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Implementing Sustainable Development Practices

Many localities and regional entities have committed to support sustainable communities in comprehensive plans, green infrastructure plans, and other plans, but they haven’t been able to convert plans to action in community development. They run the risk of being too vague in their requests (e.g. conserve natural resources) to being very narrowly focused (e.g. use WaterSense products). In addition, communities that make commitments to sustainability practices such as supporting land preservation, high density development zones, green corridors, improving community mobility, transit, and non-motorized travel options, have found these are not always enforceable. Since Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, they have relied on voluntary efforts promoted by demonstration projects (leading by example), award recognition, incentives, and other mechanisms.

As a volunteer on the Policy Committee, a constituent of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Committee on Sustainability, I assisted in surveying the industry for mechanisms to support sustainable development practices. We identified four primary pathways: legislation, policies, design standards, and procurement for individual projects. We summarized our findings and described case studies in the attached guide “Soliciting Sustainable infrastructure.” We have made a database and library of all of the case studies available to ASCE members and are planning to expand availability.

As a result of that research, we created the brief technical report “Sustainable Procurement of Infrastructure.” The report provides language that can be copied and pasted into procurement documents to incorporate more sustainable practices. This document has language addressing the top 10 topics that we thought would be the most straightforward to implement, monitor, and report on successes (we anticipated creating a second report to address additional topics).

For more information on this research, copies of the reports, or to hear how to implement these practices, contact me at

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