Strategies to Reduce Embodied Carbon in Roadway Infrastructure

Lead Author: Milad Ashtiani
Contributing Authors: Meghan Lewis, Brook Waldman, Kate Simonen

Roadway infrastructure results in significant embodied carbon, the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions released due to the extraction and manufacturing of materials and all other processes necessary to build and maintain the infrastructure. Parts I and II of this toolkit describe why embodied carbon is critical to address and how to account for roadway embodied carbon. This toolkit provides an overview of strategies for reducing embodied carbon in roadways.

Existing and proposed roadway carbon reduction strategies can be broken into several broad

1. Project design and delivery strategies: Early design and planning decisions at project level
that prioritize carbon reduction -among other sustainability metrics- as a goal.
2. Specifications, contracting, and procurement strategies: Stakeholder level strategies that
encourage, incentivize, or mandate the use of low carbon materials.
3. Emissions reduction strategies categorized according to LCA stage:

  • Material production strategies (A1-A3): Practices to extract, manufacture, and produce
    materials with lower upstream embodied carbon.
  • Construction activities strategies (A4-A5): Practices that reduce fossil fuel consumption
    from on and off road equipment and improve construction quality.
  • Use phase and end-of-life strategies (B and C): Practices that maintain roadway
    performance during lifecycle and sustainable waste management practices.

Agencies and other stakeholders should consider embodied and operational carbon reduction strategies in conjunction with other roadway goals related to, e.g., financial (e.g., life cycle cost,) environmental (e.g., biodiversity,) and social (e.g., justice, health) aspects.


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