This week has been concerned primarily with gaining an understanding of the daily operations of the city’s streets and drainage division and the Envision rating system to see how the sustainable infrastructure principles outlined in the system might be able to fit into the city’s practices. I had a few Ideas to explore right off the bat. Green infrastructure features for stormwater management like bioswales and permeable pavements were a couple of the concrete ideas that I had. I wanted to look into the city’s current utilization of these kinds of features, determine how they could be used more widely, and determine their potential benefits. However, after gaining a better understanding of the public works department’s role in the development of the city’s infrastructure, I found that public works deals primarily with relatively small-scale preventative and reactive maintenance of existing infrastructure. When any new infrastructure project is undertaken, the responsibility falls to the city’s engineering division, which contracts the project out. Envision is designed for analyzing the start to finish design, management, construction, and operation of major infrastructure projects. Consequently, I’ve found that the kind of operations that public works is concerned with are not conducive for analysis using such a comprehensive rating system as Envision. Of course, this does not mean that the city does not have the potential to use Envision to help with the development of sustainable infrastructure, just that public works may not be the best department to be at the forefront of those efforts. This highlights one of the most valuable aspects of this internship. It is extremely important as an aspiring sustainability professional to have an understanding of the inner workings and organizational structures of both governmental and non-governmental agencies and firms with respect to the ways by which they make decisions to implement concrete sustainability measures in the real world.
After spending some time out in the field with each of the public works divisions, I was able to get settled here into my desk nook and get started on my projects.