Life-Cycle Assessment and Co-Benefits of Cool Pavements

Prepared for the California Air Resources Board and the California Environmental Protection Agency, this report describes the development of a “cool” pavement life-cycle assessment (pLCA) tool. The tool was created to help local officials in California cities to evaluate the environmental impacts of alternative pavement types - from extraction of materials through construction and use to removal and disposal or recycling of materials. This study aims to help California cities adopt pavement management strategies that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the urban heat island effect. Results of the pCLA can help inform climate adaptation plans and construction and maintenance decisions for local California governments, and other municipalities considering cool pavements.

Construction, use, and maintenance of roadways contribute substantially to energy consumption, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, air pollutants, and the urban heat island effect. “Cool” pavements have high albedo, or solar reflectance, and have been shown to reduce ambient temperatures - mitigating the urban heat island effect and reducing GHG emissions from building energy use - and improve urban air quality. 

The pLCA tool was designed to help urban planners and local government sustainability managers compare the life-cycle environmental impacts of conventional (lower albedo) and cool (higher albedo) pavements. The tool compares the energy demand, global warming potential (GHG emissions), smog potential (ozone concentration), small particulate matter, and air temperature changes associated with two pavement scenarios over a 50-year life cycle. Components of the assessment are based on California-specific pavement life-cycle inventories.

The report presents a summary of an extensive literature review of cool pavement and pavement life-cycle assessments as well as results of various simulations and model evaluations to test the pLCA tool. Sections 2.8.3 and 2.8.4 walk the user through tool installation and operation, including detailed instructions and screen capture pictures for guidance.


Publication Date: April 2017

Related Organizations:

  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Tool (general)

States Affected:


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