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Relating INVEST to Other Sustainability Tools

While there are other sustainability tools available that address different aspects of the highway profession, INVEST is the only tool that meets all of the following:

  • Specific to transportation
  • Covers the full transportation life-cycle, from early system planning, through preliminary design, final design and construction, and continuing through operations and maintenance.
  • Free
  • Based on a self-evaluation
  • Does not require third party certification 

INVEST can be used on its own, in conjunction with other tools, or tailored to meet a specific agency's needs.  FHWA drew upon ideas from other rating systems during the development of INVEST and continues to coordinate with developers of other tools.

In short, INVEST is practical and built for the real world: completely voluntary, private, free, flexible and practical.

The figure below summarizes INVEST's niche among other tools related to sustainability and infrastructure:

Use in Conjunction with Other Tools

While INVEST was created to be used as a separate tool, it can also easily be used in conjunction with other tools. Developed by CH2M Hill, the following seven step approach provides the framework for how any agency would go about using multiple sustainability tools in conjunction with one another:

TriMet Example

An example of an agency that used INVEST along with another sustainability tool is TriMet. In addition to INVEST, TriMet also used the Envision Sustainable Infrastructure Rating System as the basis for creating an initial sustainability matrix for the Portland Milwaukie Light Rail (PMLR) Transit Project. Envision is the product of a joint collaboration between the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure, the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure. It is intended to provide a holistic framework for evaluating and rating the community, environmental, and economic benefits of projects. Using these two sustainability evaluation tools together was hugely beneficial to TriMet and cannot be overemphasized. Envision is designed to focus more broadly on many different types of infrastructure projects, and it provided an initial matrix from which to develop an exhaustive list of criteria that engendered the collection of available data. Used in conjunction with INVEST, these metrics helped to clarify project accomplishments, serve as a baseline for the INVEST analysis, and highlight gaps in either systems or practices currently in place.

Customize to Meet Agency Needs

INVEST is a national tool designed to meet the needs of a broad range of agencies who have the flexibility to use the tool to best serve their needs. As such, some of the criteria, or some aspects of some criteria may not apply well to all agencies. For example, the Project Development module provides a custom scorecard to address this issue and better meet the needs of different types of projects. Also, because INVEST is a self-evaluation tool, users can interpret the criteria through the lens of their particular context rather than following the criterion exactly. As INVEST is intended to measure performance above and beyond current requirements and typical practices, agencies should not expect to score points on every criterion. The value of INVEST lies more in the process of evaluation and working towards improving sustainability outcomes rather than focusing solely on the score itself.

Illinois Tollway Example

One such agency that adapted the tool to meet their needs is the Illinois Tollway. Illinois Tollway developed supplemental text to add to existing INVEST criteria and developed some of their own criteria based on Tollway-specific needs. The supplements incorporated additional best practices and scoring elements into the INVEST criteria. Some were specific to the Tollway while others come from other sustainability rating systems, including I-LAST and Greenroads.

In addition, the Illinois Tollway added criteria in areas they felt were important, but that were not already covered by INVEST. These included criteria such as regional employment, which were not appropriate at the national level, as well as criteria related to goals that are important to the Illinois Tollway's service area, such as visual aesthetics and light pollution. The Illinois Tollway has also developed a criterion for the incorporation of innovative sustainable roadway design or construction practices to allow for the use of cutting edge technology and encourage the development of new methods.