In a paper published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, researchers at the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub (CSHub) examined the use-phase of pavements to study the many factors that influence its environmental footprint. Their work finds that the use phase of pavement is highly context-dependent.
The researchers used a life-cycle assessment of all stages of a road’s life and found that there are significant emissions associated with a pavement during its operational life and that several factors, like the pavement quality impact on fuel efficiency, lighting, and its ability to absorb carbon dioxide through carbonation all contribute to this footprint. What’s more, these factors can vary depending on the pavement’s context, which includes the climate and the amount of traffic, which can make a pavement’s use-phase impacts difficult to calculate.
The study shows just how many contextual factors must be considered during a pavement’s use-phase in order to make it as sustainable as possible. “It’s important to not assume any environmental impact for any given context,” explains nment,” explains Jeremy Gregory, CSHub executive director and an author of the recent paper. “You really have to run the numbers.”
The MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub is a team of researchers from several departments across MIT working on concrete and infrastructure science, engineering, and economics. Its research is supported by the Portland Cement Association and the Ready Mixed Concrete Research and Education Foundation.
Access the study here.