Jan 25, 2022
Resilient Planning Engages Recycled Asphalt
The recently released “World Green Building Trends 2021” SmartMarket Report from Dodge Construction Network offers data related to strategies architects, builders, investors, and others use—or plan to use—to improve sustainability in the design and construction industry. The report dissects the attitudes and plans of construction industry members from around the world.
I’d like to zero in on the “Design for Disassembly” section. The report states: “A critical way to reduce carbon and waste in the built environment is to have building products and buildings designed so that the various components can be reused when the building reaches the end of its lifecycle.”
While the report speaks to vertical construction, I wish to apply to pavements the concept of planning during the design and construction phase for disassembly and recovery. In fact, this is a concept with which the asphalt industry is already familiar. As a member of the asphalt community, you should be able to easily share the fact that asphalt pavement is the most recycled product in America. Let’s look deeper.
Asphalt pavements can be milled (disassembled) and the components (asphalt binder and aggregate) recovered for reuse in a new pavement. There are ways to perform this recycling in place or with recycling plants located near the paving site (check out this cold central plant recycling story).
Using reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP), recycled asphalt shingles (RAS), warm-mix asphalt (WMA), Ultra Lo-NOx burners, and other environmentally sound practices to design and produce asphalt pavement mixes adds “green” value to whatever rating system a construction project might be working within. The “World Green Building Trends 2021” report showed “a slight decline in the share of green projects that use a rating system” but still used nearly 80 pages to discuss the importance the construction industry places on the use of green practices, which, when applied to a rating system, increase the builder’s social score.
Most of us have heard of LEED Certification, which focuses quite solidly on buildings. Many moons ago, before AsphaltPro posted its content online, we wrote about using WMA in constructing parking lots to increase a prime contractor’s LEED score. This is still a good idea, but I now posit LEED isn’t the place to focus attention.
LEED is one blip on the radar where we can use the scientific given that the asphalt industry lowers your urban heat island score if you pave with heat-absorbing—rather than heat-reflecting—surfaces around your buildings. Albedo matters, after all. But does an asphalt contractor make enough money off a parking lot job to justify the marketing hassle of convincing project owners to use WMA around their new construction? Maybe. The better place to harness goodwill for the asphalt industry appears to be with other rating systems such as ENVISION® or ENERGY STAR®.
We can do much in the march toward net zero when we focus efforts on rating programs that assist in lowering energy consumption at the HMA facility, hauling, and so on. No matter which green rating system you find easiest to navigate, they are typically designed to offer ideas for lowering your carbon footprint while third-party certifying your successes.
As NAPA’s Richard Willis shared with me recently, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) isn’t looking at what entities have done in the past to green up their industries. The fact that the asphalt industry lowered its emissions by 97% while increasing its production by 250% from 1970 to 2001 is laudable, yes, but, in the eyes of FHWA, it’s also forgettable. It’s nice that the asphalt industry is extremely clean. Now what have we got planned for tomorrow and how will we employ our provable green practices to improve not just pavement lifespans, but our industry’s resiliency?