Green line: Skanska delivers on rail vision

L.A. to Santa Monica: Skanska’s design-build delivery of the Expo II light rail line broke new ground at Greenbuild 2016.

This year, for the first time, the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo featured a transit project as part of its show program: the Skanska-built Expo Line Phase 2, the country’s first-ever, Envision-certified transit project, and our first to achieve this celebrated designation.

The 6.6-mile extension of the Expo Line light rail was certified at Envision’s highest level, Platinum, and lays claim to another first: connecting downtown L.A. and the Santa Monica beach by train for the first time in more than six decades. Designed and built by a Skanska-led joint venture — the project is the first transit work to be certified under Envision’s sustainable infrastructure rating system, which was launched last year, and is still gaining in popularity in the U.S.

  • To read how Envision was developed by ASCE, ACEC, APWA, and Harvard University, click here.

Enabling the Platinum certification included specific project aspects such as significant hiring of local craft labor, sourcing regional materials to the highest standards of the Envision program and integrating the new rail line with other means of transit, from bus systems to bike paths. “This is a significant milestone,” said Beth Heider, Skanska USA’s Chief Sustainability Officer. “Envision certification shows that no matter what you’re building, it can be built green.”

“This is a significant milestone… Envision certification shows that no matter what you are building, it can be built green”

— Beth Heider, CSO, Skanska, new USGBC fellow

Helping Shape Envision

Administered by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI), Envision consists of a broad range of criteria that address a project’s impact on the surrounding community and environment, technical considerations regarding materials and processes, and other critical choices spanning the project’s lifecycle. In key ways, Envision aligns with how Skanska defines sustainability.

As beneficial as Envision is, the current version is focused on the planning and design phases of a project, with little focus on construction. For the next version of Envision due out in 2018, Skanska has a key role in incorporating construction aspects throughout the system, and in leading the development of four credits focused on construction activities.

Ryan Prime, Skanska USA Civil’s sustainability director, chairs the ISI group overseeing the extension of Envision into construction. He finds his involvement “hugely motivating,” he said.

“Week by week, it is becoming clear that Envision is gaining more and more traction in the industry,” Ryan added. “It makes me very proud to work for Skanska, which affords me the opportunity to be part of a major industry shift like this… I am also proud of how Skanska does business… Our focus on values positions us to be a leader in sustainability.”

Back to the Environment

Major pieces of transportation infrastructure — such as bridges, roads, and rail lines — might not call to mind environmentally beneficial projects.  U.S. civil infrastructure projects in many ways have been green, but have lacked a way to measure and guide their green activities. Envision provides a holistic framework to do that, enabling projects to aim for higher levels of green performance while also helping [them] achieve broader sustainability goals over the long term.

“We believe that eco-certification helps drive innovation and efficiency, which is positive for everyone involved: our customers, the local communities and the environment, as well as our business,” said Greg Chant-Hall, head of sustainability for Skanska Infrastructure Development.

Moving forward, all of our public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the U.S. now must be either Envision- or LEED-certified. By 2020, all of our U.S. civil infrastructure projects will seek Envision certification.


Based in Seattle, Jay Weisberger (below) is senior director of communications (West) at Skanska USA. This article was adapted from a post earlier this week at Skanska USA’s Constructive Thinking blog.

The author (left) and a colleague celebrate Skanska’s recognition this week on the show floor in L.A.

Similar to how it embraced LEED when that rating system arrived in 1998, Skanska has committed to integrating Envision into its U.S. civil infrastructure work, as exemplified by its Journey to Deep Green color palette. As a charter member of ISI, Skanska also sits on the review board overseeing Envision. To date, over 60 Skanska employees have achieved the Envision Sustainability Professional (ENV_SP) designation.

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