Air Resources Board Research Seminar: Life-Cycle Assessment and Co-Benefits of Cool Pavements

Event Date


John Harvey– Professor, Civil Engineering and Director, University of California Pavement Research Center, University of California, Davis.

Ronnen Levinson– Staff Scientist, Heat Island Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Event Overview

Alongside other strategies such as urban forestry, solar PV, and cool roofs, the use of high-albedo “cool” pavements can be considered in programs intended to help cities, regions, and the state meet California’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction and sustainable community goals. While cool pavements can mitigate urban heat islands, improve urban air quality, and in some cases reduce GHG emissions from building energy use, it is also important to consider the environmental consequences of pavement materials and pavement construction, and thus the life-cycle environmental impacts.

Recognizing this, the researchers developed a pavement life-cycle assessment for California cities and translated it into a dynamic decisions support tool. Local officials can use this tool to evaluate the life-cycle environmental impacts of various pavements, both conventional (lower albedo) and cool (higher albedo). The tool compares the primary energy and environmental effects of two possible pavement treatment scenarios over a 50-year life cycle, spanning from the extraction and manufacturing of pavement materials to the removal and disposal or recycling of the material at the end of its useful life. Users can determine, based on outputs from the tool, which options translate to greater reductions global warming potential, smog formation potential, generation of particulate matter, and energy demand. Local governments may use the tool as they evaluate pavement-related strategies for reducing their carbon footprints, which will in turn help the state meet its climate goals, and it may also be useful as they weigh the potential public health impacts of different pavement options.



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