The coming decades will see a great deal of innovation and creativity in the way that our road networks are designed, constructed, and maintained. This will be sparked in part by the need to respond to climate change, resource shortages, shifting transport preferences, and increasing maintenance costs. There is a great deal of activity in this area and Australia has the opportunity to show the world how to prepare for and deliver the Future of Roads. The SBEnrc is committed to assisting our nation to navigate this challenging future in a way that strengthens our economy, creates jobs, and delivers strong environmental outcomes.
The ‘Strategies and Solutions for the Future of Roads’ project will be completed in September 2015 and is being developed in collaboration with the CRC for Low Carbon Living. Building on the previous research findings this project is developing three modules, namely a focus on ‘Technology and Processes Innovation’, ‘Sustainability Reporting’, and ‘Low Carbon Readiness’.
Technology and Process Innovation: This module is focused on three areas selected by the project steering group, namely: the potential for active traffic management methods to defer capital investment in road infrastructure, while reducing traffic congestion, trip time, and vehicle emissions; the updating of route and signal lighting to advanced lighting options; and the inclusion of renewable energy generation technologies in road and transport infrastructure.
Sustainability Reporting: This module will investigate sustainability assessment and reporting tools, in particular the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia sustainability performance tool (IS Tool). The research team will work with project partners to identify where the use of the ‘IS Tool’ has provided value to projects. The investigation will cover all sustainability criteria assessed by the ‘IS Tool’ as applied to actual projects.
Low Carbon Readiness: This module will present a detailed review of the low carbon related elements of ‘IS Tool’, and highlight how the tool can add value to low carbon tendering, including identification of specific client actions. The research team will undertake a supply chain investigation to identify the level of readiness to deliver on the low carbon criteria in the ‘IS Tool’, including: Energy and Carbon, Materials, Procurement, Climate Change Adaptation, and Management Systems.
Building on previous SBEnrc findings, the project is focused on delivering tangible value to government and industry by:
- Presenting a clear case to support the use of new technologies and processes that can reduce costs, achieve greater utilisation of road infrastructure, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Provide guidance as to the value of sustainability reporting in road projects and in particular where value can be enhanced.
- Identify the level of ‘low Carbon Readiness’ in key road infrastructure supply chains (in collaboration with the CRC for Low Carbon Living) to inform pre-qualification and project tendering.
As with all SBEnrc projects, this project will work closely with government and industry partners to identify opportunities to generate outcomes that provide tangible value, both in economic and environmental terms.
Project partners are: Main Roads Western Australia, Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads, John Holland Group, NSW Roads and Maritime Services. The project is advised by the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia and Roads Australia. Dr Ken Michael AC serves as this project’s Project Steering Group (PSG) Chair. Dr Michael was the 32nd Governor of Western Australia, a previous Chancellor of the University of Western Australia, Chairman of the East Perth Redevelopment Authority, a member of the Economic Regulation Authority, and a former Commissioner of Main Roads WA. Dr Michael brings a great deal of experience to the project and we look forward to this informing the outcomes.
The PSG comprises:
- Kenneth Michael AC (Chair)
- Peter Newman, Program Leader, Curtin University
- Charlie Hargroves, Project Leader, Curtin University
- Louis Bettini, Main Roads Western Australia
- Noel Peters, Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads
- Damon Carter, John Holland Group
- Con Lambous, NSW Roads and Maritime Services
- Rick Walters, Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia
- John Pitt, Roads Australia
- Keith Hampson, CEO SBEnrc
Documents for Downloading
The following documents provide additional detail regarding this current research, including project outcomes to date:
Previous Research Industry Report (Dec 2012, 1MB) – Although road construction and use provides significant economic and social benefits, its environmental impact is of growing concern. Roads are one of the greatest greenhouse gas contributors, both directly through fossil energy consumed in mining, transporting, earthworks and paving work, and through the emissions from road use by vehicles. Further, according to the Australian Government, when combined with expected population growth and internal migration, expected changes in temperature and rainfall are expected to increase road maintenance costs. This discussion paper will outline opportunities within the Australian context for reducing environmental and carbon pressure from road building, and provide a framework for considering the potential pressures that will affect the resilience of roads to the impacts of climate change and oil vulnerability. This report presents the findings of the first stage of the ‘Future of Roads’ project, and includes a summary of methods to reduce environmental pressures of roads, an introduction to sustainability reporting and roads, and the identification of trends and future rises affecting roads.
The first report is focused on three areas selected by the project steering group, namely: the potential for active traffic management methods to defer capital investment in road infrastructure, while reducing traffic congestion, trip time, and vehicle emissions; the updating of route and signal lighting to advanced lighting options; and the inclusion of renewable energy generation technologies in road and transport infrastructure. The report provides a summary of the literature in each area along with an annotated bibliography of key reports and papers.
Research Report 2 – Sustainability Performance Assessment Tools (Mar 2014, 720 kb)
The second report provides road agencies with a literature review of current and emerging rating tools that aims to identify the kinds of metrics and indicators that road agencies are likely to be asked to report on in the future. The early decades of the 21st Century will see a change in the focus of environmental reporting in roads agencies, from the current practice of ‘environmental management’ which seeks to minimises ecological disturbance, to a second generation of reporting that expands this scope to include sustainable development associated considerations, including a focus on areas such as the energy intensity raw materials, both in their extraction and transportation, and the potential for alternative ‘low-carbon’ options. Such a shift in focus will form an important part of a road authorities approach to issues of growing concern such as increasing energy costs and increasing impacts from climate change, such as greater weather damage to road infrastructure. The shift in environmental reporting focus has been heralded by the emergence of an array of sustainability assessment frameworks, all with varying purposes, reporting requirements, and outcomes.
Research Report 3 – ISCA ‘IS’ Tool and Low Carbon Tendering (Mar 2014, 388 kb)
The third report provides a summary of the low carbon related items in the ‘IS Rating Tool’ and identifies aspects of the tool to add value to low carbon tendering. The report also suggests client actions related to low carbon outcomes along with areas of potential further research. Developed and administered by the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ICSA), the ‘IS rating tool’ is designed to be used to evaluate the sustainability of infrastructure across design, construction, and operational phases. The process to develop this report involved participation in the ‘IS Rating Tool’ training course and meetings with ISCA to identify the value that can be provided by the tool to inform low carbon aspects of project tendering, in collaboration with the CRC for Low carbon Living.
Key Opportunities for the Future of Roads to Contribute to Australia’s Climate Change Response – Paper delivered to the ‘Practical Responses to Climate Change’ conference, Engineers Australia National Convention 2014, 24-28 November 2014
News article, The West Australian, Smart tech for roads of the future 18 November 2015