Life Cycle Assessment for Road Construction and Use

Posted by Carlos Breno Pi...
Full LCA available on the web
Publication year: 
Concrete and Asphalt pavement for motorway construction and maintenance
Quality and sources
Is the study a: 
Detailed LCA
Was a critical review performed?: 
Is the study compliant with ISO 14044?: 
Sponsor name(s): 
German Concrete Marketing Organisation "Betonmarketing Deutschland GmbH
Sponsor type: 
European Concrete Paving Association
Practitioner(s) type: 
Institut/Technical research center
Functional unit: 
The functional unit in the present study was a 1 km long section of a two-lane (on each carriageway) motorway section with a pavement thickness of 85 cm.
Goal and scope of the summary: 
This study aims at quantifying the environmental impact of motorways. As well as pavement construction, the ecological impact of a motorway under traffic as well as the effect of maintenance over a period of 30 years have been analysed systematically using the LCA methodology according to ISO 14040. All input and output values for the individual processes in the production and use of pavement for a motorway section were taken into account. This included the production of materials, provision of energy, manufacture of the necessary products, transport services and the employment and disposal of the individual products. Emissions into air, water and soil were determined and, using the Dutch CmL method, assigned to the impact categories global warming potential (GWP), ozone depletion potential (ODP), photochemical ozone creation potential (POCP), acidifcation potential (AP) and eutrophication potential (EP). The Swiss database “ecoinvent” was used. Processes not available in the database were analysed and modelled on the basis of existing upstream-processes. The data were evaluated with the LCA software “SimaPro”. Possible reductions in environmental impact were determined by considering various scenarios.
Comparison of the environmental impact of concrete and asphalt pavement for motorway construction and maintenance shows that their effect on GWP is similar. For ODP the asphalt pavement causes a potential environmental impact which is 430% more than with concrete. In the case of POCP, AP and EP the impact is from 160% to 220% more with asphalt. This LCA study shows that the environmental impact due to the construction of motorways, their use by traffic and their maintenance can be reduced. The potential environmental impact can be reduced by optimizing the production of the construction materials. In the case of concrete motorways, a reduction in the clinker content of the cement would reduce environmental impact by up to 21%; in the case of the asphalt motorways, the use of secondary fuels and the increased reuse of reclaimed asphalt would also reduce environmental impact. The evaluation of a service period of 30 years shows that durable construction methods and roads with low maintenance requirements offer significant advantages. The potential environmental impact due to traffic load is 100 times more than due to construction and maintenance together – the largest and most effective reduction in impact is possible here. Numerous studies have already shown the effect of pavement surface structure on fuel consumption.
A reduction in fuel consumption of about 10% could be achieved by the improvement of pavement surface texture or evenness as well as pavement stiffness. Further investigations and measures on pavement optimization would lead to more effective reduction of the environmental impact of roads. A reduction of fuel consumption of 0.5% over a service period of 30 years and for a 1 km motorway section would reduce CO2 emission by 1 154 t CO2-eq. A reduction of fuel consumption by 2% would lead to a reduction in CO2 emission (GWP) well above the impact of motorway construction and maintenance together. A reduction of 10% fuel consumption for just heavy goods vehicles would save 10 760 t CO2-eq. Thus construction methods aimed at lowering fuel consumption are far more environmentally effective than construction methods tailored to low impact during construction and use.
Material impact(s): 
Global warming
Raw material impact level: 
Manufacturing impact(s): 
Global warming
Manufacturing impact level: 
Shipping impact(s): 
Global warming
Shipping impact level: 

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Road construction is something which is frequently going on in our countries and can be found on any way. So read this.

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I hope the right companies will get their hands on their study and start taking into account these facts before making any business decisions. Environmental responsibility should become a priority that comes with a brand new ideology. This case study help will definitely make a difference for my term paper.

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