What’s stopping us from building green roads throughout Queensland? How can our industry work together to ensure new infrastructure is built sustainably?
This was the focus of the Sustainable Materials in Roads forum, held on Tuesday 29th of May in Brisbane. In collaboration with Transurban, the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) hosted the solutions focused forum to give its members (including government, consultants, contractors and asset owners) a platform to discuss the challenges they face when it comes to choosing sustainable materials for major projects.
The forum was an opportunity to hear from leading industry experts, including Alex Fraser Managing Director Peter Murphy who provided examples of iconic Australian infrastructure projects built with sustainable materials, and the opportunities for asset owners and contractors to build more sustainable roads in Queensland.
Sustainable materials in roads
More than ever before, government and other asset owners, together with designers and contractors are aware of the environmental impact of development, and they are seeking alternative products to achieve the most sustainable outcomes for their projects and communities.
“If you want to improve environmental outcomes on a project, clever material selection will have the biggest impact,” said Peter.
Alex Fraser supply high quality, recycled materials to projects across the full spectrum of infrastructure; from residential subdivisions to major projects such as EastLink, Peninsula Link, Gateway Upgrade North, M80 Upgrade, Moreton Bay Rail Link, Webb Dock West, and City Tulla Widening.
Sustainable roads in Queensland
The Gateway Upgrade North (GUM Project) is a critical transport corridor to the northeast of Brisbane that links Brisbane Airport, Port of Brisbane and the Australia Trade Coast precinct with the wider Brisbane area and Sunshine Coast.
Alex Fraser supplied aggregates and roadbase to the project through civil constructors, Lendlease. The use of Alex Fraser materials resulted in 171 less truck movements resulting in a saving of 170 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere, which is equivalent to saving electricity usage of 26 households for a year.
This project is a perfect example of how an asset owner can achieve outstanding sustainability outcomes by choosing recycled construction materials, as this Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR) project was awarded an IS design rating of Excellent. With better co-operation between suppliers, regulators and constructors, projects like GUN can still achieve much more than they currently do.
Other green roads in Queensland, built with Alex Fraser sustainable materials, include the Bruce Highway, Ipswich Motorway Upgrade, Port of Brisbane, Morton Bay Rail, and Main and Kessel Road.
What needs to happen to improve uptake of sustainable materials to build roads in Queensland?
Time is critical:
Once the first sod is turned on major projects, the day to day challenges of meeting budget and timelines become the focus and project managers often do not have the time to properly pursue the best sustainability outcomes. That is why it is important that: the client makes their sustainability objectives clear well before tender time, designers open up their design and specifications to sustainability opportunities; and contractors work actively with suppliers to identify sustainability opportunities well before tenders close.
Due to time pressures once construction has commenced, project personnel are often not able to obtain clearance internally (from consulting engineers and from clients), so they default to less sustainable products, often at significantly greater cost.
The lack of clear, concise and supportive specifications has been identified as a critical impediment for contractors considering the use of sustainable materials for their projects.
Alex Fraser continuously engages with road authorities with a focus on improving specifications to clearly support the use of quality, recycled materials to achieve better sustainability outcomes in new infrastructure. Despite this long-term engagement, a number of significant impediments remain to the use of sustainable materials in road construction.
“We work with road authorities and asset owners to develop supportive specification frameworks and want to ensure we can achieve best outcomes with sustainable construction materials,”said Peter.
“In Victoria the specification by VicRoads is clear and simple spanning 8 pages. However in Queensland it’s much more complicated, at 42 plus 36 pages. We know that having clear supportive specifications enables contractors to confidently choose the right materials for their project which is why DTMR are working with many others to streamline the Queensland road specs,” said Peter.
The take up of recycled materials for major projects in Queensland is nowhere near the same scale as interstate.
Education and awareness:
More education is essential to raising the awareness of the availability and quality of sustainable alternatives to extracted resources. It is important that proven successful performance of a product on projects in one state is recognised and accepted on other projects interstate. It is also a great waste of time and resources if project staff are not aware of proven sustainability opportunities and start their project sustainability journey from “ground zero”.
Mandating schemes like IS Rating Scheme are also incredibly important as they help ensure everyone is on the same page as to how we can plan, design and construct infrastructure that best serves our environment and communities.
Working towards best practice
The forum aimed to identify the barriers and suggest best practice management approaches to the use of sustainable materials and the encouragement of innovation. It also identified high impact actions influencers like Department of Transport and Main Roads Queensland, Transurban and the broader industry could take to support better sustainability outcomes.
This session was a fantastic opportunity to bring together Queensland’s key players in industry to improve the application of sustainability principles within the roads sector. We look forward to sharing the actions and outcomes of the plenary session to be released by ISCA and Transurban. We’re confident Queensland will see some positive changes resulting from this important industry collaboration.