Back to Roadway Infrastructure Toolkit

1 – Introduction to Embodied Carbon and Roadway Infrastructure

Greenhouse gas emissions released due to the manufacturing, transportation, and installation of products are collectively known as embodied carbon. Embodied carbon can be released during any stage of a transportation infrastructure life cycle including the initial construction, maintenance, and the end of life.

Introduction

Climate change has contributed to the majority of recently experienced impacts on natural and human systems. As of 2017, human-related activities (mainly in the form of releasing greenhouse gases – GHGs) are estimated to have caused a rise of 1°C in global temperature, which has and will have tremendous impacts on the ecosystem and its species.

Legislation like the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and Inflation Reduction Act and growing interest from engineers and stakeholders has increased opportunities for addressing the significant emissions associated with the design and construction of transportation infrastructure including roadways. Embodied carbon – the GHGs released during the extraction, production, transportation, placement, repair and disposal of construction materials – has gained even more traction with adoption of Buy Clean policies federally and in states like California, Colorado, Oregon, and Minnesota.

Embodied carbon due to the construction and maintenance of roadways is a large contributor to overall GHGs attributed to transportation agencies owning and managing these public assets. This toolkit aims to help departments of transportation (DOTs) and other transportation agencies better understand the sources of GHG emissions from building the roadway infrastructure.

Authors:
Milad Ashtiani, Meghan Lewis, Brook Waldman, and Kate Simonen

Published: February 2024

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© Carbon Leadership Forum 2024

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