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.
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.]
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.