Life Cycle Assessment of Roads


Contact Dr Yue Huang to discuss this project further informally.

Project description

Road enables the movement of people, goods and services. Good design and maintenance of this vital infrastructure has a large part to play in meeting the sustainability targets of the Transport sector, such as carbon reduction. Road condition (skid resistance, roughness) has proven effects on safety and vehicle fuel efficiency. Conventional responsive mode (e.g. worst first) in road maintenance is unable to cope with the increasing demand, with too much reactive work in response to incidents and not enough focus on preventative work that is less expensive in the long-term. In the UK for instance, two minutes delay added to all vehicle trips would cost £12bn annually. Adding 1km to trip length (such as via diversion) to all vehicle trips at a speed of 40km/hour would cost £13.5bn per year. A holistic approach to study the many impacts of road is however, started only recently. There are methodological challenges in carrying out a life cycle assessment (LCA) of roads. This is further compounded by the emerging technologies in vehicles, roads and fuels which add uncertainty to LCA studies. However, those complete LCA of roads have proved its value in supporting stakeholders to make informed decisions on design, materials, etc.


The project will build on the findings of road LCA. Candidate will identify the knowledge gap and the key questions to answer within the chosen areas of study. It is expected that LCA modelling of road and its impact on the traffic, in accordance with ISO14040 and potentially with the use of a commercial computer tool such as SimaPro, will be carried out. This will be followed by case studies to test and calibrate the model. Multi-objective optimisaton, e.g. co-oprimising cost and carbon footprint, can be made using LCA results. These will help road authorities to make informed decisions about what treatment should be carried out and when. Reference will be made to the current infrastructure asset management, with an aim to develop evidence-based guidance for managing the road assets and to improve key performance (e.g. cost, emissions, and user satisfaction).

The project could address (but not limited to) the following areas:

  • Devise traffic management based on road geometry and the traffic environment (e.g. speed, volume) to reduce the overall emissions from disrupted journeys;
  • Fuel efficiency is a function of road condition, e.g. roughness. How remediation work can achieve a maximum saving (to road users) balanced by spending on the road work (to road authorities);
  • Create an evaluation scheme which incorporates cost and environmental LCA results, and user (i.e. travellers) satisfaction.


  • GALATIOTO, F., HUANG, Y., PARRY, T., BIRD, R. & BELL, M. 2015. Traffic modelling in system boundary expansion of road pavement life cycle assessment. Transportation Research, Part D: Transport and Environment, 36, 65-75.
  • HUANG, Y., BIRD, R. & HEIDRICH, O. 2009. Development of a life cycle assessment tool for construction and maintenance of asphalt pavements. Journal of Cleaner Production, 17, 283-96.
  • HUANG, Y., SPRAY, A. & PARRY, T. 2013. Sensitivity analysis of methodological choices in road pavement LCA. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 18, 93-101.
  • SANTERO, N. J., MASANET, E. & HORVATH, A. 2011. Life-cycle assessment of pavements Part II: Filling the research gaps. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 55, 810-18.
  • WHEAT, P. 2017. Scale, quality and efficiency in road maintenance: Evidence for English local authorities. Transport Policy, 59, 46-53.

Entry requirements

Applications are invited from candidates with or expecting a minimum of a UK upper second class honours degree (2:1), and/or a Master's degree in the relevant subject area.

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University’s minimum English Language requirements.

Additional staff contact

Dr Phill Wheat

Dr Judith Wang

How to apply

Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the university's website. Please state clearly in the research information section that the PhD you wish to be considered for is the ‘Life Cycle Assessment of Roads' as well as Dr Yue Huang as your proposed supervisor.

We welcome scholarship applications from all suitably-qualified candidates, but UK black and minority ethnic (BME) researchers are currently under-represented in our Postgraduate Research community, and we would therefore particularly encourage applications from UK BME candidates. All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit.

If you require any further information please contact the Graduate School Office e:, t: +44 (0)113 34 35326.