Sustainability Challenges for Infrastructure Systems

Infrastructure plays a vital role in meeting basic needs of society including mobility, shelter, communications, and other essential services. The design and management of infrastructure systems greatly influences the quality of these services and have significant environmental, economic, and social costs and benefits. Infrastructure systems generally require large capital investments and are resource intensive. Consequently, the sustainability challenges facing infrastructure materials and systems are enormous, and complex given that they are multi-dimensional. Some of the key indicators that demonstrate the sustainability challenge of infrastructure systems in United States are as follows:


  • Crushed stone and construction sand and gravel account for 75 percent of the total of 3400 millions tons of new materials entering the U.S economy in the year 2000 [1].
  • Cement production is energy intensive and accounts for 3.4 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions from all sources excluding motor vehicles and power plants in United States [2].
  • Approximately 136 million tons of construction and demolition debris were generated in United States in the year 1996 equivalent to 2.8 pounds per person per day [3].


  • An estimated one-third of the U.S. roadways are in poor condition or mediocre condition [4].
  • Twelve categories of infrastructure in United States scored a grade of D+ overall in an assessment by the American Society of Civil Engineers [5].
  • Cost of improving and maintaining highways and bridges in United States over the 2001-2020 period is projected to be $183.8 billion (in 2000 dollars) [6].
  • An average peak period trip in congestion required 51 percent more time in the year 2000 as compared to the same trip under non-peak and non-congested conditions [6].
  • In the year 2002 congestion caused a total delay of 3.5 billion hours at a cost of $63.2 billion (in constant 2002 dollars) in U.S. [7].

Project Objectives

  • Develop a novel material design framework that integrates microstructure tailoring and macroscale life cycle modeling.
  • Apply this framework to the design of Engineered Cementitious Composites(ECC) formulations that enhance sustainability of bridge deck, roadway and pipe infrastructure.
  • Examine material flow implications of ECC use in infrastructure and the effects of mining operations (superquarries vs. smaller mines) and infrastructure location (urban vs. rural / U.S. vs. China) on sustainability performance.
  • Provide policy recommendations that incorporate life cycle analysis into major design and construction decisions.
  • Advance scholastic and professional education in sustainable infrastructure materials.

Project Duration

September 2003 - August 2008


1. Wagner, L.A.(2002). Materials in the Economy – Material Flows, Scarcity and the Environment. U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1221.

2. van Oss, H. G., and Padovani, A. C. (2003). Cement Manufacture and the Environment, Part II: Environmental Challenges and Opportunities. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 7(1), 93-126.

3. USEPA (1998). Characterization of building-related construction and demolition debris in United States. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.

4. ASCE. (2001). "Renewing America's Infrastructure: A Citizen's Guide." American Society of Civil Engineers, Washington, D.C.

5. ASCE (2003). Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. (as accessed on 02/20/05).

6. USDOT (2002). 2002 Status of Nations’s Highways, Bridges, and Transit. U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, D.C.

7. Schrank, D. and Lomax, T. (2004). The 2004 Urban Mobility Report. Texas Transportation Institute, The Texas A&M University System,

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       University of Michigan

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        October 16, 2006

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