Sustainable Infrastructure Project Evaluation Using Life Cycle Economic Analysis: Guest Post 21

Evaluating Sustainability Practices, Products, Materials : video report by a journalism student at the University of Mississippi. Also, featured on Planet Forward web site.

Guest Post 21 by Ms. Meredith Moore: My faculty adviser Dr. Kristen Swain, assistant professor of journalism, coordinated the production of journalism students’ short video projects at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), April-May 2012. My video introduces life cycle economic analysis approach for project evaluation.

Ms. Meredith Moore graduated in journalism major on May 12, 2012.

Dr. Uddin’s note: Meredith Moore’s video journalism introduces life cycle analysis (LCA) approach to evaluate alternative energy infrastructure and other sustainability projects. I commend Meredith and her journalism professor Ms. Kristen Swain for making sustainability topics as the central theme in their course.

Traditional life cycle analysis considers agency costs and user costs associated with pavement service life. However, the impacts of infrastructure on the environment and energy use have been historically ignored. CO2 emissions are directly proportional to fuel consumption. The following environmental and societal costs, essential for sustainable pavement projects, have been lacking from the traditional LCA approach of transportation projects:

  • Energy and sustainability related to construction phase.
  • Impacts of environmental degradation (air and water) due to the vehicular traffic and runoff from roads.
  • Adverse impacts of GHG emissions resulting from vehicular traffic, especially in congested conditions.
  • Societal costs due to air pollution and water quality degradation from pavement surface runoff.
  • Other environmental costs related to noise, visibility, etc.

My students’ research shows a high correlation between a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and infrastructure stock, such as high GDP per capita versus high paved road density / high energy consumption per capita. Performance of the energy infrastructure asset is poor in developing countries (22% interruptions in electric power) compared to emerging economies (11% interruptions for middle income countries) and high income countries (6% power losses).

Renewable energy infrastructure development is important worldwide due to adverse impacts of traditional fossil fuel based energy production on the environment.  Although the initial development and construction costs of renewable clean energy infrastructure assets (hydraulic, wind, solar) are high, LCA evaluation indicates that there is high return on investment due to creation of new jobs and avoidance of societal costs of carbon emissions.


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