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Journal of Cleaner Production 20 (2012) 127e136

Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect

Journal of Cleaner Production


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/jclepro

Framework for developing construction sustainability items: the example


of highway design
Calista Y. Tsai*, Andrew S. Chang 1
Dept. of Civil Engineering, National Cheng Kung University of Taiwan, No.1 University Road, Tainan 701, Taiwan, ROC

a r t i c l e i n f o

a b s t r a c t

Article history:
Received 28 September 2010
Received in revised form
13 June 2011
Accepted 11 August 2011
Available online 19 August 2011

Sustainable issues have been widely discussed in the construction industry in recent years. Although
some studies have examined sustainability, it is still difcult for engineering designers to incorporate
sustainable concepts into their work. The design stage is key in the life cycle to integrating sustainability
into construction projects. Therefore, practical methods and tools are needed to facilitate sustainability in
design work.
This study proposed a framework for developing sustainable items for highway design. Highwayrelated sustainable items were identied from a literature review of sustainable requirements and
highway project practices. Next, specic sustainable items were selected through interviews with
practitioners including designers, constructors, and maintenance owners. A checklist consisting of 60
technique and material sustainable items was created. Finally, the checklist was tested on four highway
design projects to check the applicability of the sustainable items.
The results show that over 52% of the 60 developed sustainable items were considered and 50%
incorporated into design. Designers can use the checklist as a tool to mark considered items, record manhours devoted to sustainability, and calculate the percentage of items incorporated. The framework can
narrow the gap between theoretical requirements and current design practices, thus leading construction projects toward sustainability.
2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords:
Sustainability
Highway design
Construction projects
LEED
GRI

1. Introduction
Sustainable development in the construction industry has
become an important issue (Holton et al., 2010), but it seems to be
lagging behind other sectors. Myers (2005) reviewed the annual
reports of 42 construction companies in the UK and found little
information related to sustainability was disclosed, and relatively
few large companies changed their business paradigm. Chong et al.
(2009) surveyed over 200 civil engineers in the US, and nearly all
respondents regarded sustainability as important, but actual application and implementation by their organizations was extremely
low. Because of sustainability issues, Glass et al. (2008) indicated that
major changes related to materials, techniques, skills, and innovation
and management are needed in the construction industry.
The green building evaluation system such as the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an initiative for

* Corresponding author. Tel.: 886 912012104; fax: 886 62677575.


E-mail addresses: calista0523@yahoo.com.tw (C.Y. Tsai), anschang@mail.ncku.
edu.tw (A.S. Chang).
1
Tel./fax: 886 6 2757575 63153.
0959-6526/$ e see front matter 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2011.08.009

sustainability in the construction industry. It provides a project


checklist of prerequisites and credits required to evaluate the
environmental performance of a building (USGBC, 2005). The
AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Ofcials) developed a compendium of practices, procedures, and policies for integrating environmental stewardship into
highway construction and maintenance activities for Departments
of Transportation (DOT) in many states (TRB, 2004). It indicated the
need for standards and improvements in environmental processes,
practices, and signicant environmental items.
The design stage is a key to adding sustainable concepts to
construction projects (NRC, 1991). Engineering consultants provide
planning and design services in the initial stages of the life cycle of
infrastructure. The energy and materials needed for, and waste
produced by, infrastructure in the sequential stages of construction
and operation have a great impact on the environment. Great
potential reductions in operations sustainable impacts could be
made if sustainability is considered early in planning and design
(McLellan et al., 2009; Cerdan et al., 2009; Spangenberg et al.,
2010). Moreover, the design stage is the most comprehensively
addressed portion of the life cycle in most green building guidelines
and evaluation methods (Bunz et al., 2006).

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C.Y. Tsai, A.S. Chang / Journal of Cleaner Production 20 (2012) 127e136

