Bringing the Envision sustainable design framework to Europe
April 21, 2020
April 21, 2020
Stantec partnered with the Italian national railway group on an Envision Platinum verified section of the Naples-Bari line
In the spring of 2019, at an Envision conference filled with executives from major Italian infrastructure companies, Stantec project manager Giovanni Ranza (Milan, Italy) found himself revelling in the moment. He nodded in appreciation as industry leaders shared on stage how much they valued the Envision protocol, a new standard of excellence in Italy.
Listening to the accolades, Giovanni knew his team had made its mark.
“In 2015, we embarked on a journey to disseminate Envision itself to Italy,” says Giovanni. “We had to find a way to adapt these standards to the Italian industry on a national scale. In the beginning, our team felt pressure to deliver and we were a little unsure of how to proceed, but I always knew we were up to the challenge.”
In completing the task, Giovanni’s team had created a pathway to future opportunities in a growing and previously untapped market.
The Envision sustainable design rating system is a new standard of excellence in the world of sustainable infrastructure and it speaks to what we value most at Stantec: creating stronger, more resilient communities. At its core, Envision provides performance objectives to help teams identify sustainable approaches during planning, design, construction, maintenance, and through to end-of-life phases of a project. Envision helps meet sustainability goals across the full range of social, economic, and environmental indicators. Well-established in North America, Envision is only gradually emerging in Europe.
So how does a team translate a North American rating system into international standards? Methodically, strategically, and with a healthy dose of perseverance.
First, Giovanni and his team became Envision Sustainability Professionals (ENV SP) in 2015. They then partnered with ICMQ (Institute for Certification and Quality Mark), an Italian certification leader in the construction industry. This partnership led to an exclusive agreement with the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI), the non-profit organization that developed Envision. The agreement allowed ICMQ and Stantec to promote Envision in Italy and offer Envision training and verification on behalf of ISI.
This unprecedented partnership caught the attention of RFI (Rete Ferroviaria Italiana) and Italferr, the operating and design companies of the Italian national railway group. Together with Stantec, they designed a landmark Envision project in Italy.
RFI had ambitious plans. They wanted to unite the south of Italy from the Tyrrhenian to the Adriatic Seas with the construction of the Naples-Bari railway line. They also wanted this to be the first Italian infrastructure project designed according to the Envision protocol.
The journey towards verification started with training RFI and Italferr staff to become Envision Sustainability Professionals themselves in order to understand the Envision language.
The Italian national railway group wanted this to be the first Italian infrastructure project designed according to the Envision protocol.
“Once we had everyone speaking the same language, we set out to translate over 60 Envision requirements in a way that was meaningful to RFI and Italferr,” explains Giovanni. “That is, we had to assess the applicability of Envision credits in the Italian regulatory context and identify the Italian equivalent of the US and Canadian regulations referenced in the Envision manual. Our goal was to create a set of guidelines that would provide them with a roadmap on how to design to Envision standards and ultimately achieve verification.”
Giovanni’s team worked alongside ICMQ to conduct a gap analysis of the entire Naples-Bari line and assisted RFI in selecting the best section of the line to submit for Envision certification.
With the section chosen, the team proceeded to carry out the project verification, assessing the evidence provided by RFI and measuring the sustainability performance against each credit’s requirements.
As it turned out, RFI scored well on several Envision categories, including
Stimulating sustainable growth and development
Encouraging alternative modes of transportation
Preserving historical and cultural resources
Reducing environmental pollution and climate change
Based on their ability to meet the various design requirements, ICMQ awarded RFI the Envision platinum certification—the highest achievable level—for the design of the Naples-Bari route. Not only was this the first certification granted for sustainable infrastructure in Europe, but it was also the first railway design in the world to be Envision certified—a distinction that has put Envision on the global stage.
“The importance of this specific initiative lies in the fact that it addresses a vast section of Italy that’s currently underserved by infrastructure. A new major railway line like this one can definitely contribute towards making the surrounding areas more attractive for business and tourism,” explains Giovanni.
The team’s work on this project spoke as much to the future of social sustainability as it did to Stantec’s commitment to creating more resilient communities around the world—an alignment of values that made the experience that much more fulfilling for Giovanni and his colleagues.
“I think on all fronts, this project helped to reinforce our core values as a company and to be an ambassador for a protocol that strives to create positive benefits for communities is something we’re very proud of,” says Giovanni.
For Giovanni, the growing interest in Envision is leading to unprecedented opportunity. “We hope to make Envision a criterion to win work, similar to the LEED certification for buildings,” he says. “We started from zero and now there’s country-wide interest in this topic.”