We’ve heard a lot of talk about “going green” in the last few years. But what does a sustainable future really look like? Green infrastructure may be the answer – or at least an important part of it.

Green infrastructure paves the way for sustainable and eco-friendly urban living. A new certification program helps professionals learn the skills they need for the green jobs of today and tomorrow.

What is Green Infrastructure?

Green infrastructure and stormwater management go hand in hand. Instead of using traditional “gray” systems like pipes and gutters, green infrastructure relies on natural methods of removing excess water from urban areas.

Trees, soils and plants store or soak up stormwater. This helps get rid of pollutants in the area naturally, whereas traditional infrastructure often drains pollutants into local rivers. Green infrastructure is environmentally friendly and provides many job opportunities for professionals who build and maintain these systems.

Other benefits of green infrastructure? More green spaces in cities are not only pleasing to the eye, but they also absorb heat. Green infrastructure also helps prevent flooding, as plants soak up stormwater that would have runoff into local streams.

Certified to Go Green

To promote this innovative process, DC Water and the Water Environment Federation (WEF) created a training program on the ins and outs of green infrastructure. The National Green Infrastructure Certification Program (NGICP) helps construction and maintenance professionals learn about processes like bioretention, rainwater harvesting, and permeable pavements.

GKY & Associates helped finalize the course materials for this program, and GKY staff also taught some of the classes.

“This is an exceptional course, providing instruction on the environmental benefits and lifecycle characteristics (including construction and maintenance issues) of green infrastructure,” said Stuart Stein, GKY president and NGICP course instructor. “The certification will be a valuable credential to demonstrate practical knowledge to potential employers and customers,” Stein said.

The weeklong course is designed for maintenance and construction professionals looking to learn new eco-friendly skills. Participants are required to take a pass or fail test at the end of the course, in order to receive their certificate.

This certification is the first of its kind in the country, establishing standards for workforces nationwide. In November, municipalities in the D.C. area encouraged their staff members to participate in this program. More than 20 employees from Fairfax County, Virginia and Montgomery County, Maryland were among the first workers to participate in this type of training.

According to the Fairfax County website, the NGICP program also helps Virginia companies comply with new state regulations. New stormwater management rules favor green infrastructure methods.

After construction projects end, organizations involved have to demonstrate that they have implemented measures that reduce runoff and pollutants. Green infrastructure helps reduce harmful runoff, helping to satisfy Virginia’s new runoff calculation policies. The certification will give employees necessary skills to inspect Virginia stormwater management infrastructure.

Greener Pastures – What’s Next in Green Infrastructure?

Graduates of the program will also be more prepared to help their organizations meet Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit requirements. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, an MS4 is a “conveyance or system of conveyances” that transport “polluted stormwater runoff”.

MS4s typically consist of gray infrastructure, like storm drains and pipes. However, MS4 permits are increasingly focusing on green infrastructure – one more reason the NGICP certification benefits professionals.

The goal of all of these changes is to replace gray infrastructure with natural solutions. Greener infrastructure means cleaner water, and healthier communities.

“Green infrastructure is the wave of the future,” Stein said. “Not only is it being actively pushed by regulatory agencies, it is also increasingly valued by our citizens, who are far more aware of environmental amenities and issues.”

In the long-term, courses like the NGICP program will help workers grow in their careers. As states become more and more concerned with environmental issues, green certifications will be invaluable to employees engaged in this type of sustainability work.

Whatever the future holds, greener cities are likely on the horizon thanks to new green infrastructure methods, trainings and regulations.

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Want to learn more about green infrastructure? If you think your municipality or company could benefit from these eco-friendly solutions, GKY can help. Get in touch with GKY experts today!

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