Life cycle assessment of new and existing hydraulic structures


The construction sector is a key player in achieving sustainable development. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, the construction industry is responsible for approximately 10% of global gross domestic product and employs 100 million people. The construction sector, which supports the economy and social well-being, at the same time contributes significantly to resource consumption, energy consumption and CO2 emissions.

Hydraulic engineering represents a not insignificant branch of the construction sector. In Germany alone, entire regions benefit from this growth industry, which generates annual revenue of 4.2 billion euros on inland waterways alone. These demands are countered by a waterway infrastructure with a problematic age structure. In 32% of the locks, the useful life of 100 years has already been reached or exceeded. The age structure of weirs, which cannot be closed for maintenance, is similarly unfavourable.

As a competence centre for hydraulic engineering in Germany, the BAW plays a key role in this respect. As a technical-scientific consulting and departmental research institution for transport hydraulic engineering in Germany, the BAW has achieved a unique selling point with its service portfolio, which is not offered in this form by other public or private institutions. The increased sustainability requirements in hydraulic engineering, the consequences of climate change, digitalization in construction, new propulsion technologies in shipping and automation in inland navigation are playing an increasingly important role.

Furthermore, the BAW is pursuing self-imposed and ambitious sustainability goals in the field of transport hydraulic engineering as part of the BAW Strategy 2030. In view of the growing sensitivity in the field of nature and water protection, long-term thinking and responsible action lay the foundation for sustainability assessment and optimization of solid structures in the field of transport hydraulic engineering.

The Institute of Sustainability in Civil Engineering (INaB) of RWTH Aachen University offers its consulting services to BAW to develop and apply a framework for the sustainability assessment of hydraulic infrastructures. The goal of INaB, as project partner, is to develop a sustainability assessment concept based on the current state of science. The developed sustainability assessment system shall subsequently be applicable to other existing structures. The project is divided into two modules: (1) literature review of sustainability assessment systems in the construction sector; and (2) life cycle assessment.

Within Module 2, the framework for the LCA is defined: Definition of the functional unit, reference flows, scope, system boundaries, and the calculation method for conducting the LCA. Guidelines will also be developed for developing scenarios related to the use phase (i.e., maintenance, replacement, rehabilitation, etc.) and end-of-life of hydraulic structures. INAB started with Cradle to Gate during pre-existing state with different scenarios which helped to achieve reduction in environmental impact. Next step of the module is to conduct Cradle to Grave assessment with all stage of Life cycle Assessment. Also, in this project sensitivity analysis is included for all products which could help to reduce global warming potential and energy consumption. A case study is evaluated using a newly constructed lock as an example.

Contact: Manouchehr Shokri M.Sc.

Tel.: +49 241 80 22766