The Sustainability Certification of infrastructure projects in Latin America

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The Sustainability Certification of infrastructure projects in Latin America

In view of the mounting level of poverty, hunger, serious illnesses, gender disparities and illiteracy, as well as the rapid deterioration of ecosystems and biodiversity on the planet, the United Nations formed an international commission at the beginning of the 1980s in pursuit of solutions to these problems. In April 1987, this Commission released the report "Our Common Future", also known as the Brundtland Report, where for the first time the concept of Sustainable Development was defined as "that which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". The report also established the social, economic and environmental dimensions as the pillars upon which Sustainable Development must be based.

In light of the environmental impact of these buildings, responsible for 40% of the total electricity consumption, 17% of drinking water or 33% of CO2 emissions, several sustainability certification systems were developed for the building sector. These systems are made up of a good practice guide linked to a set of indicators that assess the sustainability of projects by assigning points according to the degree of achievement of goals defined for each indicator. The first systems that emerged in this sector at the turn of the 1990s were BREEAM (United Kingdom) and LEED (USA).

That said, specific systems to assess the sustainability of infrastructure projects were not developed until 2004. The United Kingdom, USA and Australia respectively designed three systems to be used preferably in their geographical area: CEEQUAL, Envision and IS Rating Tool, which helped assess the project at each one of the different stages of its life cycle: design, construction, operation and maintenance.

The development of infrastructures in Latin America has witnessed a significant slump in recent decades as a result of the drop in prices of mineral raw materials, the main source of income from their economies. 

The implementation of sustainability certification systems for infrastructure projects has not gained ground in Latin America and the Caribbean. Despite this, initiatives including the Infrastructure 360º Awards, which are led by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), seek to promote knowledge and use of the Envision system on key projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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