Sustainable urban infrastructure expands on the concept of urban infrastructure by adding the sustainability element with the expectation of improved and more sustained urban development. In the construction and physical and organizational structures that enable cities to function, there is the aim of meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the capabilities of the future generations.
According to the College of Engineering and Applied Science of the University of Colorado Denver, urban infrastructure refers to the engineered systems (water, energy, transport, sanitation, information) that make up a city. However, challenges resulting from increasing population growth generated a need for sustainable infrastructure that is high performing, cost-effective, resource-efficient and environmentally-friendly.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency maintains that the planning process of sustainable design can lead to the development of a community that is ecologically, economically, and socially sustainable. The design emphasis for a sustainable urban infrastructure is on localization and sustainable living. The aim is to reduce individual's ecological footprint according to the principles of sustainable development in areas with a high population density.
The criteria for what can be included in this kind of urban environment varies from place to place, given differences in existing infrastructure and built form, climate and availability of local resources or talents.
Generally speaking the following could be considered sustainable urban infrastructure:
Sustainable urban infrastructure is also called sustainable municipal infrastructure in Canada. It is an infrastructure initiative that facilitates a place or regions progress towards the goal of sustainable living. Attention is paid to technological and government policies which enable urban planning for sustainable architecture and sustainable agriculture.
Several organizations in Canada related to the FCM InfraGuide project, including the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Infrastructure Canada, National Research Council of Canada, and Canadian Public Works Association, seek to achieve sustainability in municipal infrastructure especially large scale urban infrastructure, they advocate environmental protocols and inclusion of ecological and social indicators and factors in decision making at the earliest possible stage. There is little focus yet on sustainable rural infrastructure though this is a stated goal of the project, as is spreading it to achieve rural development in developing nations.
These and other Canadian official entities including the Auditor General of Canada and Service Canada are focused on related efforts such as municipal performance audits, information technology and communications technology, moral purchasing and sharing of "data, information, common infrastructure, technology" and the need to "integrate their business processes" to further reduce duplication and waste, especially e-waste and greenhouse gas emissions a concern under Kyoto Protocol targets that Canada has committed to achieve. In 2011, Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol due to economic concerns.
Communities of Tomorrow is a non-profit enterprise in Saskatchewan, Canada that fosters the development and commercialization of innovative sustainable infrastructure solutions for the global marketplace. Sustainable infrastructure is the development of water, sewer, roads, and other infrastructure systems that meet the needs of current and future generations in a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable manner. Communities of Tomorrow brings industry firms together with researchers to collaboratively develop new infrastructure solutions to existing or future problems with the ultimate goal to commercialize them. It’s about building greener and longer lasting infrastructure, such as roads and water systems, to offer the global marketplace.
The Swiss Global Infrastructure Basel Foundation (GIB) supports various stakeholders, such as governments, banks and cities, in the designing, implementing and financing sustainable urban infrastructure projects at all stages of the project cycle. Currently, GIB has developed, in cooperation with the French bank Natixis, the SuRe® Standard – The Standard for Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure, which is a global voluntary ISEAL standard. GIB has also developed the SuRe® SmartScan, a simplified version of the SuRe® Standard that serves as a self-assessment tool for sustainable infrastructure projects. It provides project developers with a comprehensive analysis of the various themes covered by the SuRe® Standard, offering a solid foundation for green infrastructure projects that are planning to become certified by the SuRe® Standard.
Roadside and urban infrastructures such as signposts, bollards and street furniture are prone to damage and deterioration. As infrastructure deteriorates, it requires either replacement or enhancement. Existing public funding sources are inadequate to meet the need. Self-healing technology could protect surrounding paving and foundations from damage when items of infrastructure are impacted, which can reduce maintenance and improve the sustainability of urban developments. Self-healing developments result in zero-waste and zero-landfill from maintenance on items of urban infrastructure for the life of the development.