In the final phase of the infrastructure lifecycle, the end-of-life phase, owner-operators have opportunities to maximize the utility of the materials, components, and equipment that form part of an obsolete or redundant infrastructure asset as well as the land that it occupies. While actions in this phase may not enhance the climate-resilience of the infrastructure itself (as it is being decommissioned), they can lead to social and environmental resilience co-benefits that more broadly support societal resilience. Such actions can be underpinned and encouraged by relevant policies and standards set at the national and international level by relevant governmental actors and institutions.
Upstream decisions and actions can significantly influence the ease with which resilience-enhancing approaches can be implemented at the end of an asset’s lifespan. Such actions include introducing modularity into the design and construction phases. The multi-decadal foresight required to facilitate resilience-enhancing end-of-life practices is a burgeoning movement that is still in its infancy. Therefore, most aging infrastructure has not been designed with resilience or circularity in mind. Adaptive operations and maintenance practices can further support resilience at the end-of-life stage, but novel approaches and concepts are required to further enhance resilience co-benefits during the final phase of the infrastructure lifecycle.
Contractors are the lead practitioners in certain aspects of the final stage of the infrastructure lifecycle, responsible for the physical (de)-construction and quality of infrastructure, ensuring it is built and disassembled according to pre-determined technical specifications. Contractors include large-scale, national, or international firms, construction material supply companies, and local, small- scale builders.
Infrastructure Owners and Operators are responsible for the majority of the actions in the final phase of the infrastructure lifecycle, both in terms of planning and execution.
Key Inputs from Other Phases
Phase 1Policies and Plans
Regulations, codes, and standards play a key role in informing and shaping the end-of-life decision-making process, strategies, and practices.
Long-term adaptation plans including land use planning set in this phase will inform decommissioning and end-of-life strategies.
The earlier in the infrastructure lifecycle plans are developed that help to enhance and maintain resilience at the final stage, the more effective and adaptive relevant stakeholders can be when assets, networks, and systems reach the end of their life.
The prioritisation of new infrastructure development must take into account existing infrastructure that is reaching the end of its current life, or is highly vulnerable to failure, in order to ensure continuity of service.
Phase 3Feasibility and Preparation
The preparatory stage of the lifecycle must prepare for the eventuality of premature end-of-life situations, given the uncertainty of future climate.
At this early stage, resilience can be enhanced by preparing for the final stage of the infrastructure lifecycle, including the potential to reuse components, land, and materials.
Phase 4Funding and Financing
Disaster risk financing approaches should be put in place to ensure access to capital for the eventuality of asset failure and the need to prematurely replace or repair an asset as a consequence of climate shocks.
There is potential to increase efficiencies at this stage by looking to reuse equipment, components, and materials from assets that have been recently decommissioned
Assets and networks must be designed with modularity in mind, in order to facilitate a more resilient end-of-life process.
When procuring materials, equipment, and components consider reuse.
Project design and construction requirements as well as consultant and contractor qualifications set in procurement documents must consider end-of-life strategies
Introducing modularity at the construction phase will facilitate a more resource-efficient end-of-life phase.
Phase 8Operations and Maintenance
Adaptive O&M approaches can ensure that an asset’s life can be extended to the point of obsolescence, ensuring that a maximum amount of time is available to develop resilient end-of-life strategies for infrastructure where this has yet to be developed.
The correct maintenance of materials, equipment and components throughout an asset’s life can ensure that they are repurposed or reused once the asset is decommissioned, deconstructed, demolished or redeveloped.
The Basics and the Shift
The Impacts of Climate Change on the End-of-Life Phase
For the majority of infrastructure, the end-of-life phase represents the shortest stage of the lifecycle. Nevertheless, climate change can have a significant impact on the end-of-life process. For instance, a sudden climate shock, made more likely by climate change, such as severe flooding, could result in the catastrophic failure of infrastructure, resulting in its premature decommissioning or abandonment of assets. Equally, in cases where assets are dismantled or demolished, the impact of future climate change on the space left vacant must be considered. A resilience-minded handover process would therefore ensure that the land made available is developed in such a way that it can withstand future climate shocks and stresses. In some instances, this may require that blue/green infrastructure is prioritized over grey infrastructure development to protect communities and ecosystems from future impacts.