Theories and requirements are mentioned frequently in


sustainability related research. Nevertheless, the requisite tools and
techniques for achieving sustainability in construction projects are
lacking (Chong et al., 2009). There is a gap between theoretical
methods and practices such as in energy management in production and environment impact assessment (Bunse et al., 2011; Lee,
2006). Practitioners experienced difculties assessing environment impacts also because of the differences between methods and
tools. There is a need to build a framework to facilitate the standardization of corporate sustainability management approaches
(Azapagic, 2003).
This study proposed a framework for developing sustainable items
for highway design. It intended to narrow the gap between theoretical
sustainable requirements and current design practices. One purpose
was to propose a framework of developing sustainable design items
by incorporating practice. The other was to develop the sustainable
items and their checklist that can be easily used by designers.
The infrastructure is valued at over 13 trillion in the US and the
construction industry has an annual turnover in excess of 100
billion in the UK (Hughes, 2007; Holton et al., 2010). Sustainable
transportation is one of the major categories to be further
researched in construction and highway is a major part of transportation (Hughes, 2007). The framework for developing sustainable items for highway design can be referenced by other types of
construction projects to move toward sustainability.
2. Research method
The research purposes were met by undertaking the case study
method and a serious of interviews. Case studies are recognized as
a suitable research method for the type of exploratory studies such
as this research in describing and analyzing the context of
sustainable items (Yin, 2008). This method has been adopted by
many sustainability studies (Palme and Tillman, 2008; Holton et al.,
2010; Borchardt et al., 2011). Multi-stakeholder interviews
including brainstorming, focus groups and expert suggestions are
also often used to develop sustainable items or measures
(AccountAbility, 2008).
This study adopted the similar methodology to develop
highway-related sustainable items in addition to reviewing

sustainability requirements and sustainable construction projects.


The framework or research process is shown in Fig. 1.
First, sustainability requirements, such as the LEED green
building system, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) sustainability
reporting guidelines, and relevant studies, were reviewed to
understand their evaluation principles, credits, and environmental
indicators as well as look for possible sustainable items. Next,
construction design practices were reviewed from the bottom-up
by analyzing the compendium from AASHTO as well as roadway
projects in Japan and Taiwan, based on what they achieved for
sustainability, to nd ways to add sustainability into highway
designs. Subsequently, about 45 highway-related sustainable items
were identied from sustainable requirements and construction
design practices. Further, these items were evaluated as to whether
they were applicable through ten interviews with 24 practitioners
including designers, constructors, and maintenance owners with
more than 20 years of highway-related experiences. Applicable
sustainable items were then developed after clarifying the
sustainability issues involved in designing highways.
A group of eight designers had interview meetings for four
times to discuss the 45 identied items one by one about their
feasibility and difculty when used in design. Interviews with the
designers were emphasized because they understand well the
current design practices and contextualization of sustainable items
(Lundberg et al., 2009). The designers were from different disciplines of highway design work, such as pavement, drainage,
bridges, etc. of a large consulting company with extensive techniques and experiences in transportation. Six constructors and ten
government owners in total were then interviewed two times and
three times, respectively, to conrm the items that could be used in
the construction and maintenance stages. Then 60 sustainable
items were developed after the identied items were accepted,
integrated or removed through the last interview with the
designers once again. The developed items were compared with
the credits and indicators in the LEED and GRI. Finally, a checklist
consisting of the 60 developed sustainable items was created, and
tested on four projects provided by the company to validate their
applicability to highway design.
The stakeholders interviewed in this study included only major
participants of the construction projects such as designers, owners

Sustainable requirements
Top down
LEED

GRI

Practitioner interviews
Designers, owners, and
constructors

AASHTO
compendium

Japan road
cases

Relevant
studies

Sustainable items
& Checklist

Taiwan road
cases

Bottom up
Construction design
practices
Fig. 1. Framework for developing sustainable items.

Test

C.Y. Tsai, A.S. Chang / Journal of Cleaner Production 20 (2012) 127e136

and contractors. Their viewpoints represent that the developed


sustainable items are feasible or preferable from the perspective of
the construction profession.
3. Sustainable requirements
In studies of sustainable requirements, frameworks or guidelines
are rst developed and then improved through discussions and
comparisons. Subsequently, guidance documents are created after the
improvement of the guidelines. Guidance documents are important
tools for disseminating information and facilitating discussion (Bosch
and Pearce, 2003). They provide frameworks for both the design and
construction processes, educate stakeholders, facilitate their input,
and help them understand their roles in the process.
Sustainable requirements such as the LEED and GRI are introduced in the following sections. These requirements provide
guidelines for identifying sustainable items.
3.1. LEED
LEED is an initiative developed in 1996 for green building in the
US. A buildings environmental performance is evaluated in seven
categories including sustainable sites (SS), water efciency (WE),
energy and atmosphere (EA), materials and resources (MR), indoor
environmental quality (IEQ), innovation and design process (ID),
and regional priority (RP) (USGBC, 2009). Three categories of water
efciency, energy and atmosphere, and indoor environmental
quality are commonly evaluated in other green building guidelines
around the world (Wu and Low, 2010). LEED has become the most
widely accepted sustainable guidelines in the world after years of
testing and improvements. However, there is a room for improvements in the guidance documents to identifying more appropriate
items and measures to facilitate sustainable design.
Some requirements in the LEED guidelines are related to highways such as site selection, alternative transportation, habitat
protection or restoration in the category of sustainable sites. Site
selection requires the avoidance of inappropriate sites, such as nature
preserves. Alternative transportation facilities are required to reduce
pollution from automobile use. Site development regarding habitat
protection or restoration promotes biodiversity. These requirements
can be implemented in highway design to promote sustainability.
3.2. GRI
The GRI provides guidelines for companies to disclose their
corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports and has become the

