Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 251–266 | Cite as

Emergy-based life cycle assessment (Em-LCA) for sustainability appraisal of infrastructure systems: a case study on paved roads

  • Bahareh Reza
  • Rehan SadiqEmail author
  • Kasun Hewage
Original Paper


Civil infrastructure systems are critical assets that are subjected to damage, service-life deterioration, and increasing maintenance and rehabilitation cost. Effective infrastructure management and principles of sustainable development can help to find an optimal compromise between economic growth and environmental protection for all stakeholders. Colloquially, sustainability refers to meeting triple-bottom-line (TBL) performance objectives including environmental protection, economic prosperity, and social acceptability and equity as a result of short- and long-term policy decisions. In this paper, a comprehensive framework based on the integration of emergy synthesis and life cycle assessment (LCA) has been investigated for a public infrastructure system. The main purpose of the applied method, emergy-based LCA (Em-LCA), is to facilitate an informed decision making process for different asset management scenarios, by identifying and quantifying the attributes of TBL impacts over the life cycle of a civil infrastructure system. As a case study, Em-LCA framework has been applied to evaluate the sustainability of two different scenarios for a road construction project in interior British Columbia, Canada. The results indicate that Em-LCA offers a good understanding to address sustainability issues in infrastructure systems and provides quantitative and transparent results to facilitate informed decision making for asset management.


Sustainable infrastructure Emergy Life cycle assessment (LCA) Road system 



The authors wish to thank James Kay for sharing valuable information related to the case study, and for his expert opinions. We would also like to acknowledge Aplin & Martin Consultants Ltd. for their support and assistance and for providing us with access to the case study data. In addition, research funding provided by National Science and Engineering Research Council and partial financial support from a UBC internal grant is also acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EngineeringThe University of British ColumbiaKelownaCanada

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