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Life Cycle Assessment for Local Government Pavements: What Questions Should We Be Addressing and How?

UCD-ITS-RP-13-134

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UC Pavement Research Center

Suggested Citation:
Harvey, John T., Alissa Kendall, David Jones, Ting Wang (2013) Life Cycle Assessment for Local Government Pavements: What Questions Should We Be Addressing and How?. 2013 Airfield & Highway Pavement Conference: Sustainable and Efficient Pavements

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a systems approach developed to provide decision support for questions regarding the environmental impact of industrial processes and products. The application of LCA to pavement management, design, and construction helps to avoid the paradox of decisions that improve one aspect of sustainability of a pavement system, while unintentionally causing greater harm elsewhere. LCA has had some major advances within narrower questions of environmental performance, but still requires development to answer broader questions. In the meantime, pavement life cycle cost must also be considered when addressing sustainability decisions. This paper presents some important pavement management, design, and construction sustainability questions that can be addressed by urban and rural local governments in California, at both the network and project levels. The paper then discusses definition of system boundaries and functional units for analysis to avoid significant unintended consequences. Typical types of data that would be needed to quantitatively answer environmental sustainability questions and a process for LCA are described. An approach for considering life cycle costs for different options that improve pavement sustainability is the final step in the process presented. Current major gaps in this type of pavement sustainability decision support are identified.

Key words: Pavement design, industries, construction materials, decision support systems, environmental issues, pavements, life cycles, local government, California, United States