129

most frequently used guidelines for sustainability reporting


(Lozano and Huisingh, 2011). It consists of principles for dening
the contents of reports and the quality of reported information.
Also, it includes standard disclosures made up of performance
indicators organized by economic, environmental, and social
categories (GRI, 2006). Environmental performance cover nine
aspects of indicators including materials; energy; water; biodiversity; emissions, efuents and waste; products and services;
compliance; transportation; and overall. There are 30 environmental indicators, labeled EN1 to EN30, such as materials used by
weight or volume (EN1), direct energy consumption by primary
energy source (EN3), etc.
The aspects of materials, energy, and water are related to input
in the early stage of the highway project life cycle. Designers can
think over to reduce their use from the start. Other aspects, such as
emissions, efuents, and waste are kinds of output that negatively
affect the environment. These outputs can also be reduced through
appropriate design considerations.
These environmental aspects can also be applied to highway
design as shown conceptually in Fig. 2. For example, highway sites
are located in open space, so highway design should take into
account sustainability issues, such as biodiversity. Potential environmental problems caused by highway construction come from
the materials used in the pavement, energy consumed by lighting
facilities, storm water runoff, emissions from transportation, and
waste produced from earthwork excavation.
3.3. Relevant studies
Relevant sustainability studies are good sources to look for
possible sustainable items. Two major highway-related sustainability studies were introduced below.
A framework and indicators were established for sustainable
highways in Taiwan in order to evaluate the environmental
performance of highways on six categories including ecology,
vegetation, resources and materials, waste reduction, water
conservation, energy saving (PCC, 2001). The indicators used for
evaluating sustainable highways, such as habitat protection,
drainage culverts, native plants, recycled materials, durable materials, minimum environmental disturbance and earthwork excavation, permeable design, adoption of energy efcient equipment
or renewable energy, etc., could be incorporated into highway
designs.
The Institute of Transportation (2004) of the government
developed sustainable road planning and design specications and
checklist items to evaluate environmental ecology and economics,

Fig. 2. Environmental considerations for highway design.

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C.Y. Tsai, A.S. Chang / Journal of Cleaner Production 20 (2012) 127e136

and reduce the negative environmental impacts of highway


construction. From this report, the sustainable items were included
such as reduction in structure volume or weight, waste reduction,
protection of ecosystem, and vegetation. Other items regarding
sustainable economics were also included such as water conservation, common conduits and maintenance management.
4. Highway construction design practices
After the sustainable requirements were reviewed, this research
also studied highway construction design practices including
stewardship practices in the US collected by the AASHTO, as well as
highway projects in Japan and Taiwan, to select applicable
sustainable items for highway design. These design practices from
AASHTO, Japan, and Taiwan that have been applied to highway
projects include practical sustainable items for highway design.
4.1. AASHTO compendium
AASHTO collected stewardship practices, procedures, and policies for highway design, construction and maintenance (TRB,
2004). These measures can be referred to sustainable practices
and considered to be sustainable items because they have been
used for highways. Many items can be taken from the highway
stewardship practices such as site selection, biodiversity, stormwater, erosion and sedimentation control, drainage, low maintenance roadsides, air and noise pollution mitigation, recycling, and
energy conservation. The related sustainable practices are avoidance of archaeological and historic sites; culverts for wildlife
crossings; runoff reduction; native vegetation; use of recycled
materials, energy efcient equipment, and renewable energy.
4.2. Japan road cases
More than 30 sustainable design cases of highways and local
roads in Japan were collected in The Institute of Transportation
(2004). Most highways and roads in the selected cases were
located in or through natural preservation sites. In these cases,
when site selection could not avoid a natural preservation site,
design practices had to coordinate with construction and maintenance techniques. For example, ecology and biodiversity were the
most important design issues in such cases and were achieved by
means of sustainable practices or use of items such as adopting
bridges (instead of embankments or cuttings), long-span bridges,
culverts for wildlife crossings, and native vegetation.
4.3. Taiwan road cases
Freeway No. 6 completed two years ago is recognized as the
representative sustainable highway in Taiwan. Many items were
considered and designed for the environment such as earthwork
balance, integration with sites, ecological design, topsoil stockpiles,
application of new techniques and materials, long-span bridges,
drainage pavement, transparent sound insulation walls, low area
development of bridges and tunnels, setting up temporary steel
bridges, culverts for wildlife crossings, permeable materials, selfcompacting concrete, light weight concrete, etc. (Fang, 2008). It is
a good source of sustainable items.
5. Developing sustainable items
Incorporating sustainable items into design should be based on
the work that designers are familiar with or have experience so that
the incorporation is not totally foreign to the designers. In such

