Developing a Framework for Integrating Climate Change Impacts on Infrastructure LCA

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climate change impacts infrastructure

Climate change in the form of extreme and chronic changes in temperature, precipitation, wind and sea-level will have a considerable and widespread impact on the operational and structural performance of infrastructures.

The current practices of infrastructure life cycle assessment (LCA) use of historical climate data would be unsuitable for long-term planning into the future.

Utilizing an LCA that integrates climate change is relatively new and requires an understanding of how infrastructure’s degradation, service life and maintenance schedule will be impacted by chronic and extreme climatic events.

Past studies that examined numerous pavement life cycle assessment (LCA) do not consider or integrate the impacts of climate change. Some studies however considered some impacts of climate change to road networks’ service life performance and associated life cycle cost.

The goal of the study is to develop a framework for integrating climate change impacts on infrastructure operation and structural performance into LCA (life cycle assessment).

A flexible pavement case study was used to illustrate the framework where LCA is analysed across several climate change scenarios.

Using an asphalt pavement case study, the framework was used to assess whether the current pavement design should be adapted to deal with climate change impacts.

The result shows that under the future climate data projections, assuming the RCP 8.5 scenario, the pavement performance profile will not change significantly during the first half of this century.

The international roughness index (IRI) and total rutting degradation were very close to the historical climate data. However, towards the end of the century, a new adaptive design measures are needed to optimise pavement performance.

The finding in the study may not be suitable to other regions with more accelerated changes in climate or higher traffic volumes. The inclusion of mechanistic performance models with climate change data introduces new uncertainties to infrastructure-based LCA.

For future research, the study recommends that the framework be applied and adapted to a diverse array of infrastructure system with the greatest sensitivity to climate change. These climate-sensitive infrastructure components should be modelled using mechanistic-empirical modelling routines.

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Source citation:

Guest, Geoffrey & Zhang, J. & Maadani, Omran & Shirkhani, Hamidreza. (2019). Incorporating the impacts of climate change into infrastructure life cycle assessments: A case study of pavement service life performance. Journal of Industrial Ecology. 10.1111/jiec.12915.

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