Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of a Concrete Highway

Paper by ANDERSSON ANDERSSON from ISCR 9th 2004 Instanbul Turkey

The environmental performance of a Swedish concrete highway was analysed by use of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). As a base, a similar study carried out in Finland was used [1, 2]. The system investigated include extraction of raw materials up to the user phase (traffic and lighting). The intention of our paper is to illustrate: 1) the importance of a systems perspective when planning infrastructure; 2) that minimal environmental performance can be made one of the criteria when planning and contracting the infrastructure; and 3) how the effects of changes concerning maintenance strategies, road design and concrete recipes can be investigated through simulations. Our results show that the fuel consumption related to traffic is the most important parameter for the total environmental impact caused by a highway during its service life. A one per cent reduction in the heavy traffic┬┤s fuel consumption means reduced negative environmental impact twice as large as the total contribution from the rest of the life cycle. A bright surface has also significant environmental benefits due to a reduced need for lighting. Finally, our results show that the environmental performance of a Swedish concrete highway has significantly improved since 1996. This is due to the improved environmental profile of Swedish cement and improved knowledge concerning pavement design and maintenance. Our main conclusion is that LCA is very valuable for incorporating environmental aspects in the development of more sustainable infrastructure. The systems perspective is of utmost importance in order to avoid sub-optimisations from both an environmental and a socio-economic point of view.

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