Sustainable Urban Infrastructure Guidelines Integrate Environmental Performance Goals Into Infrastructure Design

October 1, 2013

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) formally released Chicago’s new Sustainable Urban Infrastructure Guidelines today, which will establish a citywide approach for integrating environmental performance goals into infrastructure design, as well as a five-year implementation plan for all CDOT projects.

Through the leadership of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the City of Chicago has committed to continue to lead in innovating and demonstrating to the nation the value and viability of building sustainably.

“These new infrastructure construction and design guidelines will help Chicagoans benefit from a high quality of life for the next century without depleting our natural resources,” said CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein.  “They will help CDOT implement cutting-edge sustainable practices, fulfill citywide environmental planning goals, and will be used to track the future environmental performance of the public right-of-way.”

The Sustainable Urban Infrastructure Guidelines document is composed of two distinct parts: Volume 1 lays out explicit sustainability goals, and illustrates how different strategies come together, complementing one another.

Volume 2, expected to be released later this year, comprises specific strategies, references, and resources that are identified to help project managers, resident engineers, and interested parties accomplish the set of requirements.

The guidelines are organized around eight environmental categories: water; energy; materials & waste; placemaking; economics; commissioning; urban ecology; and climate and air quality.  Each category has three to six environmental objectives which are implemented through over 60 specific requirements and 35 policies.   These are supported by a series of strategies, each with a matching set of performance metrics detailed in Volume 2.

The guidelines are aligned and integrated with the City’s Complete Streets Chicago Design Guidelines released earlier this year, and together comprise a progressive vision for implementing sustainable infrastructure with a wide range of transportation options for all Chicagoans.  

They work to create a comprehensive process, from project selection through maintenance and commissioning, which incorporates a wide range of physical, socio/economic, and environmental data analysis into CDOT’s daily activities.

The transportation right-of-way, which accounts for 23% of the land in the city and more than 70% of its public open space, is an essential component for improving environmental conditions as well as mobility and accessibility in Chicago.

CDOT has validated through past pilot projects that costs for sustainable infrastructure can be lower than costs for conventional infrastructure, and achieve innumerable economic benefits.  This holistic approach to urban infrastructure will ensure a sustainable future for Chicago.

“These guidelines and policies encapsulate all of the innovative techniques we have been employing for the last few years, and expands to incorporate new elements in our work, further creating a sustainable infrastructure for our residents, businesses and visitors,” Klein said.

The document is intended to be a reference for anyone in the city and the region interested in advancing the design and performance of their infrastructure investments, but is specifically directed to CDOT staff, with the goal of integrating sustainable best practices and ecological services into all of its capital projects and maintenance efforts. 

After a year-long trial review period of CDOT’s work through the new Sustainable Urban Infrastructure standards, the guidelines will be provided to other agencies, utilities, and City departments as they carry out infrastructure work in the public way.

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