a way, designers know what they can do to improve sustainability


without increasing much their workload (Chang et al., 2008).
Highway design work was collected and classied into 14
disciplines after review and analysis of planning and design guidance documents and interviews with highway designers and
managers of the case company. They are geometrics & alignments,
earthworks, pavement, drainage, retaining walls, slope protection,
landscape and ecology, transportation facilities, transportation
maintenance, bridges, sound insulation, tunnels, electrical and
mechanical work, and lighting (Chang et al., 2008). For example,
pavement design determines the type of highway surface structure,
and drainage design analyzes hydrology in sites to select appropriate drainage facilities. There are various numbers of more
detailed works under the 14 disciplines.
5.1. Practitioner interviews
About 45 highway design or construction related items were
identied from sustainable requirements in Section 3 and practices
of highway projects in Section 4. These items were furthermore
examined through ten interviews with 24 experienced designers,
constructors, and owners to verify their appropriateness for the 14
disciplines of highway design work. For sustainable design, it took
ve interviews with eight senior engineers from a highway design
group; for construction, it took two interviews with six highway
constructors; for maintenance, it took three interviews with ten
owners from highway agencies.
In the rst interview with the designers, the checklist framework was determined using the 14 disciplines of highway design
works. In the second to fourth interviews, each identied item was
discussed in detail to evaluate which of the 14 disciplines they
correspond to, and determined how difcult they were to incorporate into designs. Applicable sustainable items for highways
were then selected. The selected items were claried for their
application in the later stages of construction and maintenance by
individually interviewing constructors and maintenance owners.
Designers then checked these items again. Finally, the specic
items for implementing sustainability into highway design were
developed.
5.2. Selection process of sustainable items
The process of selecting appropriate sustainable items for
implementation into highways is shown in Fig. 3 using the example
of pavement engineering. As shown in part A of Fig. 3, highway
design works were listed rst. Next, through interviews, designers
pointed out which works could consider sustainable techniques or
materials, as classied by Steele (1997). For instance, sustainable
techniques and materials can be considered and applicable to
pavement and is marked with a check in part A of Fig. 3.
Then items derived from sustainable requirements and design
practices were classied into materials and techniques as shown in
Fig. 3 part B. Sustainable techniques such as reduction in volume or
weight, and materials such as permeable materials, are applicable
to pavement as listed in part B. Reduction in volume or weight is
common to many design works and is good to the environment, so
it was particularly marked as a general item. The listed items were
adjusted and current design practices were added to the list as
shown in Fig. 3 part C. In part C, the reduction in volume or weight
item was integrated into techniques. Interviewees indicated they
could put more effort into sustainable techniques than materials
because of limitations of design criteria. Techniques are hence listed before materials.
Finally, by interviewing owners and constructors, some items
were integrated and removed as can be seen in Fig. 3 part D. For

C.Y. Tsai, A.S. Chang / Journal of Cleaner Production 20 (2012) 127e136

131

Fig. 3. Selection process of sustainable items for highway design.

