The new Envision system, designed to rate infrastructure project sustainability, will incorporate one industry firm's approach to measuring "return on investment" and hopefully become a tool to better predict potential outcomes, said officials at the product's launch in Washington, D.C., on April 3.

Omaha-based HDR developed the tool to identify and monetize potential risks and outcomes associated with projects. Within the next year, Envision developers—the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure and the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at Harvard University—will marry elements of the sustainability ROI approach to the rating system.

Envision is the result of an effort by the institute's founding groups—the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Council of Engineering Companies and the American Public Works Association—to develop a sustainability approach they then linked to a separate one being developed concurrently by the Harvard program.

The new sustainable ROI model will help infrastructure decision-makers plan and build projects with a better sense of benefits and risks, both economic and social. John Williams, a New York City buildings consultant, says the tool is the missing piece that will help Envision become more robust. Last month, design firm executives and U.S. agency officials met to explore how the rating system could be used in federal infrastructure procurement (ENR 3/19 p. 9)

"Connecting the infrastructure rating system with return on investment is coming at a very good time, considering the infrastructure financing debate now going on in Congress," says William A. Wallace, president of Wallace Futures Group LLC and an early index developer. "We hope it can bring more logic and sensibility to the debate."