Traditional Responsibilities and Decisions
Effects of Climate Change
New Tools and Approaches
Traditionally, at the end of an asset’s life, owner-operators may demolish or dismantle structures to return the land to its original state or sell an asset on for redevelopment or abandon it without significantly altering the structure.
The demolition or abandonment of an asset, while likely adding minimally to an asset’s cumulative effects on climate change, will nevertheless contribute to climate change. Failure to reuse or recycle materials post-demolition will require future projects to use virgin materials, which in most cases will result in significant emissions and the depletion of scarce natural resources. Similarly, the abandonment of an asset may result in the need to develop previously undeveloped sites, resulting in the destruction of ecosystems and reduction in the services they provide i.e., climate regulating and supporting.
Adopting circular economy principles will minimize the need to produce new materials and limited the extraction of natural resources in the future. Similarly, creative approaches to the reuse of assets and spaces could limit the need to develop previously unused spaces. Finally, returning previously developed spaces to their natural state to allow green and blue infrastructure to provide beneficial ecosystem services, such as climate and air regulation and water and nutrient cycling.
Government policy and institutional standardization have largely been absent from the end-of-life stage of the infrastructure lifecycle, particularly outside of the energy sector. There are therefore no legally binding requirements in place ensuring a resilience-minded end-of-life process is undertaken across many sectors.
The failure to adequately legislate for a climate-resilience-minded end-of-life process can result in unsustainable and wasteful practices at this stage. Given the fact that much of the infrastructure approaching the end of its life currently will have been designed and constructed prior to the emergence of climate-considerations, a continuation of this practice has the potential to contribute to further negative climate impacts.
Requirements that mandate the most efficient reuse and recycling of materials, components and equipment will minimize the negative climate change impacts at the end-of-life stage. To be effective, these requirements must be as universal as possible, supported by both national governments and international standardization bodies.
Integrated Guidance for Climate-Resilient Infrastructure
Based on the review of over 150 existing publications and tools on climate-resilient infrastructure, the following key actions have been identified to support practitioners in integrating climate resilience into infrastructure development in the End of Life phase of the infrastructure lifecycle. These actions are summarized in the table below and grouped by theme. Each action is further elaborated on in this section and references and links to key publication and tools are shared.
The following resources have been identified as the key resources for practitioners to understanding climate resilience at the end of an assets useable life.
Guidance Curtin University
Developing Policies for the end-of-life of energy infrastructure: coming to terms with the challenges of decommissioning.
This paper introduces the magnitude and variety of net-positive end-of-life challenges to encourage the development of reasonable policies for current and future decommissioning projects. The paper provides the basis for the interdisciplinary thinking required to deliver an integrated decommissioning policy that incorporates circular economy principles to maximize value throughout the lifecycle of energy infrastructure.
Cirecl E: from Decommissioning to Regeneration
In this report, Arup evaluate some of ways in which Circular Economy principles can be applied to the decommissioning of existing Energy Power plants, exploring the social, economic, and environmental benefits this creates for the local communities and surrounding areas. It explores the applications that Circular Economy principles can have in the design and operation of new power plants.
Guidance Cowes: Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Completing the Picture: How the Circular Tackles Climate Change
Concentrating on five key areas this report illustrates how designing out waste, keeping materials in use, and regenerating farmland can significantly reduce emissions. It demonstrates how businesses, financial institutions, and policymakers can build a resilient economy while playing an essential role in reaching climate targets.
Summary of Integrated Guidance
- Theme 1: Selecting an end-of-life strategy that supports resilience
- Theme 2: Circular Economy Considerations at the End-of-Life
Theme 1: Selecting an end-of-life strategy that supports resilience
9.1.1 Consider climate resilience when making end-of-life decisions
According to the United States Agency of International Development (USAID), adaptation strategies that enable more climate-resilient infrastructure can be categorized under four strategic approaches: 1) accommodate and maintain, 2) harden and protect, 3) relocate, and 4) accept or abandon. For the planning of new infrastructure, the fourth approach may lead decision-makers to accept a diminished level of service based on the current climate or abandon the project in favor of a more resilient solution.
In the case of existing infrastructure, a diminished level of performance could trigger the decision to decommission or phase out the asset. In some cases, this decision could be reached, due to a number of reasons.