example, of the techniques permeable pavement and drainage


pavement in part C are similar to permeable materials. However,
permeable pavement and drainage pavement actually concern
materials. So, these two items were integrated into permeable
materials and removed from the techniques list as shown in part D.
Similarly, soil improvement treatment and subgrade materials listed in part C are used for the reduction of pavement depth. They are
the same as reduction in volume or weight. So, these two items
were also integrated into reduction of volume or weight and
removed from the original checklist.
5.3. Developed sustainable items
After the process of addition, integration and removal of the
preliminary 45 items, 60 sustainable items were nally developed
for highway design as shown in Table 1. They are 45 technique and
15 material items categorized into 14 disciplines. Each discipline
consists of various numbers of technique and material items, and
the material items are marked (m) in Table 1. For example, the

pavement discipline includes one technique item of reduction in


volume or weight, and four other material items. These items were
individually dened.
The sustainable items were developed through the literature
and sustainable project review, interviews with practitioners,
analysis, and adjustments. They become closer to design practices
and more possibly incorporated into highway design by
designers.
Table 2 indicates some example items deriving from sustainable
requirements, construction design practices, and practitioner
interviews. For instance, the items of reduction in volume or weight
and recycled materials (numbers 1 and 2 in Table 2) were derived
from all sources. Wildlife crossing culverts and vegetation
(numbers 3 and 4) were derived more from construction design
practices and interviews. In addition, some items such as energy
efcient equipment (number 5) from the sustainable requirements
were found to be seldom applied by practitioners. Such items need
more considerations in practical highway design. Although some
sustainable items are described in prior sources, it would be

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C.Y. Tsai, A.S. Chang / Journal of Cleaner Production 20 (2012) 127e136

Table 1
Developed sustainable items for highway design.
1. Geometrics & Alignments
1) Reduction in volume or weight
2) Mild curves
3) Mild slopes
2. Earthworks
1) Earthwork balance
2) Minimum excavation and lls
3) Topsoil recycling

5. Retaining walls
1) Reduction in volume or weight
2) Vegetation
3) Grinding stones or soft reinforcing
6. Slope protection
1) Vegetation
2) Reinforced slopes
3) Waste reuse (m)

8. Transportation facilities
1) Reduction in volume or weight
2) Multi-function poles
9. Transportation maintenance
1) Reduction in path changes
10. Bridges
1) Reduction in volume or weight
2) Long-span bridges

4) Waste reuse (m)


3. Pavement

7. Landscape & Ecology


1) Avoidance of natural preservation sites

1) Reduction in volume or weight

2) Embankments or cuttings replaced by


bridges or tunnels
3) Native trees
4) (Treasure) Tree transplanting
5) Vegetation
6) Topsoil recycling
7) Culverts for wildlife crossings
8) Ecological ponds
9) Habitat connectivity
10) Biological porous environment
11) Reduction in landscaping facilities
12) High bridges

3) Pre-casting techniques
4) Temporary bridges for
construction
5) Hollow railings

2) Permeable materials (m)


3) Recycled materials (m)
4) Noise reduction materials (m)
5) Fiber materials (m)
4. Drainage
1) Runoff reduction
2) Vegetated or gravel ditches
3) Rainwater catchments
4) Inltration trenches or catch basins
5) Sediment ponds
6) Regional materials (m)

difcult to attribute the 60 items to the sources after the items were
added, deleted or integrated in the selection process.
Sustainable items, such as reduction in volume or weight,
recycled materials, and culverts for wildlife crossings were found
frequently in previous studies and highway projects. The reason for
the frequency that they were found is probably due to shared
information among studies and reports.

12. Tunnels
1) Reduction in volume or weight
2) Vegetation
3) Reduction in ventilation facilities
4) Waste reuse (m)
5) Fiber materials (m)
13. Electrical & Mechanical work
1) Reduction in transportation controlling
facilities
14. Lighting
1) Reduction in lighting equipment
2) Renewable energy

6) Reinforced materials (m)


7) High strength concrete (m)
8) Self-compacting concrete (m)
9) Lightweight concrete (m)
10) Steel (m)
11. Sound insulation
1) Reduction in volume or weight
2) Landscaping

3) Shading board (m)

consuming water and energy. So limited highway sustainable items


are linked to WE, EA or IEQ. Items such as mild curves and mild
slopes in geometrics & alignments can be designed to reduce oil
consumption and emission of carbon dioxide for vehicles in
transportation. They are not easily classied into any category of
LEED because the outdoor characteristics are not evaluated in LEED.
The reduction in lighting equipment and renewable energy items of
the lighting discipline can be designed to reduce energy
consumption and hence linked to EA.
The developed items are also linked to the aspects of environmental performance in GRI as introduced in Section 3.2. As shown
in Table 4, the nine aspects cover various indicators: the aspect of
materials covers EN1w2; energy covers EN3w7, etc. The nine
aspects supported by 30 indicators are compared.
GRI is a guideline for organizations to report sustainability
performance and achievement about their business operation and
products. Highways as infrastructure can be considered a kind of
products of the government organization although their characteristics are different.
As seen in Table 4, material is the most relevant aspect that 13
disciplines with 35 items are linked. That is, materials used by
weight or volume (EN1) and percentage of recycled input materials
(EN2) can be calculated for these items to measure the highways
material sustainability performance. Ten items in landscape &
ecology, such as native trees and vegetation, can be designed to

