Carbon emissions evaluation for highway management and maintenance

2013-04-19T08:08:51Z (GMT) by Emioshor Itoya
Highway clients are increasingly concerned with the environmental consequences and sustainability implications of their highway maintenance service. This is because the service consumes a significant amount of natural resources, is financial and energy-intensive and is a large Greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter responsible for global warming and climate change. This has placed the highway maintenance sector, including its supply chain under increasing pressure to deliver well-maintained low-carbon maintenance service, whilst addressing its climate change impacts. The highway stakeholders increasing focus on carbon footprinting is a direct response to the legal obligation presented by the enactment of the UK s Climate Change Act (2008) and the Carbon Reduction Commitments. Investment decisions on highway infrastructure must now account for carbon and financial costs in a balanced manner. Highway clients now require their supply chains to demonstrate the capacity to reduce both direct and indirect carbon, and provide carbon footprint information relating to the work done or being tendered for. This is driving the sector to re-think its business operations within environmental, economic and social limits, which inherently presents risks and opportunities poorly understood by the stakeholders. It requires an in-depth understanding of the business operations, inputs and outputs. These business requirements are compounded given the lack of an agreed industrial methodology standard focusing on carbon footprinting, the knowledge and skill gaps, system boundary definitions, credible industrial data and their collection approach. The aim of this study is to develop a project-focused and process-based carbon footprinting methodology that includes a decision-support and carbon management tool to assist carbon management decision-making in highway maintenance planning and operation. This study then explored how the PAS2050 protocol can enhance the highway maintenance service delivery carbon footprinting and identify opportunities for reduction. It briefly reviews carbon emissions performance and the UK s highway maintenance sector, and developed a methodological framework that includes a carbon evaluation tool (the sponsor s business focus tool) based on the PAS2050 protocol. The framework developed is specific to highway maintenance planning and operation. It offers a carbon Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) tool that can identify emission hotspots across the process value chain, and inform a carbon reduction hierarchy. The implementation of the PAS2050-compliant methodology framework and the carbon evaluation tool for core highway maintenance processes (for example, pavement resurfacing, pavement marking, bulk lamp replacement and grass cutting), in addition to carbon footprinting across different site locations (urban, semi-urban and rural) are presented. The results indicate that materials production and their delivery to site (embodied carbon) are areas of carbon hotspots. This represents an important decision point for highway designers, managers and maintainers in order to deliver low-carbon service. These carbon hotspots suggest a less energy-intensive or green materials manufacturing process, responsible sourcing, use of recycled and secondary materials sourced locally (closer to sites) and delivered in bulk. The step-by-step carbon footprinting approach presented in this study is unique. It can be used by other sectors within the built environment as a pragmatic means of identifying and prioritising areas of potential carbon reduction through informed decision-making.