Carbon Footprint Calculator for Departments of Transportation Highway & Non-Highway Land Uses

Focus Area

Climate Change


Air Quality, Environmental Process




Under $99k


Under 1 year

Research Idea Scope

Synthesize publicly-available data to create a computer model that calculates carbon footprint for DOT-centric development. Inputs are needed for embodied carbon, carbon burned during construction and maintenance, and carbon sequestered by vegetated land uses. A special emphasis will be made on stormwater controls used along DOT rights-of-way. Designers would able to estimate C footprint based upon design options, varied off- and on-road construction vehicles used for various construction scenarios, optional maintenance regimens, and the type and design of green landscapes (tree density, grasses, etc.) Users of the model will be able to evaluate (and report out) the carbon footprint of design options for landscapes and roadways. This will enable stormwater management and other design options to be evaluated for carbon in addition to hydrology and pollutant removal requirements. Task 1: Research and synthesize data in literature to calculate carbon sequestration for each of the four sources or sinks: (1) embodied carbon in materials used for construction, (2) construction vehicle emissions, (3) maintenance vehicle emissions, and (4) sequestration of carbon in vegetated landscapes. Task 2: Based upon results of Task 1, a carbon footprint calculator (computer model) will be produced that allows designers to vary different design features, construction vehicle and material transport options, and maintenance regimens. Task 3: A GUI will be developed that is transportation-system specific. Exact needs will be determined based upon conversations with prospective clients (state departments of transportation)

Urgency and Payoff

The urgency for this project comes with global recognition for the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2). This need was underscored by the Obama administration’s 2009 Executive Order 13514 requiring federal agencies to “measure, report and reduce their GHG emissions…and establish reduction targets (Federal Register, 2009),” a commitment which has been renewed recently in an Executive Order setting targets for federal sustainability over the next decade (The White House, 2015). Given the expanse of highway corridor constructed and maintained throughout the US, the DOT has the potential to lead carbon reduction efforts at both the federal and state levels. At this time, there is not a tool available by which to easily calculate or predict net carbon emissions associated with construction and maintenance activities within roadway corridors. The payoff of this project is the delivery of a model with the ability to calculate carbon footprint associated with transportation corridors via DOT-specific user inputs that will enable both inventory of and optimization efforts to minimize carbon emissions. This model will include carbon sequestration within roadside vegetated filter strips and swales. These data were collected in roadside environments (Bouchard and Hunt, 2013) and will provide a secondary payoff by crediting state DOTs for CO2 emission offsets occurring in vegetation within corridors. References. Bouchard, N.R., Osmond, D.L., Winston, R.J., Hunt, W.F. 2013. The capacity of roadside vegetated filter strips ad swales to sequester carbon. Ecological Engineering 54: 227-232. Federal Register. (2009). “Executive Order 13514 – Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance Title III The President.” Rep. No. 194, Federal Register, U.S. The White House, 2015. Executive order – planning for federal sustainability in the next decade. Accessed at order-planning-federal-sustainability-next-decade. 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized GHGs like CO2 as a public health threat, and in 2010 the Obama administration issued Executive Order 13514 requiring federal agencies to “measure, report and reduce their GHG emissions… and establish reduction targets” (EPA 2010; Federal Register 2009).

Suggested By

Leshan Fernando Carbon Storm, Inc. 919-740-3238

[email protected]