Life cycle assessment of bridges, model development and case studies
Abstract: In recent decades, the environmental issues from the construction sector have attracted increasing attention from both the public and authorities. Notably, the bridge construction is responsible for considerable amount of energy and raw material consumptions. However, the current bridges are still mainly designed from the economic, technical, and safety perspective, while considerations of their environmental performance are rarely integrated into the decision making process. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a comprehensive, standardized and internationally recognized approach for quantifying all emissions, resource consumption and related environmental and health impacts linked to a service, asset or product. LCA has the potential to provide reliable environmental profiles of the bridges, and thus help the decision-makers to select the most environmentally optimal designs. However, due to the complexity of the environmental problems and the diversity of bridge structures, robust environmental evaluation of bridges is far from straightforward. The LCA has rarely been studied on bridges till now.The overall aim of this research is to implement LCA on bridge, thus eventually integrate it into the decision-making process to mitigate the environmental burden at an early stage. Specific objectives are to: i) provide up-to-date knowledge to practitioners; ii) identify associated obstacles and clarify key operational issues; iii) establish a holistic framework and develop computational tool for bridge LCA; and iv) explore the feasibility of combining LCA with life cycle cost (LCC). The developed tool (called GreenBridge) enables the simultaneous comparison and analysis of 10 feasible bridges at any detail level, and the framework has been utilized on real cases in Sweden. The studied bridge types include: railway bridge with ballast or fix-slab track, road bridges of steel box-girder composite bridge, steel I-girder composite bridge, post tensioned concrete box-girder bridge, balanced cantilever concrete box-girder bridge, steel-soil composite bridge and concrete slab-frame bridge. The assessments are detailed from cradle to grave phases, covering thousands of types of substances in the output, diverse mid-point environmental indicators, the Cumulative Energy Demand (CED) and monetary value weighting. Some analyses also investigated the impact from on-site construction scenarios, which have been overlooked in the current state-of-the-art.The study identifies the major structural and life-cycle scenario contributors to the selected impact categories, and reveals the effects of varying the monetary weighting system, the steel recycling rate and the material types. The result shows that the environmental performance can be highly influenced by the choice of bridge design. The optimal solution is found to be governed by several variables. The analyses also imply that the selected indicators, structural components and life-cycle scenarios must be clearly specified to be applicable in a transparent procurement. This work may provide important references for evaluating similar bridge cases, and identification of the main sources of environmental burden. The outcome of this research may serve as recommendation for decision-makers to select the most LCA-feasible proposal and minimize environmental burdens.
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