Traffic noise in LCA

Part 2: Analysis of existing methods and proposition of a new framework for consistent, context-sensitive LCI modeling of road transport noise emission
  • Hans-Jörg Althaus
  • Peter de Haan
  • Roland W. Scholz


Background, aim, and scope

An inclusion of traffic noise effects could change considerably the overall results of many life cycle assessment (LCA) studies. However, at present, noise effects are usually not considered in LCA studies, mainly because the existing methods for their inclusion do not fulfill the requirement profile. Two methods proposed so far seem suitable for inclusion in generic life cycle inventory (LCI) databases, and a third allows for inter-modal comparison. The aim of this investigation is an in-depth analysis of the existing methods and the proposition of a framework for modeling road transport noise emissions in LCI in accordance to the requirement profile postulated in part 1.

Materials and methods

This paper analyzes three methods for inclusion of traffic noise in LCA (Danish LCA guide method, Swiss EPA method, and Swiss FEDRO method) in detail. The additional basis for the analysis are the Swiss road traffic emission model “SonRoad,” traffic volume measurements at 444 sites in the Swiss road network, vehicle-type-specific noise measurements in free floating traffic situations in Germany, and noise emission measurements from different tires.


The Danish LCA guide method includes a major flaw that cannot be corrected within the methodological concept. It applies a dose–response function valid for average noise levels of a traffic situation to maximum noise levels of single vehicles. The Swiss FEDRO method is based on an inappropriate assumption since it bases distinctions of specific vehicles on data that do not allow for such a distinction. Noise emissions cannot be distinguished by the make and type of a vehicle since other factors, especially the tires, are dominant for noise emissions. Several problems are also identified in the Swiss EPA method, but they are not of a fundamental nature. Thus, we are able to base a new framework for vehicle and context-sensitive inclusion of road traffic noise emissions in LCI on the Swiss EPA method. We show how specific vehicle classes can be distinguished, how the influence of different tires can be dealt with, and what temporal and spatial aspects of traffic need to be distinguished.


While the Danish LCA guide method and the Swiss FEDRO method are not suitable for our purpose, the Swiss EPA method can be used as a basis to better meet the requirement profile identified in Part 1 of this paper. The proposed method for consistent, context-sensitive modeling of noise emissions from road transports in LCI meets all the requirements except that it is restricted to road transport.


We show limitations of the existing methods and approaches for improving them. Our proposed model allows for a more specific consideration of the various vehicles and contexts in terms of space and time and thus in terms of speed and traffic volume. This can be used on one hand for a consistent, context sensitive assessment of different vehicles in different traffic situations. On the other hand, it also allows for an inclusion of noise in LCA of transports on which only very little is known. This new LCI model meets five of the six requirements postulated in Part 1.

Recommendations and perspectives

In a next step, additional noise emissions due to additional traffic needs to be calculated based on the proposed framework and national or regional traffic models. Furthermore, the consideration of noise from different traffic modes should be addressed. The approach presented needs to be extended in order to make it also applicable for rail and air traffic noise, and the methods need to be implemented in LCI databases to make them easily available to practitioners. Furthermore, suitable impact assessment methods need to be identified or developed. They could base on the proposals made in the Swiss EPA and in the Swiss FEDRO methods.


Additional noise emission LCA LCI Traffic noise Transport 

Supplementary material

11367_2009_117_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (100 kb)
ESM 1(PDF 100 kb)
11367_2009_117_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (5 mb)
ESM 2(PDF 5127 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans-Jörg Althaus
    • 1
    • 2
    • 1
  • Peter de Haan
    • 2
  • Roland W. Scholz
    • 2
  1. 1.Technology and Society LaboratorySwiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (Empa)DuebendorfSwitzerland
  2. 2.Natural and Social Science Interface, Institute for Environmental DecisionsETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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