Exploring Possibilities for Expanding Sustainable Infrastructure in Largo

In addition to my efforts working with fuel consumption, I have also been researching the Envision rating system for sustainable infrastructure and working to understand how The City of Largo might be able to incorporate the system into its infrastructure development and management. The primary focus for this was streets and stormwater infrastructure. The Envision system guides the design and development of infrastructure projects to produce triple bottom line sustainability benefits. Projects are encouraged to make in-depth considerations for the social wellbeing of the surrounding community, possible risks and vulnerabilities brought on by changing conditions, impacts on ecosystems and natural resources, and the life cycle impacts of materials and resources used during construction and operation.
As someone who was relatively unfamiliar with the extent of what the public works department actually did with regard to streets and stormwater, I soon found that the Envision system was somewhat difficult to apply to the aspects of infrastructure management that the department was involved with. The Envision system is designed to be used primarily during the design and construction phases of infrastructure projects, while the public works department is involve mainly with smaller scale reactive and preventative maintenance activities rather than design or construction. Despite this, I still wanted to come up with some sustainable infrastructure ideas that the city could consider employing in the future. As part of this process, I researched a number of green infrastructure features for stormwater management including bioswales, bioretention areas, and permeable pavements, which became part of my recommendation for how the city might begin to develop more sustainable infrastructure.
Permeable pavements like the ones seen here can help urban areas to mimic the natural hydrology the area by reducing runoff and allowing water to filter into the groundwater table.

Exploratory steps towards a Sustainable Fleet

Exploratory steps towards a Sustainable Fleet in The City of Largo, Florida

I’d like to share a general overview of some of the options for reducing fossil fuel consumption that I chose to look into. Alternative fuel options were one of the ideas I wanted to investigate in terms of how viable it would be to incorporate different fuels into the city’s fuel portfolio to cost-effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. From the fuel consumption data, I found that the majority of fuel consumption came from diesel vehicles, so the main focus was finding fuel alternatives for heavy-duty diesel vehicles (biodiesel and compressed natural gas). With regards to compressed natural gas, I was looking to figure out the economics of incorporating a new fuel into the city’s fleet as well as the sustainability of natural gas when compared to diesel. In terms of economics, I needed to consider not only the cost of the cost of the fuel, but the cost of accessing the fuel (since CNG fueling facilities are not nearly as ubiquitous as gas stations), differing capital costs for CNG vehicles, cost of retrofitting the maintenance shop to accommodate CNG vehicles, etc. I found that the only pre-existing CNG fueling station in the area is about 7 miles away from the public works complex, which is the home base for many of the heavy-duty vehicles that would potentially be using CNG. I decided to pay a visit the station so that I could see the CNG fueling infrastructure for myself. With a fueling station already existing nearby, CNG may be able to play an important transitional role in the city’s efforts to operate more sustainably.

Issues with fuel data

As I mentioned earlier, one of the goals of my internship is to develop a picture of the city’s fuel consumption over the past few years and to propose ways to reduce fossil fuel consumption in the future. As a starting point for this project, I had a few meetings with Largo’s fleet manager and other staff members in the division who deal with vehicle fueling on a daily basis. I was given access to an asset management system, which stores fuel consumption data so that I could begin generating reports and identifying fuel usage trends over recent years. As I began working on this and looking at the data, I found that the information did not match with the amount of money spent reported to have been spent on fuel in the annual budgets. This began a process of working with the fleet manager to determine why the data was so inaccurate and what can be done to ensure that I have reliable data for my analysis. After a good deal of exploring the various software systems and pieces of equipment involved in recording fuel consumption, we found that the aging fuel pumps were not accurately recording the true volumes of fuel being pumped each day to the electronic system. To hopefully get around this issue, I will be working on trying to find out if the department has any fuel consumption data that has been recorded in such a way that it is not subject to this problem.

Here are some of the stacks of data that I sorted through before discovering the inaccuracies

City of Largo – Week 2

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.

Photo Mar 31, 4 18 26 PM

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.

First Post – City of Largo

Hi everyone, for my first post I’ll give a quick overview of my internship project. I’m doing my  internship just across the bay from Tampa with the Public Works Department at The City of Largo. Like many local governments, Largo is strategically aiming to increase the sustainability of its operations and reduce its costs. The work I will be doing will be encompassed by two projects aligning with these goals.

Housed within the Public Works Department is the Fleet Management Division, which is responsible for all acquisitions, fueling, and maintenance of city vehicles. The first project involves working with this division to research possible improvements to the fuel efficiency of the city’s fleet, and to research the possibility of introducing alternative fuels to reduce both costs and carbon emissions.

The other major focus area of my internship will involve the ISI Envision rating system. For those not familiar, Envision was developed by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure as a sustainability rating system for infrastructure projects. Envision essentially aims to accomplish for infrastructure what the US Green Building Council’s LEED system has accomplished for buildings. My goal with Envision will be to determine if there are any aspects of the city’s Streets & Stormwater maintenance operations to which the Envision principles can be applied.

Below is a photo of the Public Works Administration building where most of my work during this internship will take place. While this may not be the most interesting photo, it shows the department’s sign of accreditation from the American Public Works Association, which is a point of pride for the department and a way for the city to display its high level of performance and service to the community.