Sustainable Structural Highway Systems

Focus Area



Air Quality, Environmental Process






Over 3 years

Research Idea Scope

Conventional structural systems do not meet the objectives of environmental stewardship including full use of recycled materials, minimizing labor costs, expedited construction, and a fully recycled system at the end of its lifecycle. Instead, new systems are needed to meet these objectives. Composite systems using recycled steel and concrete with recycled aggregated and recycled materials to replace the cement are an attractive solution. Not only do these systems meet the objective of using recycled materials and reducing the carbon emissions, using composite structural components (such as concrete filled tubes or walls) to replace traditional structural steel or reinforced concrete components greatly reduces the labor and material needed, thereby meeting the accelerated bridge construction objective so important in today’s marketplace. A research program investigating the use of these components in highway construction would require experimental testing of the material, components, and connections. The experimental results would need to be used to develop robust design methods. In addition, analytical modeling would be required to develop engineering expressions appropriate for bridge designers. Finally, a complementary life-cycle assessment would be required.

Urgency and Payoff

This research has the potential to transform highway engineering to truly embrace sustainable engineering practice.

Suggested By

Dawn Lehman, University of Washington