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Environmental assessment of road geology and ecology in a system perspective (»Add to Infobox)

Research Leader: Joanne Fernlund
Berit Brokking Balfors, Professor Bo Olofsson, Professor Björn Birgisson, Ulla Mörtberg, David Gustafsson, Susanna Toller


Engineering Geology and Geophysics, Environmental Management and Assessment, Environmental Physics, Highway and Railway Engineering, Land and Water Resources Engineering, Environmental Strategies Research Group - fms


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This research project links different aspects of how to improve sustainability and efficiency associated with construction and management of new and existing roads while reducing costs. The aim is to use a systems approach, focusing on road geology and road ecology, to study different aspects that influence the choice of positioning a road. This includes optimal use of road materials available in the local area of the construction and the sustainability of their usage trough a life cycle analysis, on road performance. It deals with development of more optimal solutions for the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of new and existing roads. The results are expected to lead to new methods for sustainable management of natural resources, biodiversity and ecosystem services. It will result in tools that support management decisions with multiple objectives within the road sector.
This research project links different aspects of how to improve sustainability and efficiency associated with construction and management of new and existing roads while reducing costs. A systems approach is used to study the aspects that influence the positioning of a road. This includes optimal use of road materials available locally and assessing sustainability of their usage through life cycle analysis of road performance. It deals with development of more optimal solutions for the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of new and existing roads. The results are expected to lead to new methods for sustainable management of natural resources, biodiversity and ecosystem services. It will result in tools that support management decisions within the road sector.

In road planning and design there is a need for an integrated management of natural resources. The choice of road corridors is often constrained by infrastructural restrictions. Studies of the ecological and geological conditions, as well as occurrence of available building materials are often put off until the road corridor position has been established.

The greenhouse gas emissions from the construction sector constitute about 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in Sweden. Use of local aggregate material would minimize negative environmental impact. However their quality is often marginal to poor. When is it sustainable to use long transport of high quality aggregates compared to onsite production of marginally good or even poor aggregates? Innovative and active design of roads based on aggregate quality available on site will minimize the need for upkeep.

The project links numerous interrelated studies, work packages, into a single project (Fig. 1); related research problems are dealt with at different scales. The work packages overlap and are dependent upon each other due to their interdisciplinary framework.

Roads cause ecological impacts, not at least on biodiversity. Prediction of ecological impacts is necessary and should be linked to existing planning frameworks, among others environmental impact assessment, EIA, and strategic environmental assessment, SEA.

Selecting the position of road corridors and road location, with respect to geology, needs to be performed on multiple scales. The geological terrain in Sweden has undulating bedrock topography covered by glacial deposits with high hydrological and geological heterogeneity; significantly different from other parts in the world. Digital geographic information may first be used to suggest suitable corridors. The second step is to identify ultimate road location by geophysical investigations and geotechnical drilling performed within suggested corridors. Geophysical methods are nondestructive and yield continuous subsurface geological information (Fig. 3) and are also useful in planning where to place expensive drill holes so that they are situated at crucial points along the road corridor, providing point information of the geological conditions

The ultimate outcome is the development of geophysical methods for determining the occurrence of suitable construction materials along the road corridor. An increased highway life implies less resource having to be spent on maintaining the technical performance over time. The environmental and economical benefits/costs associated with the use of various aggregate and recycled materials and its performance in roads will also be quantified.

The geological work is performed in collaboration with Professor Torleif Dahlin, Engineering Geology, Lund University.


Period: 2010-01-01 - 2015-01-01

Keywords:
Aggregate quality, Geophysical surveying, Life cycle assessment, Road location, Sustainable roads
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overview of the project organization

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Evaluation of road localization from a systems perspective

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3D geophysical model of subsurface topography


SOURCE OF FUNDING (1/1) 

FORMAS (The Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning)


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