5.4. Linkage with LEED and GRI


The developed sustainable items are attempted to link to LEED
to observe their possible environmental performance evaluation. In
Table 3, the 14 disciplines with 60 items are linked to LEED. The
numbers of credit items of the seven LEED categories are shown in
the parentheses and added to 49. The seven categories supported
by the 49 credits are compared.
Since both highways and buildings are structures or facilities,
their common grounds are site and materials. It is seen in Table 3
that about 2/3 items are linked accordingly: 30 highway items
linked to SS and 8 to MR. Almost all disciplines are related to SS and
their sustainable items can be designed to reduce the impact on
sites. For example, the reduction in road width in the geometrics &
alignments discipline is related to SS.
But highways are located in open space, which is different from
buildings with indoor environmental quality concern as well as

Table 2
Sustainable items from requirements, design practices, and interviews.
Sustainable items

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Reduction in volume or weight


Recycled materials
Culverts for wildlife crossings
Vegetation
Energy efciency equipment
.

Sources
Sustainable requirements

Design practices

LEED

GRI

Studies

US

Japan

Taiwan

Practitioner interviews
Designers

Owners

Constructors

C.Y. Tsai, A.S. Chang / Journal of Cleaner Production 20 (2012) 127e136


Table 3
Sustainable items linking to LEED.
Highway design work

LEED Categories
SS
(14)

1. Geometrics &
Alignments
2. Earthworks
3. Pavement
4. Drainage
5. Retaining walls
6. Slope protection
7. Landscape & Ecology
8. Transportation facilities
9. Transportation
maintenance
10. Bridges
11. Sound insulation
12. Tunnels
13. Electrical &
Mechanical
work
14. Lighting
Total

4
5
6
3
3
12
2
1

1
2
4
2
1
12
1
0

10
2
5
1

1
1
2

WE
(3)

EA
(6)

MR
(8)

IEQ
(15)

ID
(2)

RP
(1)

2
30

3
1

1
0

bridge items are linked to 13 indicators, in which the long-span


bridge can save materials (EN1) and is a mitigation initiative
(EN26). Items related to more indicators can be designed with
higher priority to mitigate environmental impacts in multiple
aspects.

5.5. Checklist of sustainable items

1
1
1

60

133

improve biodiversity; earthwork balance in earthworks can be


designed to reduce waste in EEW; self-compacting concrete in
bridges can reduce the use of cement and decrease emissions of
carbon dioxide in EEW also. Some items are not related to
EN1wEN25 according to their denitions but benet the environment if designed. These items are classied into EN26 to indicate
initiatives to mitigate environmental impacts of products and
services (GRI, 2006). For example, the rainwater catchments and
inltration trenches in drainage are designed to prevent ood
during operation. These items are classied into EN26 instead of
EN8w10 which measure water usage.
It is also seen in Table 4 that sustainable items may be linked to
more indicators. For example, the 6 drainage items are linked to 9
indicators, in which the regional materials can be designed to
reduce materials (EN1), energy (EN7) and emissions (EN18); the 10

A checklist was then set up as shown in Table 5, which was


transformed from that in Table 1. The checklist discloses the
information of items considered, the times and man-hours used on
the considered items. In the design process, designers can examine
which items they have considered for incorporation into design by
marking the considered techniques or materials and recording the
times and hours used for consideration. For example, if a designer
considered volume reduction in geometrics and alignments, she
had to check the yes column, and record 2 times and 20 h spent on
the consideration in Table 5. If vegetated ditches and regional
materials in drainage were also considered, yes column had to be
checked and times and hours recorded. Then the total numbers can
be added at the bottom. Sustainable items usually have to be
considered many times in order to determine whether they are
appropriate for adoption, so Table 5 is helpful to record such
information.
The checklist consisting of sustainable items facilitates
designers in efciently deciding which items they can incorporate
into design. The checklist can show the input of sustainable design
by disclosing sustainable items considered, as well as times and
man-hours of considerations. Design loadings are usually measured
in man-hours, so the extra man-hours of consideration can represent the increased cost for sustainable design.
Implementing sustainability requires methods and tools that are
easy to understand and follow. Checklists are recognized as being
easy to understand and useful in design review (Knight and Jenkins,
2009). Checklists are often the rst tool that a company starts to use
when considering implementing sustainability into designs
(Adams, 2006), and they are used in evaluating gaps and nding
ways to improve things that have already been developed (TRB,

