Green is increasingly the new gold standard in road building, and South African roads are set to get "greener" as the value of more environmentally friendly technologies and techniques are recognized by our road builders and associated organisations.
Internationally there is a shift towards green practices including sustainable transport infrastructure. Leading industry consultants are of the opinion that there is a similar need to embrace the green road revolution in South Africa.
It has resulted in the establishment of the Green Roads Council of South Africa (GRCSA). This body is seeking to develop a system that will rate the sustainability of road design and construction in the country. Providing a means to assess the sustainability of road projects, offering recognition to those projects, which deserve it, while also spurring on contractors and clients to consider the impact, they have on the environment and surrounding communities when building a road.
But how do "green roads" differ from normal roads?
From a broader environmental perspective, it is important to try and source material and energy locally. Thus, there should be a focus on using local suppliers, as well as weighing up the pros and cons of using different materials, such as concrete versus asphalt. Construction firms and engineers should also look at how they can minimise or reuse waste and water. In addition, surrounding communities and road users should be considered.
Sustainable practices in the design and construction of roads, such as moving from hot-mix asphalt to warm-mix asphalt, or using reclaimed materials from existing pavements in rehabilitation rather than new materials, could help to minimise the environmental impact and lower the carbon footprint of projects. In South Africa the R66,8-million M5 road rehabilitation project undertaken by the eThekwini Municipality's engineering unit in KwaZulu-Natal already demonstrated the success and benefits of using this technique.
According to Raylene Watson a sustainability expert at Royal HaskoningDHV, infrastructure developers need to look at the system from an entire lifecycle perspective. Roads need to be constructed in such a way that they consider potential future upgrades and travel patterns through the design lifecycle. "Each time we help to build a new road, we are hard-pressed to improve things. In order to attain the key maximum value for the area, the right type of road needs to be built."
The future of road building lies in the Green Roads initiative as environmental considerations are increasingly at the top of the agenda for companies and governments. Green technology like this – that delivers significant, measurable results – is the only way to go.
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