The Greenroads Rating System

Greenroads logo

Over the past couple decades the LEED rating system has taken its place as the most widely used and trusted rating systems for green buildings around the world. The primary goals of a LEED building are to have a positive impact on the health of occupants while promoting renewable, clean energy.

Typically buildings have garnered most of the attention in green construction, and rightfully so. It is widely known that generating electricity (used mostly by buildings) makes the largest contribution to GHG emissions in the US. What most people do not know is that the transportation sector contributes almost the same amount – see the pie chart from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES). In fact, about 1/3 of all GHG emissions comes from the transportation sector. That figure not only includes emissions from the vehicles using the routes, it also incorporates the emissions contributions from construction and maintenance.

GHG Emissions by Sector Pie Chart 1The Greenroads rating system, developed right here at the University of Washington, is a holistic approach to building and maintaining a road in a way that is gentle on the environment. A set of prerequisites that address erosion, noise, light pollution, etc. must first be met. Further certification is achieved by accumulating points for going above and beyond the prerequisites. The system includes metrics for storm water management, wildlife habitat conservation, work zone health and safety, community connectivity, construction materials, travel time, life cycle costs, and so much more.

The Greenroads rating system is still young – less than 5 years old – and it remains the only third-party, points-based system available to certify sustainable transportation infrastructure projects. If it catches on it will standardize how road projects are measured for sustainability.

As previously mentioned, the Greenroads system is very similar to LEED. Numerous studies have been done on LEED buildings and the overwhelming majority, including this one done by the US Department of Energy (, show that in the long run certified buildings save money and are better for the environment. The same results should be expected for green roads.

I believe that Greenroads can become the leading rating system for sustainable roads in the US and maybe one day, the world. The problem is that right now most people do not know about it. The best thing we can do is advertise it. Share it with friends and construction companies and show it off at transportation conferences. Thanks to social media and improved communications systems, ideas are traveling faster than ever. And the quicker it gains support the quicker it will develop into the transportation sustainability rating system we need.

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