Sustainability focusses on meeting the needs of today, without compromising the needs of the future generations. The concept of sustainability focusses on the pillars of people, planet and profits. Transportation sector being one of the highest contributor to greenhouse gases, with the burning of fossil fuels during construction as well as the emissions from vehicles, faces a grave challenge of adopting sustainable practices to reduce the emissions during production, construction and maintenance.
Road construction consumes high quantities of energy at different stages of asphalt mix production & transportation, and during the excavation of materials for maintenance. The production of Hot Mix Asphalt used for paving, requires high temperatures of 150- 1800C making it a very high energy consuming sector, which in turn generates higher quantities of CO2. Engineers have been looking for solutions to reduce the emissions during production and construction, which later paved the way to low temperature asphalt mix production, also known as Warm Mix Asphalt. The production and paving of Warm Mix Asphalt offers huge benefits in terms of lesser emissions & fumes, longer hauling, and better working conditions, without compromising on the quality of the construction.
A wide range of solutions such as silane based chemicals, geogrids & reinforcements, bitumen additives etc. are being adopted for various activities such as soil stabilization, asphalt mix production and even for maintenance treatments such as microsurfacing, to reduce the environmental impact of road construction, thereby allowing the sector to take a step towards sustainability.
Other options include the use of recycled materials from existing pavements and shingles to reduce energy consumption. Bio-binders originating from natural resources is another alternative that have been gaining traction in the road construction sector, because of their myriad benefits with the added advantage of being biodegradable.
The future of sustainable road construction & maintenance practices not only depends on the use of new and improved material technologies, but also on other innovative initiatives & concepts such as:
1. Solar/Wind powered lights
2. Piezoelectric energy generations from vibrations of vehicles
3. Use of de-icers on the road surface
4. Glow-in-the-dark road markings
5. Electric & Autonomous Vehicles.
The rise of these technologies and practices aimed at reducing the environmental impact of the transportation sector pushes for the need to reduce the carbon footprint of the existing construction practices. The future of road construction is definitely moving towards a more sustainable approach as evident from the various potentially interesting initiatives that strives to reduce the ecological footprint of the existing road construction practices.