How Greenroads Works

Learn more about the Rating System and the online Project Workspace.

The Greenroads Rating System is a collection of sustainability best practices, called "credits," that relate to transportation design and construction. Achieving these credits can earn points toward a total score for a transportation project. The resulting score can be used as an indicator of sustainability performance for the project. The steward of the Rating System and administrator of the voluntary Project Rating Program is an independent nonprofit organization called Greenroads Foundation, based in the Seattle area of Washington State.

Greenroads Foundation oversees and administers the Project Rating Program, which uses the Rating System to measure the sustainability performance of projects.

Basics of the Rating System

There are 61 credits in the current version of the Greenroads Rating System. Each sustainable practice is assigned a point value according to its lifecycle impact on a transportation project.

Within the 61 credits, there are two types of credits: mandatory (all projects must do them and these credits do not earn points) and voluntary (teams elect which to pursue and earn points). Voluntary credits track a variety of economic, social and environmental measures against specific performance targets and thresholds that are designed to encourage behaviors and performance above and beyond minimum compliance.

The 12 mandatory credits are called “Project Requirements” and must be completed and documented by all Greenroads Projects. These 12 credits are designed to be reasonably achievable by any team that actually tries to do them in concept and design development. Project Requirements activities carry no point value because these activities form the baseline for a transportation project to be considered “green.” The Project Requirements span all parts of a project lifecycle from early environmental planning, social and community decision-making, economic considerations, construction planning and operational management.

Greenroads also includes also 45 voluntary credits arranged in 5 Core Categories that a project team can choose to pursue or not. Each of these Core Credits is worth 1 to 5 points. The five categories are:

  • Environment & Water (10 credits and up to 30 points)
  • Construction Activities (11 credits and up to 20 points)
  • Materials & Design (6 credits and up to 24 points)
  • Utilities & Controls (8 credits and up to 20 points)
  • Access & Livability (10 credits and up to 21 points)

Finally, Greenroads includes 4 additional credits called Extra Credits in a category called Creativity & Effort for up to 15 points. These credits recognize things like prioritization of local values, the number of accredited and educated professionals on the team, enhanced performanced beyond minimums in the Core Credits and new ideas that are not otherwise included in the Rating System.

The total points associated with each credits that are achieved are added together to give a final Greenroads score. The more points, the higher the certification level. Currently, there are four Certification levels: Bronze (40 points minimum), Silver (50 points minimum), Gold (60 points minimum), and Evergreen (80 points minimum). 

A Greenroads Rating on a Project can then be used directly for sustainability tracking, internal information and performance management, public communications, and more. 

Greenroads Online and the Project Workspace

Greenroads is not just a publication, it is a process that involves collection and management of project documents and construction data. Projects that are interested in participating in the Project Rating Program will use the Greenroads Website for all of the communication with Greenroads staff and each other. The Project Workspace is a proprietary web platform that is developed specifically to help teams manage the records and progress of their Greenroads projects from start to finish.

Each Project is assigned its own private, team-confidential workspace. Some of the features of the workspace include:

  • A listing and short description of your project in the Project Directory
  • Access to the Greenroads Rating System online, where you can read and view each credit and its instructions.
  • Uploading documents and links to your projcect
  • Adding and managing the access privileges of your team members
  • Saving and storing expected scores
  • Tracking and managing documentation records on the Timeline tool
  • Keeping track of your Greenroads records including agreements
  • Submittal deadline management
  • Communication and feedback with your Greenroads reviewer

Have a look at some of our Tutorials to get an idea of how Greenroads Online works.

Why It Works

Greenroads is designed to incentivize behaviors that direct the user to achieve meaningful performance above and beyond compliance. While being noncompliant is certainly worrying, merely being in compliance is not all that exciting either. A voluntary, performance based rating system allows teams to go beyond the minimums and earn commendations from an independent authority for making good choices for future generations.

We like to say that sustainability is the next great game in transportation, so Greenroads keeps score.

Games are challenging, voluntary and engaging.

“A game is an opportunity to focus our energy, with relentless optimism, at something we're good at (or getting better at) and enjoy. In other words, gameplay is the direct emotional opposite of depression.” Jane McGonigal, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

Here are a couple of examples of encouraging behaviors we have seen:

  • Project teams with Greenroads experience tend to win more future Greenroads work
  • Project teams can differentiate themselves with experienced players, including STPs or those who worked on projects previously
  • Integrated teams that are more collaborative have better overall scores
  • Owners that do Greenroads keep coming back because it helps them manage their sustainability performance goals and practice what they have learned

Sustainability takes effort and practice to do well. Practice makes better. Greenroads helps teams build better projects, and we are committed to raising the bar as industry practice gets better and better.