Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

Qing Lu


Energy Consumption, Greenhouse Gases, Optimization, Traffic, Usage Module


Environmental aspect of pavement, unlike its economic counterpart, is seldom considered in the theoretical study and field practices. As a highly energy and material intensive infrastructure, pavement has great potential to contribute to the environment protection, which, in root, depends on the in-depth understanding of the environmental impacts, holistically and specifically. A life cycle assessment (LCA) model is used to fulfill the goal.

This research firstly carried out extensive literature review of LCA studies on pavement to identify the major research gaps, including: incompleteness of the methodology, controversy of the functional unit, and unawareness of feedstock energy of asphalt, etc. Based on that, a comprehensive methodology to apply the LCA model in the context of pavement engineering was developed. The five-module methodology, including material module, maintenance and rehabilitation (M&R) module, construction module, congestion module, and end of life module, covers almost every stage of pavement for a life time. The unique contribution of the proposed methodology lies in the deep-going modeling of the congestion module due to construction and M&R activities and the great efforts on the usage module. Moreover, the proposed methodology is a complex structure, demanding many sub-models to enrich the model bank and therefore another three contributions are made accordingly. Specifically, the environmental damage costs (EDCs) were calculated based on the estimates of the marginal damage cost of involved air pollutants; a function describing the relationship of pavement roughness and average vehicle speed was established; and an improved pavement M&R optimization algorithm was developed with the incorporation of EDCs.

To demonstrate how the proposed methodology can be implemented, a case study of three overlay systems, including hot mixture asphalt (HMA), Portland cement concrete (PCC), and crack, seat and overlay (CSOL), was performed. Through the case study, the PCC option and CSOL options are found to have less environmental burdens as opposed to the HMA option while the comparison between the former two is indeterminate due to the great uncertainties associated with usage module, especially pavement structure effect; and the material, congestion, and usage modules are the three major sources of energy consumptions and air pollutant emissions. Traditionally, cost evaluation of pavement does not refer to EDC while the developed M&R optimization algorithm suggests that EDC occupies a significant fraction of the total cost constitution. And the M&R algorithm leads to a reduction from 8.2 to 12.3 percent and from 5.9 to 10.2 percent in terms of total energy consumptions and costs compared to the before optimization results.

On the other aspect, pavement communities seem to prefer long life pavement because they believe small increase of pavement thickness prolongs the service life and thus leads to a smaller marginal cost while the study in Chapter 5 suggests that it may not be always true, at least in terms environmental impacts. Specially, frequently used pavement designs in the U.S. of two design lives, 20 years and 40 years, at three levels of traffic, are evaluated for their environmental impacts using the proposed methodology. It is found that only at high traffic volumes, the 40-year designs carry environmental advantages over their 20-year counterparts while the opposite is true at the low or medium traffic volumes. Unfortunately, it is not possible to determine the watershed traffic volumes due to the disturbance of many external factors.