The American Society of Civil Engineers unveiled details of a long-awaited sustainable infrastructure certification program during the group’s national conference on Oct. 21-23 in Las Vegas. Tailored to be broadly adaptable to particular circumstances, the program brings some 900 existing sector-specific rating systems under one umbrella.

After successful case studies, the system called PRISM, or Project Rating for Infrastructure Sustainability and Management, will launch in May 2011. The voluntary rating system, developed by ASCE, the American Council of Engineering Companies and the American Public Works Association, aims to do for bridges, roads and waterways what the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program does for buildings. “This will be comprehensive and similar to LEED,” but it won’t address habitable buildings, says Sustainable Solutions LLC President Peter D. Binney, a panelist at the event who insists PRISM won’t compete with LEED.

PRISM will have similarities to LEED, including points-based scoring that leads to four levels of project certification. Points will be awarded for project management, community outreach, ecology and resource management, among other factors. PRISM will offer education, training and publications as well as an online practitioner certification course.

“We have completed the core framework and user’s manual for PRISM 1.0 as well as the initial testing,” says ASCE Vice President Carol W. Bowers, who oversees sustainable infrastructure systems development. “PRISM will be a public statement of environmental intent.” It will be administered by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, a joint-venture nonprofit entity.

Like LEED, PRISM seeks to become a national standard with mainstream popularity. However, it differs from LEED because it has a flexible and scalable approach for project size and complexity.

Key elements OF PRISM*
• Voluntary web-based rating as well as third- party independent verification.
• Based on triple bottom line: economic, environmental and social impacts.
• Identifies sustainability benefits for practitioners, owners and regulators.
• Scalable for size and complexity and adaptable for specific needs and circumstances.