: ‘Is a commitment to sustainability viable during COVID-19?’
An example: With more people spending their day at home, there has been an increase in residential water usage. Thankfully, local agencies and community partners within Greater West Houston have had the foresight to preemptively prepare our infrastructure to be sustainable. Cinco MUD 1 aggressively pursued opportunities to reduce the amount of fresh groundwater consumed within its service area through a variety of initiatives, including conservation, education, brackish desalination, and reclaimed water reuse for irrigation. Those measures are each designed to reduce water use and address the three major problems facing the region today: 1) drought, 2) subsidence, and 3) rising water rates due to conversion requirements.
The West Houston Association’s Sustainability Stars Program was created to encourage and recognize sustainable engineering innovation efforts in land development and infrastructure. Efforts such as the one described above should be recognized to shift thinking to long-term forward thinking.
Applicants can apply here.
The Sustainability Stars program is structured using five ‘types’ of awards that follow a project from Pre-Design through Construction. It also has categories for third party partners and project sponsors or agents who may be unlisted in the program itself, however, have had meaningful effect.
Applications are reviewed by the Sustainable Infrastructure Committee which is led and comprised of industry leaders across disciplines who have an active interest in the enhancements of the long term economic, social and environmental outcomes of development and infrastructure within the greater Houston area.
About the Author
Jennifer Hundl, PE, CFM, ENV SP is a hydrologist that investigates large-scale watershed reduction alternatives as well as assists clients in the development of regional detention basins.
She is passionate about wanting to make the region a better place to live while protecting our natural resources and providing opportunities for our residents to explore nature. “In every walk in nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir