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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Maximum power principal.
Donor-side perspective is based on the fact that the more energy, time, and materials that are "invested” in something, the greater its value (Brown and Ulgiati 1999).
Emergy algebra helps to avoid double counting and redundancy by distinguishing emergy value of natural resources and ecological services, and emergy value in labour and socio economic services.
Global biosphere emergy baseline is the total emergy driving the biogeosphere. So far a few different global biosphere emergy baselines have been suggested by emergy practitioners. In this research, the sum of solar, tidal, and deep heat sources consider to be equal to the value of 15.83E24 seJ/year as suggested by Odum (2000).
The PDF can be interpreted as the fraction of species that has a high probability of no occurrence in a region due to unfavorable conditions caused by acidification and eutrophication.
The total emergy driving the biogeosphere is the sum of solar, tidal, and deep heat sources totaling 15.83E24 seJ/year.
Athenasmi (2012) The athena impact estimator for highways is a prototype LCA-based software package that measures environmental impact of roadway designs. http://www.athenasmi.org/. Accessed 20 Jan 2012
Bakshi BR (2000) A thermodynamic framework for ecologically conscious process systems engineering. Comp Chem Eng 24(2–7):445–451
Bakshi BR (2002) A thermodynamic framework for ecologically conscious process systems engineering. Comp Chem Eng 26(2):269–282
Brandon P, Lombardi PL, Bentivegna V (1997) Evaluation of the built environment for sustainability. E & FN SPON, London
Brown MT, Buranakarn V (2003) Emergy indices and ratios for sustainable material cycles and recycle options. Resour Conserv Recycl 38:1–22
Brown M, Ulgiati S (1997) Emergy-based indices and ratios to evaluate sustainability: monitoring economies and technology toward environmentally sound innovation. Ecol Eng 9(1–2):51–69
Brown MT, Ulgiati S (1999) Emergy natural evaluation capital of the biosphere and natural capital. Ambio 28(6):486–493
Brown MT, Ulgiati S (2002) Emergy evaluations and environmental loading of electricity production systems. J Clean Prod 10(4):321–334
Brown MT, Ulgiati S (2010) Emergy indices of biodiversity and ecosystem dynamics. In: Sven E. Jørgensen RC, Xu F.L. (eds) Handbook of ecological indicators for assessment of ecosystem health, 2nd edn. CRC Press, Boca Raton
Brown MT, Raugei M, Ulgiati S (2012) On boundaries and ‘investments’ in emergy synthesis and LCA: a case study on thermal vs. photovoltaic electricity. Ecol Indic, 15(1):9
CAA (2011) Driving costs beyond the price tag: understanding your vehicle’s expenses. Canadian Automobile Association, Ottawa
Campbell DE (1998) Emergy analysis of human carrying capacity and regional sustainability: an example using the state of Maine. Environ Monit Assess 51(1):531–569
Campbell DE, Brandt-Williams SL, Meisch M (2005) Environmental accounting using emergy: evaluation of the state of West Virginia. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Narraganset
Choguill CL (1996) Ten steps to sustainable infrastructure. Habitat Int 20(3):389–404
Deakin M, Curwell S (2002) Sustainable urban development: the framework and directory of assessment methods. JEAPM 4(2):171–197
Dezhi L, Man HEC, Xing X, Qiming L (2011) Methodology for assessing the sustainability of metro systems based on emergy analysis. J Manag Eng 1:61
Duan N, Liu X, Dai J, Lin C, Xia X, Gao R, Wang Y, Chen S, Yang J, Qi J (2011) Evaluating the environmental impacts of an urban wetland park based on emergy accounting and life cycle assessment: a case study in Beijing. Ecol Model 222(2):351–359
ESA21 (2012) Trees and carbon. Environmental science activities for the 21st century. http://esa21.kennesaw.edu/activities/treescarbon/trees-carbon.pdf
Fava J (2006) Will the next 10 years be as productive in advancing life cycle approaches as the last 15 years? Int J Life Cycle Assess 11(1):6–8
Hau JL, Bakshi BR (2004) Promise and problems of emergy analysis. Ecol Model 178(1–2):215–225
Horvath A (2009) Principles of using life-cycle assessment in bridge analysis. In: Proceedings of US–Japan workshop on life cycle assessment of sustainable infrastructure materials Sapporo, Japan, October 21, 2009
Horvath A, Hendrickson C (1998) Steel versus steel-reinforced concrete bridges: environmental assessment. J Infrastruct Syst 4:111
Hossaini N, Hewage K (2013) Emergy accounting for regional studies: case study of Canada and its provinces. J Environ Manag 118(1):177–185
Huang SL, Hsu WL (2003) Materials flow analysis and emergy evaluation of Taipei’s urban construction. Landsc Urban Plan 63(2):61–74
Ingwesen W (2011) Emergy as a life cycle impact assessment indicator a gold mining case study. J Ind Ecol 15(4):60
ISAER (2012) Emergy database. Emergy Society Web Site
Keoleian GA, Kendall A, Dettling JE, Smith VM, Chandler RF, Lepech MD, Li VC (2005) Life cycle modeling of concrete bridge design: comparison of engineered cementitious composite link slabs and conventional steel expansion joints. J Infrastruct Syst 11:51
Khan F, Sadiq R, Veitch B (2004) Life cycle iNdeX (LInX): a new indexing procedure for process and product design and decision-making. J Clean Prod 12(1):59–76
Liu G, Yang Z, Chen B, Ulgiati S (2011) Monitoring trends of urban development and environmental impact of Beijing, 1999–2006. Sci Tot Environ 409(18):3295–3308
Lotka (1945) The law of evolution as a maximum principle. Hum Biol 17(3):167–195
Lounis Z, Vanier DJ, Daigle L, Sadiq R, Kleiner Y, Almans Lounis Z (2010) Framework for assessment of state, performance and management of core public infrastructure—final report on transportation asset management, Ottawa
Odum HT (1988) Self-organization, transformity, and information. Sci AAAS 242(4882):1132
Odum HT (1995) Self-Organization and Maximum Empower. In: Hall CAS (ed) Maximum power: the ideas and applications. University Press of Colorado, Colorado
Odum HT (1996) Environmental accounting: emergy and environmental decision making. Wiley, New York
Odum HT (2000) Handbook of emergy evaluation-folio # 2 emergy of global processes. Center for environmental policy environmental engineering sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, USA. http://www.epa.gov/aed/html/collaboration/emergycourse/presentations/Folio2.pdf
Odum HT (2007) Environment, power, and society for the twenty-first century: the hierarchy of energy. Columbia University Press, New York
Ortiz O, Castells F, Sonnemann G (2009) Sustainability in the construction industry: a review of recent developments based on LCA. Constr Build Mater 23(1):28–39
Pulselli RM, Simoncini E, Marchettini N (2009) Energy and emergy based cost-benefit evaluation of building envelopes relative to geographical location and climate. Build Environ 44(5):920–928
Raugei M, Rugani B, Benetto E, Ingwersen WW (2012) Integrating emergy into LCA: potential added value and lingering obstacles. Ecol Model. Available online 21 December 2012. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304380012005637
Reza B, Sadiq R, Hewage K (2011). Sustainability assessment of flooring systems in the city of Tehran: An AHP-based life cycle analysis. Constr Build Mater 25(4):2053–2066
Rugani B, Panasiuk D (2012) An input–output based framework to evaluate human labour in life cycle assessment. J Life Cycle Assess 17(6):795–812
Rugani B, Huijbregts MAJ, Mutel C, Bastianoni S, Hellweg S (2011) Solar energy demand (SED) of commodity life cycles. Environ Sci Technol 45:5426–5433. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/es103537f
Sciubba E, Ulgiati S (2005) Emergy and exergy analyses: complementary methods or irreducible ideological options? Power 30:1953–1988
Su M, Yang Z, Chen B (2011) Limiting factor analysis of urban ecosystems based on emergy—a case study of three cities in the Pearl River Delta in China. Proc Environ Sci 5:131–138
Ugwu O, Kumaraswamy M, Wong A, Ng S (2006) Sustainability appraisal in infrastructure projects (SUSAIP): part 1. Development of indicators and computational methods. Autom Constr 15(2):239–251
Ulgiati S, Brown MT (2002) Quantifying the environmental support for dilution and abatement of process emissions: the case of electricity production. J Clean Prod 10(4):335–348
Ulgiati S, Brown MT (2012) Labor and services. Seventh Biennial Emergy Research Conference, Gainsville
Ulgiati S, Brown MT, Bastianoni S, Marchettini N (1995) Emergy-based indices and ratios to evaluate the sustainable use of resources. Ecol Eng 5(4):519–531
Ulgiati S, Raugei M, Bargigli S (2006) Overcoming the inadequacy of single-criterion approaches to life cycle assessment. Ecol Model 190(3–4):432–442
Von Bertalanffy L (1973) General system theory. George Braziller, New York
Wang N, Chang YC, Nunn C (2010) Lifecycle assessment for sustainable design options of a commercial building in Shanghai. Build Environ 45(6):1415–1421
Weiland CD, Muench ST (2011) Life cycle assessment of portland cement concrete interstate highway rehabilitation and replacement. Washington State Transportation Center (TRAC). http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Research/Reports/700/744.4.htm
Zhang H, Keoleian GA, Lepech MD, Kendall A (2010a) Life-cycle optimization of pavement overlay systems. J Infrastruct Syst Am Soc Civ Eng 16(4):310–322
Zhang XH, Deng SH, Wu J, Jiang W (2010b) A sustainability analysis of a municipal sewage treatment ecosystem based on Emergy. Ecol Eng 36(5):685–696
Zhang Y, Baral A, Bakshi BR (2010c) Accounting for ecosystem services in life cycle assessment, part II: toward an ecologically based LCA. Environ Sci 44:2624–2631
Zhang Y, Singh S, Bakshi BR (2010d) Accounting for ecosystem services in life cycle assessment, part I: a critical review. Environ Sci Technol 44(7):2232–2242
Zhang X, Deng S, Zhang YZ, Yang G, Li L, Qi H, Xiao H, Wu J, W, YJ, Shen F (2011a). Emergy evaluation of the impact of waste exchanges on the sustainability of industrial systems. Ecol Eng 37(2):206–216
Zhang Y, Yang Z, Liu G, Yu X (2011b) Emergy analysis of the urban metabolism of Beijing. Ecol Model 222(14):2377–2384
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.
About this article
Cite this article
Reza, B., Sadiq, R. & Hewage, K. Emergy-based life cycle assessment (Em-LCA) for sustainability appraisal of infrastructure systems: a case study on paved roads. Clean Techn Environ Policy 16, 251–266 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10098-013-0615-5
- Sustainable infrastructure
- Life cycle assessment (LCA)
- Road system