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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Life Cycle Assessment of Pavements: A Critical Review of Existing Literature and Research

  • Author(s): Santero, Nicholas
  • et al.

This report provides a critical review of existing literature and modeling tools related to life-cycle assessment (LCA) applied to pavements. The review finds that pavement LCA is an expanding but still limited research topic in the literature, and that the existing body of work exhibits methodological deficiencies and incompatibilities that serve as barriers to the widespread utilization of LCA by pavement engineers and policy makers. This review identifies five key issues in the current body of work: inconsistent functional units, improper system boundaries, imbalanced data for asphalt and cement, use of limited inventory and impact assessment categories, and poor overall utility. This review also identifies common data and modeling gaps in pavement LCAs that should be addressed in future work. These gaps include: the use phase (rolling resistance, albedo, carbonation, lighting, leachate, and tire wear and emissions), asphalt fumes, feedstock energy of bitumen, traffic delay, the maintenance phase, and the end-of-life phase. This review concludes with a comprehensive list of recommendations for future research, which shed light on where improvements in knowledge can be made that will benefit the accuracy and comprehensiveness of pavement LCAs moving forward.

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