October is National Energy Awareness Month so we wanted to take a look at where Public Works operations could improve their energy efficiency.  When managers think about energy savings, heating and cooling buildings and fuel for motor vehicle fleets typically comes to mind since just almost all communities have those responsibilities.  However another common but often overlooked responsibility where energy savings can be found is in the construction and maintenance of roadways.  Quite a bit of energy goes into building roads and even more is invested in the maintenance of the pavement and adjacent right of way.  The design of roadways and intersections also affects how much fuel is used getting from point A to point B.  The effort and frequency of maintenance dictates how much energy is invested in the long run.  In order to explore potential energy savings associated with roadways those interested can visit the Greenroads website.  The Greenroads Rating System is a sustainability rating system for roadway design and construction projects.  Greenroads was established in 2010 and is a very similar process to the LEED certification program for building projects.  There one can find a variety of ways for roadways to be more energy efficient including:

  • Maximizing the reuse of onsite materials and use of recycled materials
  • Optimizing equipment types and sizes to reduce fuel costs during construction
  • Using energy efficient asphalt mixes
  • Minimizing transportation distances for new materials and disposal of materials
  • Minimizing detours and additional travel distances during construction
  • Optimizing routes for efficiency and consider round a bouts and other techniques to reduce signals and vehicle idling http://sustainabilitytoolkit.apwa.net/
  • Designing pavements, bridges, other major structures, and landscaping to minimize maintenance costs and maximize service life and associated energy use.
  • Considering the use of  energy efficient lighting and signals
  • Providing for mass transit and multi modal forms of transportation which is also a part of Complete Streets
  • Supporting and Encouraging pedestrian and bicycle use

These techniques can be applied to both large and small scale projects.  In Fayetteville NC, the City is using these techniques as part of the Person Street corridor facelift.   This “Green Street” project, located within the heart of Downtown Fayetteville, represents how existing gray to green conversions in major downtown transportation corridors can be completed using innovative and energy efficient “Green” techniques.  The Public Works Department in Raleigh NC is using the Sandy Forks Road widening/improvement project as a pilot project to provide staff with additional knowledge and familiarity with the latest sustainable transportation design best practices that would benefit the City’s approach to future roadway projects.  This project includes the first public roadway median bioretention area to be installed by Raleigh and addresses energy conservation through the use of native landscaping; Bike & pedestrian access; context‐sensitive solutions, and the use of warm mix asphalt/recycled asphalt.

Scott Whalen

WK Dickson & Co, Inc.

Vice President