Sustainable railway decision-makings through enhanced life cycle assessment for material circularity

Main Presenter:    Koji Negishi 

Co-Authors:   Alain Anthony Mardo     Léa Fischer      Renaud De Montaignac                                    

The global challenge of climate change leads to the development of strategic railway connections, a move that significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions and fosters economic growth. In this landscape, a pioneering railway construction project stands out, introducing an innovative approach to Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). This approach overcomes the limitations of conventional LCA methods in the railway sector, particularly in the effective and systematic management of excavated materials during the construction phase. A material flow analysis, intricately linking the construction site, material suppliers, stockpile zones for excavated materials, and recycling facilities, plays a pivotal role in the successful revalorisation of excavated materials. It involves an automated comparison of primary and secondary materials, enabling the simulation of multiple scenarios and the selection of materials that optimise Key Performance Indicators at the scale of the entire project, thereby
enhancing both sustainability and efficiency in construction practices.

Utilising a sophisticated digital platform developed by ORIS Materials Intelligence, a major railway construction project in Finland embarked on a path of sustainable construction practices. The project aims at improving the connectivity and accessibility of the southwestern region of Finland, while seeking solutions for emission reductions through the placement of surplus materials, using a circular economy approach. The revalorisation of excavated materials during the construction phase is an aspect often overlooked or out of scope in traditional LCA. Subsequently, the project adopted a series of iterative optimisations, unfolding in a five-step scenario to progressively enhance material circularity across the project’s entire value chain. The digital tool was instrumental in pinpointing carbon and cost critical points within the base scenario, thereby revealing substantial opportunities for improvement through the strategic revalorisation of a considerable volume of excavated
materials. Notably, a significant proportion of the aggregates utilised were circular, originating from the project site itself, thereby eliminating the need for primary raw materials and underscoring the substantial benefits of material circularity.

These results are not just numbers; they offer profound insights for decision-making in railway system construction. By demonstrating the environmental and economic viability of sustainable practices, the project paves the way for future endeavours in the sector. It highlights the pivotal role of digital solutions in enhancing LCA, particularly in promoting material circularity. This case study is a testament to the potential of sustainable infrastructure in contributing to global efforts against climate change, aligning with broader policies aimed at transitioning to environmentally friendly and economically sustainable transportation solutions.

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