We need a collective change of mindset

21/10/2020
Brian Kent

The age of COVID-19 has brought rapid behavioural and technological changes to many parts of our lives. Large numbers of people on video calls and a great digital dependency have led tech commentators to believe that the pandemic has brought forward widespread adoption of new technologies by two years.

No industry is immune to this change. Highways projects are being delivered differently from 12 months ago; social distancing is paramount, schemes have been redesigned to accelerate works but also to think carefully about resources – both human and materials. Our sector is adopting new ways of working and is committed to supporting a sustainable economic recovery.

Yet there is still greater scope for local authorities and network operators to specify materials that deliver environmental savings, improved health and safety benefits for the workforce and require fewer people and less plant.

Warm mix asphalt is a case in point. There are many projects now benefiting from this technology but in some parts of the industry there may still be a lack of understanding about the benefits of this material compared to traditional hot rolled asphalt (HRA). Misconception, traditionalism and the need for technical departure from standards can stifle the opportunity to deliver improved environmental and social outcomes.

I believe we need a collective change of mindset and widespread behavioural change. There are a number of important reasons why.

Firstly, there are considerable carbon savings to be gained from using warm mix products. This is critical as many local authorities work to achieve net zero targets by 2030. Warm asphalt technology typically reduces the embodied carbon of asphalt compared to conventional hot mixes by 8–12%, depending on plant efficiency.

The principle behind the technology is that lower temperatures are used to manufacture these materials and therefore less energy is required. The actual energy savings will depend on the manufacturing process used at the specific production plant and the level of demand.

Secondly, warm mix asphalt has a number of health and safety benefits for the workforce. For example, for each 10°C reduction in temperature, there is a halving in the amount of fumes produced.

Hot asphalt is typically produced between 160°C to 190°C compared to warm mix asphalt, which is typically produced at 110°C to 140°C. As a result, this delivers a considerable reduction in the level of fume produced, creating significant environmental benefits for the workforce.

Warm mix has also proven to be significantly safer to work with in inclement conditions. Traditionally, when teams have laid hot asphalt in cold or wet weather, the amount of steam that is produced can impair visibility. By creating less steam, warm mix helps to create a safer site when weather conditions are less than favourable.

In addition, in the age of COVID-19, there is also the option to reduce the use of hot HRA and Portland cement concretes (PCCs) by using a suitable warm mix alternative, which eliminates the need for the additional personnel and the chipping machine on site, thereby reducing social distancing challenges.

Lastly, and critically, as warm mix cools quicker and can therefore be reopened to traffic earlier, it helps to reduce public disruption as works can be completed within a shorter time period. This then provides the option of avoiding work during peak traffic periods, or using this advantage to reduce the overall programme durations as more material can be laid each day.

Health and safety, carbon and productivity are all high on our collective agendas – they are helping to drive sustainable and safe projects in the age of COVID-19. However, there is an opportunity to go further and deliver improved outcomes in each of these areas with a greater adoption of high performing materials like warm mix. Our industry needs to build on the wider changes it is implementing and embrace new but proven materials technology.

Brian Kent is technical director at Tarmac

Highways jobs

Business Support Officer - Catering

£19,312 - £19,698 per annum
This job is Temporary for up to 12 months to cover operational needs. Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Road Safety & Sustainable Transport Assistant (Casual)

£11.73 - £12.69
Are you passionate about active travel with a particular interest in cycling? Telford, Shropshire
Recruiter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Street Works Inspector

£30,451 - £32,234 per annum
Are you passionate about highways and work planning? Telford, Shropshire
Recruiter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Commercial Transport Coordinator

£31,869 to £38,616 per annum
Are you passionate about making improvements and implementing change? London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Ugobus Driver

Up to £19579 per annum
Ugobus DriverPermanent, Part TimeUp to £19,579 per annum (full time equivalent)Location
Recruiter: Essex County Council

Senior Procurement Manager x3

£51000 - £60500 per annum + + Flexible Working & Local Gov Pension
Category and Supplier Relationship Specialists x3Fixed Term, Full TimeUp to £60,609 per annumLocation
Recruiter: Essex County Council

Senior infrastructure engineer

£45.834 - £56.141
You’ll lead the building, testing and monitoring new and existing services both on-prem and in the cloud. Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Infrastructure engineer

£37.772 - £46.999
This is a great role in a vibrant and growing team; we’re looking for people who have some experience in infrastructure engineering... Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Category and Supplier Relationship Specialist

£52000 - £60609 per annum + + Flexible Working & Local Gov Pension
Category and Supplier Relationship SpecialistPermanent, Full TimeUp to £60,609 per annumLocation
Recruiter: Essex County Council

School Crossing Patroller

£4,657
Are you looking for a rewarding job helping the community? London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Local Plan Transport Advisor

£44,700 - £48,854
Do you have experience as a Transport Planner or Project Manager? East Sussex
Recruiter: East Sussex County Council

Lead Transport Modeller

£39,713 - £43,397
Do you have experience as a Transport Modeller? Lewes, East Sussex
Recruiter: East Sussex County Council

Social Value Assistant Manager (mainly home based)

£33000 - £38000 per annum + + Flexible Working & Local Gov Pension
Social Value Assistant Manager (mainly home based)Fixed Term, Full TimeUp to £38,001 per annumLocation
Recruiter: Essex County Council

Traffic Projects Officer

£27,614 to £30,602 pro rata per annum
We have a great opportunity for a Projects Officer to join our busy Traffic Team. York, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of York Council

Emergency Planning Assistant

£28,452 - £37,026 depending on skills,
Are you interested in emergency planning and keen to be part of a supportive team? Sandwell, West Midlands
Recruiter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Network Management Officer

£22,183 - £32,234
This is a varied role for an enthusiastic and motivated candidate, with experience of highway maintenance or a technical background, who... Cambridgeshire
Recruiter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Environmental Health Officer

£32,910 - £35,745
Reporting to the Public Protection Manager, (Health, Food& Safety) the duties that the post holder is responsible for include... Telford, Shropshire
Recruiter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Environmental Health Officer

£32,910 - £35,745 per annum
Reporting to the Public Protection Manager, (Health, Food& Safety) the duties that the post holder is responsible for include... Telford, Shropshire
Recruiter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Local Highway Officer

£22,183 - £32,234
The role is to identify maintenance repairs and improvements and to work with Community Groups and Partners, dealing with... Cambridgeshire
Recruiter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Technical Business Analyst (Highways)

Up to £46359 per annum
Technical Business Analyst (Highways)Permanent, Full TimeUp to £46,359 per annumLocation
Recruiter: Essex County Council

Highways Presents

Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue

INSIDE:

  • The Queen's Speech and procurement reform
  • The remarkable benefits of controlled motorways
View the latest issue

Latest Video