Sustainability—Research highlights

Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050, IF 1.789) is an international, cross-disciplinary, open access journal of environmental, cultural, economic, and social sustainability of human beings. Sustainability provides an advanced forum for studies related to sustainability and sustainable development, and is published monthly online by MDPI.

The aim of the journal is to encourage scientists to publish their experimental and theoretical research relating to natural sciences, social sciences and humanities in order to promote scientific predictions and impact assessments of global change and development. The journal’s central concern is to promote the understanding of the diverse aspects such as challenges relating to sustainability, socio-economic, scientific and integrated approaches to sustainable development as well as other topics related to sustainability (defining and quantifying sustainability, sustainability tools, applications of sustainability, policies and laws relating to sustainability). More details about the journal and its scope are available on our website.

In the following, we present a selection of the most cited articles over the past year and highlight the latest research in sustainability.

Comparative “from Cradle to Gate” Life Cycle Assessments of Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA) Materials

Laura Moretti, Vittorio Mandrone, Antonio D’Andrea and Silvia Caro

The objective of this work is to compare the environmental impact of two different hot mix asphalt (HMA) materials used for road construction in Italy. The analyses used a “from cradle to gate” Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) boundary system and the methodology included considerations about raw materials and fuel supply, as well as transport and manufacturing processes. Primary data provided by the producers and secondary data available in the literature were used as part of the analyses. The results suggest that the proposed method offers rigorous criteria for a comprehensive assessment of the environmental impact of HMA materials, which could be used, among other applications, as an evaluation parameter in public bids.

Systems Thinking for Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment: A Review of Recent Developments, Applications, and Future Perspectives

Nuri Cihat Onat, Murat Kucukvar, Anthony Halog and Scott Cloutier

Tracking the environmental impacts of production, use, and disposal of products (e.g., goods, and services) have been an important issue in the global economy. Although Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a widely applied method to track these environmental impacts and support policies, it has certain limitations and an isolated way of evaluating the environmental impacts with no consideration of social and economic impacts and mechanisms. To overcome the limits of current LCA, three mechanisms have been proposed in the literature: (1) broadening the indicators by including social and economic indicators in addition to the environmental impacts; (2) broadening the scope of analysis from product-level assessment to national and global levels; (3) deepening the assessment by inclusion of more mechanisms to account for interrelations among the system elements, uncertainty analysis, stakeholder involvement, etc. With these developments, LCA has been evolving into a new framework called Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA). Practical application of LCSA requires integration of various methods, tools, and disciplines. In this study, a comprehensive literature review is conducted to investigate recent developments, current challenges, and future perspectives in the LCSA literature. According to the review, a high number (40%) of LCSA studies are from the environmental science discipline, while contributions from other disciplines such as economics (3%) and social sciences (9%) are very low. On broadening the scope of analysis, 58% of the studies are product-level works, while 37% quantified the impacts at national level and achieved an economy-wide analysis, and only 5% of the studies were able to quantify the global impacts of products using LCSA framework. Furthermore, current applications of LCSA have not considered the rebound effects, feedback mechanisms, and interrelations of the system of interest sufficiently. To address these challenges, we present a complete discussion about the overarching role of systems thinking to bring tools, methods and disciplines together, and provide practical examples from the earlier studies that have employed various system-based methods. We discuss the importance of integrated system-based methods for advancement of LCSA framework in the following directions: (1) regional and global level LCSA models using multi-region input-output analysis that is capable of quantitatively capturing macro-level social, environmental, and economic impacts; (2) dealing with uncertainties in LCSA during multi-criteria decision-making process and expert judgments in weighting of LCSA indicators; and (3) integration of system dynamics modeling to reveal complex interconnections, dependencies, and causal relationships between sustainability indicators.

Sustainable Pavement Management System in Urban Areas Considering the Vehicle Operating Costs

Giuseppe Loprencipe, Antonio Pantuso and Paola Di Mascio

Urban roads constitute most of the existing roads and they are directly managed by small administrations. Normally, these small administrations do not have sufficient funds or sufficient qualified personnel to carry out this task. This paper deals with an easy-implementation Pavement Management System (PMS) to develop strategies to maintain, preserve and rehabilitate urban roads. The proposed method includes the creation of the road network inventory, the visual surveys of the pavement and the evaluation of its condition by the Pavement Condition Index (PCI). The method intends to give a valid tool to road managers to compare alternative maintenance strategies and perform the priority analysis on the network. With this aim, the procedure assesses the Vehicle Operating Costs (VOC) by a written regression between PCI and International Roughness Index (IRI). The proposed method has several advantages because it can be easily adapted to various situations and it does not require a large amount of time and money for its implementation.

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