Sustainable infrastructure: the Zofnass (En)vision

The largest indoor sport fish hatchery in North America is the first ever recipient of the EnvisionTM Gold award for sustainable infrastructure. The award ceremony on July 24 that honored the William Jack Hernandez Fish Hatchery of Anchorage Alaska was the culmination of 6 years of collaboration by the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at the GSD with the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure to create a rating system for infrastructure sustainability. It also marked the start of a new phase in implementing the Envision standards on a wide scale.

The Zofnass Program, directed by Spiro Pollalis (professor of design technology and management), began in 2008 to do for infrastructure what LEED has done for building-scale sustainability: develop and promote tools that help quantify the sustainability of infrastructure, facilitate the adoption of sustainable solutions and expand the body of knowledge regarding sustainable infrastructure. Faculty and student research associates from across Harvard (including the College and Schools of Public Health, Business, Government and Law) worked with the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure and an impressive team of the largest and most knowledgeable architectural engineering firms to create and disseminate the Envision Rating System.

Envision provides a holistic framework for evaluating and rating the community, environmental and economic benefits of all types and sizes of infrastructure projects. It gives recognition to initiatives that use transformational, collaborative approaches to integrate sustainability measures through the course of the project’s life cycle.

The Hernandez Fish Hatchery scored highly favorably in Envision’s key categories: quality of life, leadership, resource allocation, natural world and climate change and risk. Designing the hatchery brought together a broad coalition including the plant owner, Alaska public facilities officials, designers and engineers who planned for sustainability at every stage of the project’s development. The facility is a vast improvement over the brownfield site it replaced and it’s estimated to generate $20 million annually in economic benefits to the state. Since it is designed to recirculate 95% of the water it uses, it’s far less costly than similar facilities and uses less valuable ground water.

Paul Zofnass, program founder, Andreas Georgoulias (lecturer in architecture and Zofnass program research director), and Anthony Kane (MDesS ’09, research associate and Zofnass Program rating system director) attended the Envision award ceremony at the American Council of Engineering Companies headquarters in D.C. It was a celebration not only of the achievements of the Hatchery but also the growth of Envision itself. Since ISI and Zofnass launched Envision, the program has trained hundreds of professionals in the Americas, Europe and Asia and has started rating projects. The Inter-American Development Bank will recognize sustainable projects in Central and South America in their annual meeting in March in Brazil. A second project has already registered for an award, taking Envision one step closer to securing widespread acceptability within the planning and civil engineering Industry.

Zofnass research continues to refine economic benchmarks and develop tools to measure the sustainability of infrastructure systems and cities. Envision amply demonstrates the merits of design education at the GSD: excellence in applied research, leading specialists towards reaching a larger social goal.

Learn more about the Zofnass Program, the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure and the Envision Rating System.

View a video about the Hernandez Fish Hatchery.