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Life cycle implications of urban green infrastructure

Spatari, Sabrina, Yu, Ziwen, Montalto, Franco A.
Environmental pollution 2011 v.159 no.8-9 pp. 2174-2179
carbon footprint, ecosystems, energy, green infrastructure, greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gases, life cycle assessment, models, pollution control, public water supply, runoff, water management, water pollution, watersheds, New York
Low Impact Development (LID) is part of a new paradigm in urban water management that aims to decentralize water storage and movement functions within urban watersheds. LID strategies can restore ecosystem functions and reduce runoff loadings to municipal water pollution control facilities (WPCF). This research examines the avoided energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of select LID strategies using life cycle assessment (LCA) and a stochastic urban watershed model. We estimate annual energy savings and avoided GHG emissions of 7.3GJ and 0.4 metric tons, respectively, for a LID strategy implemented in a neighborhood in New York City. Annual savings are small compared to the energy and GHG intensity of the LID materials, resulting in slow environmental payback times. This preliminary analysis suggests that if implemented throughout an urban watershed, LID strategies may have important energy cost savings to WPCF, and can make progress towards reducing their carbon footprint.