It's Not Even a Contest

What makes Greenroads stand out?

Why Greenroads and not those other guys? Greenroads is hands-down the superior rating system in this game of sustainability. How did we draw that conclusion? We did our homework.

What Makes a Good Rating System?

We can get a little wonky when it comes to Rating System development. Here's our perspective of what concepts Rating Systems should cover. [And yes, we've written a paper about these concepts too.]

Why Choose a Discipline-Specific Tool?

If the shoe fits, wear it; right? Sustainability is context-sensitive, so you should choose a Rating System that best suits the context.

Greenroads was designed with transportation projects in mind, and helps teams manage transportation needs in a language they understand.

  1. Fits existing funding systems, institutions, and other financial practice are discipline-specific. There is no catch-all "infrastructure funding" pot of money. Money is always tied to something specific.
  2. Fits with existing policy goals for sustainable development, at all levels of government.
  3. Highlights and tracks performance against existing transportation policies, including: active transportation, Complete Streets, watershed management, air quality goals. Can help enforce and monitor effectiveness of these policies.
  4. Measure and manage performance, consistently, throughout a network, to show progress over time.
  5. Communicate what it means to be green for the discipline in terms that are easy to understand and share with the public.
  6. Define what is "above and beyond."
  7. Specifically, for Greenroads, you will be choosing an internationally-recognized, tested and calibrated, empirically-supported, industry-vetted, peer-reviewed tool that measures discipline specific impacts.
  8. Set and manage goals for a project that make sense for the transportation context.

With Greenroads, each choice that is made on a project has a meaningful, measurable performance outcome. If nothing else, we feel the whole game of sustainability has to have clear purpose, clear fit to context, and a practical, achievable goal that makes sense for the people doing the work, as well as the end users. It needs to tell its own story and make sense.

Greenroads vs. Other Transportation Rating Tools

Greenroads is the only 3rd party tool specifically for transport projects.

A good analogy of 3rd party tool vs. self-assessment: can you imagine if you were in school and you were allowed to assign your own final course grade? You might expect that most students would try to be pretty honest, but likely wouldn't be surprised to learn that they fudged the truth a bit.

The same thing happens in transportation and sustainability. Self-assessment just doesn't cut it. We know from working with our project teams that teams tend to overestimate actual performance by more than 15%, up to as much as 40%! There is a big difference between saying you are doing something, which makes you feel good; and doing something, which means you earn it.

Most other tools are based on old versions of Greenroads or were directly written by or influenced by our developers. Fun fact: Organizations using these tools programmatically are usually positioned to become successful Greenroads Projects.

Greenroads vs. Infrastructure Rating Tools

Most infrastructure tools are third-party programs, like Greenroads, so we get this question a lot.

We like to say: infrastructure tools compare apples to oranges. Greenroads compares apples to green apples. 

  • Many infrastructure tools do not measure construction or measure only promises to perform, not actual performance. They function like awards programs with a really long, complicated application, and a gentleman's agreement.
  • With most infrastructure tools, projects are graded on a curve. The curve is set by the project team, not the independent rating team. Teams are allowed to change the denominator of the equation, which means that projects are not comparable: from one to the next. It's awfully difficult to track and manage performance when the game changes every time. A 93% sounds great, but what does it mean if a project that looks nothing like it also gets 93% but did fewer things? It's hard for us to understand the point, and we are experts and have been doing this for a decade.

Greenroads is different from infrastructure tools because it is discipline-specific, and uses a consistent, common and easily achievable baseline of activities across all projects (we call these Project Requirements). For example, all Greenroads projects must complete and document some sort of environmental condition assessment before the project gets started, even if this would not normally be required. Greenroads measures actual performance outcomes according to the same total scale. For Certification, we check the progress of each activity and score it as the project develops and gets built. This means there are consistent features or processes that can be seen and documented after the project is built on all Greenroads. Beyond that, teams can set their own strategy to hit their own performance targets, or even earn extra credit.

What's important about this approach is that it makes Greenroads Projects recognizable to the user. We know in transportation that this is a very powerful, visible message to a community about what their local officials are actually doing to be greener.

Greenroads vs. Site Development Rating Tools

Site development tools do not know transportation as well as Greenroads, and the amount of detail is usually insufficient to provide adequate recognition for beyond compliance. Most of these are extensions of building rating tools that do not work for transportation projects. [We are working with USGBC to integrate into the LEED-ND program. Stay tuned.

The rating system structure used by the SITES tool is similar to that used by Greenroads (minimum requirements + earn points above and beyond). SITES 2009 is actually referenced in Version 1.5 for our stormwater management credits. There is a lot of consistency between tools, but the intended audience of SITES doesn't really fit the horizontal construction industry that well.

Greenroads vs. Building Rating Tools

We suggest you do not try to use a building rating system to rate a transportation project. It is not a good fit (e.g. square peg, round hole). We tried it back in 2006-2007; hence, Greenroads.

Greenroads vs. All Those Other Rating Tools

Be careful when considering what "rating system" means. One can easily get paralyzed in analyzing these things. Most tools are not used beyond pilot projects, test cases, or are otherwise gathering dust on a shelf. There are not 900 of them to worry about, or some other crazy numbers we have heard. Do not fall into the notorious rating system rabbit hole. Realistically, there are about 10-20 possible rating tools that may work for transport projects that vary substantially in scope, rigor, level of adoption and level of practicality.