Mapping of unit product system/processes for pavement life-cycle assessment

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering


An impediment to the application of Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) in supporting decision-making is the consistent definition of goal and scope and use of reliable and high-quality datasets. Building on the FHWA pavement LCA framework, this paper presents an ontology that reflects a relational grammar to represent the unit and product system processes required for pavement LCAs. Methodologically, the paper builds upon previous research that defined lineage and process ontologies for LCA using Resource Description Frameworks (RDF) to represent the data semantics for pavement LCA. RDF relates LCA flows and processes in a subject-predicate-object relationship. The resulting ontology provides a foundational structure for libraries that can be used to ensure the transparency and consistency of any software tool that is developed to compute pavement LCAs. An ongoing research effort is mapping the product systems developed through this ontology onto publicly available background databases for consistent use in conducting pavement LCA. This is carried out in collaboration with the Federal LCA Commons to ensure the use of public datasets that are already being collected across different agencies. In addition, the ongoing effort aims to characterize data quality, and review background data as ‘sufficient and appropriate’ by developing a pavement-specific pedigree matrix. As LCA software tools are developed to support decision-making for departments of transportation, this paper along with the ongoing research provides a common set of protocols and LCA inventories that can support reliable and easy to use decision support applications.

Publication Title

Pavement, Roadway, and Bridge Life Cycle Assessment 2020