Rethinking environmental LCA life stages for transport infrastructure to facilitate holistic assessment

Shoshanna Saxe (Corresponding author), Dena Kasraian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Life cycle assessment (LCA) aims to provide a near full accounting of impacts from the complete life of a product, to avoid burden shifting between different parts of the life cycle. However, this is exceptionally difficult with transport infrastructure because important parts of their impact lie outside the widely-applied industrial-product-oriented LCA life stages: production, manufacturing, use, and end of life. To account for those missing impacts, we propose a new framework for assessing the life cycle impacts of transport infrastructure.

This framework takes account of the differences between transport infrastructure and the industrial product system to which LCA is most attuned. First, rather than a linear process from material extraction to disposal, this LCA framework accommodates the multiple iterations of transport infrastructure through circular life stages. These reflect the long-life times, durability, persistence and feedback loops of transport infrastructure. Second, this framework recognizes the impact at the start of the life cycle created by demolition of previous infrastructure or land clearing. Third, the tightly linked external impacts that transport infrastructure induces, including influences on travel behaviour, local land use, land use, land use change and forestry, and network effects. Fourth, this framework recharacterizes “end of life” as “partial end of life”, in reflection of the widespread reconstruction, major refurbishment of and persistence of indirect impacts from transport infrastructure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1031-1046
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
Issue number5
Early online date28 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • industrial ecology
  • infrastructure
  • life cycle assessment (LCA)
  • life cycle thinking
  • life stages
  • transport

Promotion : time and place

  • Transport
  • Infrastructure
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Life cycle thinking
  • Life stages


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