How sustainability can be delivered: a case study

Late last year, Main Roads Western Australia’s Northlink WA Southern Section (NLWA-SS) was awarded the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia’s (ISCA) IS Outstanding Achievement Award which recognises the IS certified project that demonstrates the highest overall score and sustainability achievements. Here’s a look at what the project did to achieve this sustainability honour.

The NLWA-SS Project achieved an IS Tool Design Rating of ‘leading’ with a score of 93 points (the highest ever for a design and construct contract), eleven independently verified sustainability innovations and enhanced economic, social and environmental outcomes.

Accordingly, it may go some way towards explaining how infrastructure sustainability can be delivered and provides an important case study for the industry.

Northlink WA – Southern Section is more than a road – once the adjacent Central and Northern sections are completed, the communities of Morley and Muchea will be connected by a non-stop transport route for the first time, letting people spend less time in traffic, and more time on what matters.

As a result, lives will be transformed through the creation of job opportunities, making the morning commute easier and getting people home quicker.

From start to finish, sustainable outcomes were embedded in the way that NLWA-SS was conceived, designed and built–winning it the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia’s outstanding achievement and impact awards in 2017.

Main Roads WA Senior Project Director, Rob Arnott, explains that sustainability was at the core of the project as conceived by Main Roads WA, flowing through to the concept design developed by BG&E and the detailed design and construction by John Holland.

“The excellent sustainability outcomes achieved on NLWA-SS were only made possible through the shared commitment of Main Roads WA, BG&E, John Holland, and others – it was an exemplary team effort.”

“The biggest and most important opportunities were acknowledged, and the elephants in the room called out, by using techniques such as lifecycle assessment. Alongside capital costs, a genuine and sustained effort was made to consider social value, environmental value and lifecycle costs. And a mechanism was implemented that enabled the realization of opportunities that were outside the specification, representing a new level of maturity for client/contractor relationships.”

Pavement with a 10 per cent reclaimed asphalt content was utilised project-wide, and a significant reduction in water use during operations was achieved by redesigning landscaping to avoid the need for reticulated watering.

A shared path for cyclists and pedestrians was identified early on as a priority for the community and was subsequently incorporated into the design. And the project achieved a 15 per cent reduction in energy use on the path by using light dimming through the quietest times of night.’

What other projects can learn about sustainability
Mr Arnott said the lessons from NLWA-SS showed how major infrastructure projects can embed sustainability throughout delivery to ensure better outcomes for local communities.

“The project continues to have broad community support and locals are seeing firsthand how connectivity and liveability is improving,” Mr Arnott said.

“Long-term enhancements to water quality, flood risk, ecological value, top soil, landscape character, local heritage values, and community wellbeing have been achieved via the project’s high-quality urban design, public art, drainage, landscaping and shared path solutions.”

The enhanced durability and operability of the project’s pavement, structures and lighting solutions have reduced construction impacts and will enable ongoing savings over the full life of the project.

The willingness of Main Roads WA, BG&E, and John Holland and to pursue innovation and trial new approaches has led to market changing technologies such as intelligent lighting systems, EME (lean) asphalt and on-site solar systems being one step closer to wholesale uptake by industry.

In particular, the close partnership forged between Main Roads WA, BG&E and John Holland allowed the team to raise the bar when it came to embedding the elements of sustainability during the detailed design and construction phases – there was ongoing engagement on economic, social and environmental impacts and value, and a firm commitment to sharing information openly.

John Holland’s NLWA-SS Project Manager, Ben Johnston, agreed stating that ,“Projects like NLWA-SS are examples of how sustainable social, environmental and economic outcomes can be achieved through the creation of people-centred solutions to complex challenges, and is a living example of our commitment to the values of caring and empowering, and being imaginative and future focused.

It’s our belief that the same creativity, innovation and excitement that was generated on NLWA-SS can flourish on more projects – leaving a legacy that carries on long after this project is finished, and transforming lives.”

The NLWA-SS Project parties hope to see the same principles that led to their success implemented on major projects around Australia and with this in mind, Main Roads WA and John Holland have commissioned consultancy Perspektiv to share the Project’s Sustainability Experience through the publication of an industry paper.

Australian firsts

  • The use of lifecycle assessment by a contractor in decision-making during detailed design
  • Implementation of a tightened asphalt specification to improve water resistance and durability to increase pavement design life
  • High modulus asphalt (EME2) trial on 700m section of the highway is the heaviest traffic loading section of a highway in Australia

Western Australia state firsts

  • Grade-separated roundabout demonstrated to be the preferred solution with regard to congestion and road safety
  • Adaptive lighting trial
  • Dimming of Principal Shared Path lighting for 50 per cent of each night
  • EME2 asphalt on trial section of freight route carriageway
  • Design of pedestrian underpass using 3-pin arch structure
  • Supplier Sustainability Day in collaboration with Supply Chain Sustainability School
  • Principal Shared Path width increased to four metres for length of NorthLink WA
  • Solar powered variable message sign (VMS) trial
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