Transport is a key driving force behind societal and economic development. Communication, economic development and the dissemination of ideas have always been shaped and enabled by transport systems.

With transport infrastructure becoming increasingly complex, engineers, planners and designers need to integrate considerations of whole-life environmental and social impacts – positive as well as negative – in both the mainstream and commercial aspects of their work. Increased quality of life is the end goal in all our endeavours, and thus wise use of natural resources, minimum adverse impact and maximum positive impact on people and the environment become targets.

Involving politicians, business leaders, business associations and representatives of civil society in stakeholder consultation is essential, if sustainable transport systems and green infrastructure are to be achieved. The outcome of theses consultations should be reflected on and focused in carefully coordinated action plans where public awareness-raising will work and act as a prominent feature. Certification schemes have the potential to play a vital role in the process.

How Can ’Green’ Infrastructure Projects Be Planned?

We are now used to the terms ‘green building’, LEED and BREEAM and we know that a ‘certified’ building is synonymous with a ‘green building’. But what about roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects? How do we know if a road is a ‘green road’ for instance?

We are not so used to certification of infrastructure although the concept is not new - certification of infrastructure projects is now well established in the UK (via CEEQUAL, the Civil Engineering Environmental Quality Assessment and Award Scheme,). CEEQUAL is a British assessment and award scheme for improving sustainability in civil engineering and the public realm. The scheme was developed in 2003 and has gained recognition in the UK and Ireland. The interest in CEEQUAL is staring to spread to the rest of Europe and to the Swedish Transport Administration. (WSP, 2011)

Certified infrastructure design, construction work and operations have the benefit of potentially reduced environmental, social and economic costs and the key features of CEEQUAL include:

  • Promotes consistent evidence collection which can facilitate access to information for designers, contractors, operators or road authorities.
  • Offers independent verification and certification of infrastructure construction and maintenance activities whilst enabling benchmarking, collaboration and knowledge sharing with infrastructure clients and peers
  • Prompts dissemination of good practice and consistency in approach to sustainability across design, construction and maintenance stages.
  • Has the ability to cover sustainability aspects that are not routinely addressed by existing processes such as Environmental Impact Assessments or the design Manual for Roads and Bridges

CEEQUAL is an assessment framework appropriate to any civil engineering or public realm project and does not have different versions for different types of infrastructure; any differences are taken into account in the scoping-out process carried out at the beginning of each assessment.

In promoting environmental and social best practices and measuring environmental and social performance, CEEQUAL is therefore a tool that assists significantly in driving for more sustainable development and construction in the civil engineering industry and profession. CEEQUAL builds on current guidance and environmental good practice in civil engineering projects and supports UK Government strategy by providing the civil engineering industry with an incentive and protocol for assessing, benchmarking and ‘labelling’ the sustainability performance of projects as part of the industry’s contribution to sustainable development. CEEQUAL supports clients, designers and contractors in dealing positively with environmental quality and many social issues relevant to an infrastructure project.

Concluding on our analysis it is thus our recommendation that CEEQUAL should be adopted and developed when undertaking infrastructure projects – it is a tool that could help promoting sustainable means of transportation, construction of roads, etc. and as such it could prove to be an essential key-stone in the drive for sustainable development.