Table 4
Sustainable items linking to GRI.
Highway design work

ENi
Material
(1w2)

1. Geometrics &
Alignments
2. Earthworks
3. Pavement
4. Drainage
5. Retaining walls
6. Slope protection
7. Landscape & Ecology
8. Transportation
facilities
9. Transportation
Maintenance
10. Bridges
11. Sound insulation
12. Tunnels
13. Electrical &
Mechanical
work
14. Lighting
Total

4
5
6
3
3
12
2

2
6
1
1
2
2
2

Energy
(3w7)

Water
(8w10)

Biodiversity
(11w15)

EEW
(16w25)

Product
&Service
(26w27)

Compliance
(28)

Transport
(29)

Overall
(30)

2
1
2

1
2

1
1
10

1
2
4
1
1
1

10
2
5
1

10
1
5
1

60

35

2
1

1
0

14

14

134

C.Y. Tsai, A.S. Chang / Journal of Cleaner Production 20 (2012) 127e136

Table 5
Checklist format of sustainable items for highways.
Sustainable items

Considered

Techniques

Materials

Times

Man-hours

20

20

15

20

40

Yes

1. Geometrics & Alignments


1) Reduction in volume or weight
2) Mild curves
3) Mild slopes
Subtotal
4. Drainage
1) Runoff reduction
2) Vegetated or gravel ditches
3) Rainwater catchments
4) Inltration trenches or catch basins
5) Sediment ponds

No

6) Regional
materials
Subtotal
Total

2004; Mid
zi
c-Kurtagi
c et al., 2010). As a qualitative tool, checklists
allow engineers and designers to document their experiences and
facilitate cooperation between work teams (Luttropp and
Lagerstedt, 2006). Most sustainable guidelines such as the LEED
rating system evaluate the sustainable performance of buildings
with checklists. The operationalization of the developed checklist
and sustainable items are also suggested by researchers (Ofori,
1998).
6. Project testing
To check its applicability, the established checklist was tested on
four roadway projects for four months in 2009 to validate that the
sustainable items can be adopted in highway design practices and
the checklist can be easily used by designers. The four chosen
construction projects included an elevated bridge road in a city,
a new road in a city, an expressway in a rural area, and a section of
highway and ramp, with contract amounts from US$270,000 to
US$5,630,000. The four projects were in the phases of planning,
design, preliminary design, and detailed design during testing.
Sustainability became a key issue for these projects. The owners of
the projects required designers to incorporate sustainability into

the designs. Data for considered items, times and man-hours are
summarized in Table 6.
Through monthly recorded checklists consisting of the 60 items
listed in Table 1, the designers working on projects A, B, C and D for
four months considered 54, 31, 49, and 46 items respectively, as
shown in Table 6. The percentage of items considered equals the
considered divided by total items. The percentage of items
considered for the four projects ranged from 52% to 90%. Over 50%
of the 60 developed sustainable items were considered by each
project. Furthermore, the percentages of items considered for
projects A and C were higher than 80%.
As can be seen in Table 6, the most considered items in the
projects were the landscape & ecology work. This is probably
because landscape and ecology work contains more items and,
furthermore, the words of landscape and ecology may be easier
to relate to sustainability. The zeros in the gray in Table 6 show
the disciplines that sustainability was not considered. Among the
14 disciplines, only three were not considered by project B
(including slope protection, sound insulation, and electrical and
mechanical works). Only one discipline (electrical & mechanical
work and tunnels, respectively) was not considered by projects C
and D.

