MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub
Infrastructure

Infrastructure

Infrastructure

Effective, sustainable infrastructure spending can improve system performance and impact climate change.

MIT CSHub investigates how low carbon infrastructure may be built with very finite resources.

We aim to help transportation agencies do more with less by implementing tools and fostering a competitive market with more balanced spending on materials. Our research seeks to help cut costs and foster more sustainable practices, like building stiffer, lighter, more durable roads and using more concrete in their construction.

The consequences of America’s ailing infrastructure are numerous. Besides causing uncomfortable ride quality, they can impose higher maintenance costs and even increase fuel consumption. Annually, poor roads in the U.S. cause vehicles to consume an extra 0.5 billion gallons of diesel and 1.6 billion gallons of gasoline. This extra fuel consumption amounts to 6.2 tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per mile. 


CSHub Research Brief: “Improving Pavement Network Conditions Through Competition

Ongoing Projects

The objective of this project is to develop and implement a novel framework to carry out performance-based planning (asset allocation) for large-scale pavement networks that consider both a broad range of treatment technologies and uncertainty in both future network performance and material prices. At the current stage, simulation models for each state are under development in order to allow stakeholders to visualize how a state’s network would be expected to evolve in response to different approaches to management or budget.

This project will create a streamlined pavement LCA and LCCA platform that can be used to conduct rapid analyses even in cases with limited data availability. Building off of the previous network-level approaches, the streamlined tool will allow users to provide generic information about pavement designs of interest and will provide insight into the extent to which can be achieved through changes in network policy. This streamlined LCA/LCCA tool will create a powerful platform that incorporates the latest pavement-vehicle interaction and albedo models, thereby making streamlined versions of such models available as part of complete life cycle assessments or on a stand-alone basis. The outcome of this project empowers local and state pavement authorities to include sustainability metrics in their decision-making process on the preferred pavement alternative and to increase the rate of adoption of appropriate strategies for maintenance and repair actions at the design stage.

The CSHub team continues to support the industry through targeted case analyses around LCA, LCCA, asset management, and competition. These case analyses emerge opportunistically through interactions between either industry and states or MIT and states. In either case, MIT works closely with our industrial partners to support their goals in these analyses and communications.

Application Areas

In 2017, America’s roads received a D rating by the American Society of Civil Engineers. For cities and states to improve their grade, they must first be able to accurately measure the quality of their pavements. Unfortunately, this often proves expensive and challenging.

To address this problem, CSHub researchers have created Carbin, an app that directs users to their destination while measuring pavement quality and its effect on fuel consumption.

With every trip they take, Carbin users contribute to a growing public map of pavement and emissions data that can help to inform infrastructure repair and fight climate change. Carbin has already surveyed hundreds of thousands of lane miles around the globe in countries like Mexico, China, and the United States.

Learn more about the app and the research behind it in this article in The New York Times or in the topic summary and research brief below. You can download Carbin on Google Play or the App Store.

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Life cycle assessment (LCA) considers all life-cycle phases from initial construction to demolition. For pavements, this includes the operation, maintenance, and end of life phases, and factors such as traffic delay, lighting demand, and future maintenance. CSHub models quantify environmental impacts across a pavement’s life cycle from manufacturing to disposal and offer detailed analyses of the use phase.

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A life cycle cost analysis (LCCA) is an analysis methodology that enables engineers, designers, and decision-makers to better understand the economic impacts of infrastructure decisions over time along with the opportunities that exist to reduce impacts. CSHub pavements LCCA research considers life cycle, context, and future, and also incorporates risk.

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Pavement management systems are a form of asset management that provide a framework by which transportation agencies monitor the performance of their pavement networks, set performance targets, and implement strategies to meet those performance targets. CSHub research in this area seeks to improve the methods used to allocate available funding across the needs of the pavement network by developing models to predict the performance of the network and optimize the allocation of funds. This process of performance-based planning enables economically efficient management of pavement networks by optimizing pavement network performance for a given cost.

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Pavement vehicle interaction (PVI) is a concept that looks at the interaction between a vehicle’s tires and the roadway surface on which it is driving. It is also known as rolling resistance. Three factors relating to a road’s surface condition and structural properties contribute significantly to PVI: roughness, which refers to how bumpy or smooth a road is; texture, the abrasiveness of the road surface; and deflection, the bending of a pavement under the weight of a vehicle. Traffic patterns and temperature are influential factors as well.

PVI leads to excess fuel consumption (EFC), which is wasted fuel consumption beyond what is required to move a vehicle. EFC contributes to smog and greenhouse gas emissions and impacts drivers, states, and municipalities financially.

CSHub research has led to models that quantify excess fuel consumption due to PVI for pavement segments and pavement networks.

News
Topic Summaries
Research Briefs
Publications