International trade and commerce have increased due to the burgeoning world economy of the 21st century. This has brought economic prosperity and growth to port cities and communities and, subsequently, ports have increased in size to meet these demands. While this growth and expansion has been a great source of economic benefit to communities, it has also come with impacts to the environment and to neighborhoods. Ports realize it is necessary to change the traditional way of developing the infrastructure needed to meet business demands. For new development, ports require a “sustainable” course of action that seeks to maximize economic, social and environmental benefits while minimizing impacts to the environment and communities.

Many ports have taken a position of “beyond compliance” and are moving forward on defining sustainable industrial development through implementing management systems, guiding principles and policies. These management systems and guiding principles, however, differ from port to port, making it impossible to develop a one-size-fits-all solution.  Representatives from seven U.S .West Coast ports recognized the need to incorporate sustainable attributes into port planning, design, construction and post-construction operations and also valued collaboration from diverse port authorities to create sustainable practices that could be applicable to all.

Representatives from the Ports of Portland, Seattle, Tacoma, Los Angeles, Vancouver US, San Diego, and Long Beach agreed to form a technical committee – the Joint West Coast Ports Technical Committee – in order to develop a compendium of sustainable design and construction guidelines limited to marine industrial development. The Guidelines are intended to be specific enough to apply to West Coast ports yet flexible enough to be used by ports in other regions or countries.

The Technical Committee committed to develop the Sustainable Design and Construction Guidelines in order to:

  • Define sustainable marine industrial development at the project level;
  • Allow for flexibility and adaptability by individual ports;
  • Build upon the sharing of best practices, keys to success, and lessons learned for implementation;
  • Identify options and opportunities to implement sustainable attributes that are considered “beyond compliance”;
  • Establish objective guidance and measurement of  port  sustainability;
  • Provide a consistent approach to sustainable maritime industrial development across the enterprise;
  • Establish a common language that is understood by internal and external port stakeholders; and
  • Enhance the overall efficiency, productivity, and environmental performance of each port without disadvantage or limitation to the other ports.

In partnership with the International Institute for Sustainable Seaports (I2S2), each committee member provided funding for Guideline development. The Guidelines were developed over a series of in-person meetings and conference calls during an eighteen-month timeframe.  The end result was a significant amalgamation of best practices and sustainable attributes incorporated into an Excel-based data tool.

For more information, please view the Sustainable Design and Construction Guidelines (Excel) and the related How-To Guide (PDF).