When I started working with Envision six and a half years ago, under Envision Version 2.0, it was the wild west for the framework. As consultants, we were figuring out how Envision could best add value to project teams, how to apply it in different regional and sectorial contexts, and how to estimate costs associated with higher levels of sustainable performance. One of they key concepts clients wanted to understand was “What is the business case for sustainability?” My approach was to redirect their focus by asking, “What are the risks and costs of not taking a holistic approach to this project?”. More often than not, Envision proved itself an effective answer to both questions, as a valuable tool for 1) identifying opportunities to enhance project sustainability and 2) identifying risks to enhance project resilience. These opportunities and risks span the three pillars of sustainability and climate change impacts.
Envision offers an opportunity to evaluate and enhance projects by strengthening the sustainability performance of the infrastructure asset within the context of its operating environment. By looking at project risks and opportunities through an Envision lens, areas of improvement and gaps can be identified to make projects more robust. With 64 credits, across five categories (Quality of Life, Leadership, Resource Allocation, Natural World, and Climate and Resilience), there are ample strategies to add value and mitigate risk. Approaches can be tailored to focus on areas of importance, priority, and “materiality”; “material” areas have critical value to the client, project partners, and stakeholders. When a project is initiated, the intent is not to pursue every credit at the highest level of achievement available, but to prioritize the credits that add the most value when weighed against their trade-offs. By giving consideration to the 64 topics under Envision, project teams can select and give attention to critical items while passing on others if they are not feasible given a project’s scope and constraints.
Although Envision provides a mechanism for rating and verifying project performance through a third-party award system, this is just one way the framework can be used. Some clients elect to take pieces from Envision to enhance their process, maximize performance, and strengthen project risk management. Others go through a formal tracking and reporting process with their designers and contractors but may decide not to pursue an award for the project. All these approaches are valid and can add value. Envision, when applied properly, offers a pragmatic, flexible, and integrated approach to sustainable planning and design. The flexibility of Envision is what makes it accessible to such a variety of projects teams and is one of the reasons it has gained so much traction since its initial launch at the end of 2012.
Quin MacKenzie | MBA, BSc, ENV SP
Co-Founder & Consultant