Table 6
Results of project test.
Highway design work

Projects
A
Item

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

B
Times

Man hours

Item

C
Times

Man hours

Item

Times

Man hours

Geometrics & Alignments


Earthworks
Pavement
Drainage
Retaining walls

3
4
5
5
3

12
9
14
14
10

13
9
17
18
17

3
3
2
4
1

11
6
5
10
1

10
2
2
9
1

3
3
4
6
2

14
13
13
15
7

14
19
14
18.5
9

6. Slope protection
7. Landscape & Ecology
8. Transportation facilities
9. Transportation maintenance
10. Bridges

2
12
2
1
8

5
35
6
4
16

9
45
7
7
24

0
9
2
1
3

0
33
9
2
4

0
20.5
5.5
1
3

2
9
2
1
7

4
40
11
4
19

6
49
12
6
21

Item

Times

3
4
3
5
3

15
12
9
16
17

Man hours
25
13
16
26
33

2
11
2
1
7

8
49
7
4
21

12
57
10
6
28

11. Sound insulation

12. Tunnels

13

15

13. Electrical & Mechanical work


14. Lighting
Total

1
3
54

3
44
148

6
20
202

0
2
31

0
4
89

0
4
62

0
3
49

0
7
164

0
12
200.5

1
3
46

3
6
170

3
13
245

Ratio of items considered (%)

90 (54/60)

52 (31/60)

82 (49/60)

77 (46/60)

C.Y. Tsai, A.S. Chang / Journal of Cleaner Production 20 (2012) 127e136

Generally speaking, the more items and times considered for


a project, more man-hours that were spent. For example in Table 6,
project A considered a total of 54 items, 148 times, and 202 h;
project B considered 31 items, 89 times, and 62 h. Project A
considered more items and times than project B, so project A spent
more hours as well.
As shown in Table 6, projects A and C in the planning and
preliminary design phases considered more items but fewer times
and hours than project D, which was in the detailed design phase.
This means that planning and preliminary design emphasize the
evaluation of sustainability for the whole project from broader
multidimensional viewpoints. Once in the detailed design phase,
specic items are intensely examined and discussed for implementation in the project. In this case, the number of items
considered would decrease, but times and hours spent on consideration would increase.
In evaluating the sustainable environmental performance of
a design project, the percentage of items considered is the rst
indicator. In the LEED rating system, considering more items for
design receives more points and achieves a higher evaluated level
of sustainability. During the design process, or after design is
nished, designers can use the complete checklist as partially
shown in Table 5 to mark considered items, and calculate the
percentage of items implemented into projects to check their
efforts for sustainability.
A nal review with the designers of the four projects involved in
the testing facilitated an understanding of how many items were
incorporated into projects. The designers indicated that many
sustainable items were added to projects after consideration,
including recycled materials, vegetation, and multi-function poles.
Approximately 50% of the 60 developed sustainable items were
incorporated into design. In addition, they indicated that the 60
items are sufcient for consideration for highway projects and the
checklist was easy to use in the design process for recording their
efforts devoted to sustainability.
7. Conclusions
This research proposed a framework for developing sustainable
items for highway design through reviewing sustainable requirements of the LEED, GRI, relevant studies, sustainable highway
projects, and practitioner interviews. A checklist consisting of 60
developed sustainable items was created and tested on four projects
to validate their applicability on highway designs. The developed
items were also linked to and compared with LEED credits and GRI
indicators to observe possible highway environmental performance
evaluation by the developed items and checklist.
The research results show that high percentages of the developed items were considered and further incorporated by the tested
projects. The designers also indicated that the 60 sustainable items
are sufcient for consideration for highway projects. In the design
process, sustainability would be considered repeatedly to identify
the most applicable design, in which more time will be spent.
Designers can use the complete checklist to mark considered items,
record man-hours of consideration as increased cost for sustainability, and calculate the percentage of items implemented into
projects to indicate achievement in sustainability.
The process of developing sustainable items in this study started
from the very beginning. Various items were collected from many
sources to make a complete set of sustainable items for highway
design. This effort itself is a contribution. The developed items are
not high standards impractical for design. The established checklist
consisting of sustainable items facilitates designers in efciently
deciding which items they can incorporate into design. The
proposed framework can narrow the gap between theoretical

135

requirements and current practices and lead construction projects


toward sustainability. Although the framework is illustrated using
highway as an example, the method for establishing the framework
and developing sustainable items can be followed by other types of
construction projects.
There is a limitation in this research concerning the perspectives
of sustainability. The viewpoints on sustainable items were
collected only from the designers, owners and contractors of the
construction profession. Although they are major players in
highway design, it is possible that the preferred items can be
different if interviewed with motorists, community or others.
Future research can solicit the viewpoints of other groups of
stakeholders to see the difference of identied items and make
a more complete checklist of highway sustainability.
Acknowledgment
The authors would like to thank CECI engineering consultants
Inc. for providing testing projects, and thank staffs from the Taiwan
Area National Freeway Bureau, Directorate General of Highways,
Kaohsiung City Government, and some contractors in Taiwan for
accepting interviews.
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