NOAA recently announced that Deborah Lee, director of NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL), is being credentialed as an Envision Sustainability Professional by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure. She is the first NOAA employee to do so, and joins a group of more than 3400 engineering professionals nationwide with this credential.
“Envision offers the ideal opportunity to translate environmental and social science into on-the-ground climate action,” says Lee. “The Envision framework offers infrastructure professionals and owners a means for acting upon NOAA’s climate information and services to build sustainably and equitably for the future.”
ENVISION encourages systemic changes in the planning, design, and delivery of sustainable, resilient, and equitable civil infrastructure through education, training, and third-party project verification. The Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) was founded by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Public Works Association, and the American Council of Engineering, and developed and manages the program and the framework.
Throughout her career Lee has been a leader in the field of civil engineering, often bridging the communications and knowledge gaps between the natural resource research fields and the science of engineering. She served on the Governing Board of the Environmental Water and Resources Institute (EWRI), part of the ASCE, from 2019 through 2022, and served as the EWRI President in 2020-2021. She championed NOAA working with EWRI and other ASCE Institutes to consider a changing climate in codes, standards, and manuals of practice. She was recognized with the ASCE President’s Award in 2022 for her efforts. This certification adds a new dimension to her scope and knowledge as a certified engineer and hydrologist.
The Envision rating system evaluates all types of public and private infrastructure projects. Once verified, ISI applies an overall score to project submissions. When applied throughout the design, construction and operation of a project it can foster improvement in the sustainable performance and resiliency of physical infrastructure, including nature-based projects.
“The framework serves as a decision-making guide, not a set of prescriptive measures,” Lee says. One part of the framework, for example, works to award credit for the greenhouse gas emissions. Another section works to advance equity and social justice and assigns points based on addressing the social, economic, and environmental benefits and impacts of a given project.
NOAA designs, builds and operates facilities to which the Envision framework could be applied, providing third party verification and recognition of NOAA’s leadership in the realm of climate-ready infrastructure. Entities within NOAA also do substantial habitat restoration and nature-based infrastructure projects, often through partners that could be encouraged or required to use the Envision framework to ensure the projects meet the intent of the U.S. Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act appropriated funding goals.
NOAA GLERL and its partners conduct innovative research on the dynamic environments and ecosystems of the Great Lakes and coastal regions to provide information for resource use and management decisions that lead to safe and sustainable ecosystems, ecosystem services, and human communities.
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