- non-compliance with changes in relevant legislation, such as emissions, technology, and production standards resulting in them becoming stranded assets;
- technological obsolescence resulting from the failure to account for changing climate conditions during the design, construction or O&M phase, again stranding the asset ;
- the high cost of retaining the provided service in instances where necessary adaptation would require substantial reinforcement or retrofitting;
- an excess of service capacity beyond the level of redundancy needed to ensure overall resilience of the system.
Evidence-Based Decision MakingTools outlined in Action 2.3.2 can help to inform end-of-life decision-making, taking into account increasing risks and operational costs resulting from climate change. Of particular relevance are Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) and Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). For this stage of the lifecycle, an LCCA, conducted as per ASCE’s recommendations , will promote a cost-effective and resilient process. Environmental Co-BenefitsThese benefits can be maximized by conducting an LCA for the end-of-life stage to assess the cradle-to-grave environmental impacts of all materials, equipment, components, and space associated with the relevant infrastructure asset. These approaches can help to improve resilience outcomes, through the identification and exploitation of environmental co-benefits as well as providing social benefits through the enhancement of an asset’s value through to the final lifecycle stage. Systems ThinkingThese assessments can be extended to include the lifecycle cost implications of an asset’s end-of-life impacts on the wider system, considering interdependencies between assets and how an asset’s absence would affect the networks and systems in which it operates. Accounting for these costs enhances the resilience-based process through integrated planning.
Learning and IterationRegular performance reviews, as part of a resilient asset management plan (AMP) (refer to Action 8.2.1) which take relevant standards into account., e.g. . Systems ThinkingAs part of a systems-thinking approach, understanding the most appropriate time to commence the end-of-life phase of an asset is vital to ensuring broader system continuity including a minimum level of system redundancy. Therefore, any performance review conducted as part of an AMP should take the wider system into account, alongside the asset itself and its capacity to perform its function within a changing climate. Learning and IterationMonitoring should also take account of the adaptation measures implemented as part of a flexible and open-ended monitoring process.
The Capacity Assessment Tool for Infrastructure (CAT-I), developed by UNOPS, assesses decision-makers’ capacity to plan, deliver and manage their infrastructure system, including the decision to decommission. Indicators that inform the decommissioning process include governance, legal, financial, standards, health and safety, and stakeholder management. The tool is available here.
9.1.2 Execute an end-of-life process that supports resilience
In instances where the decision is made to decommission or commence with the end-of-life process, climate resilience must be considered. Ideally, a Future-Oriented Planningcomprehensive decommissioning plan or strategy that accounts for climate change will have been developed during the design phase, and necessary arrangements made during the procurement and construction phases. Together with a robust AMP, these lifecycle considerations conducted prior to decommissioning will significantly increase the climate resilience of an asset’s “retirement” phase.
However, the concept of climate-resilience-thinking within infrastructure has emerged relatively recently. As such, it is unlikely that climate considerations featured in the original decommissioning plans of infrastructure assets approaching their end-of-life phase today. This is becoming a pertinent problem across many sectors, including the field of offshore wind. The first generation of windfarms, installed throughout the 1990s, are now approaching the end of their operational lives. Recent findings cite the lack of regulatory frameworks and guidance available for owner-operators as barriers to effective decommissioning. Other research also highlights the need for more resilience-minded processes such as evidence-based learning and knowledge sharing across and between energy industries, in addition to government-driven policy development. The failure to account for resilience-supporting approaches across all infrastructure end-of-life processes will negatively affect efforts to address, withstand and overcome future climate shocks and stresses. It represents a significant knowledge gap within the whole-lifecycle approach.
Whether the end-of-life processes involve demolition, repurposing, reuse or decommissioning, a Evidence-Based Decision Makingholistic approach to the final phase must include technical, legal, economic, financial, social, and environmental considerations as well as the interdependencies among them (. The Envision Framework  includes indicators for high-level end-of-life planning, with links to a lifecycle economic evaluation, by-product synergies (see Action 9.2.1), and embodied carbon reductions.
The framework recommends the following improvements for executing an end-of-life process that supports sustainability and resiliency at the leadership level:
- Consider recyclability of materials and components
- Provide opportunities for flexibility or repurpose to meet future demands and the requirements on the infrastructure system
- Assess the end-of-life impacts across the triple bottom line (TBL)
- Calculate the entire cost and salvage value for the end-of-life phase
- Inclusive EngagementProactively engage with stakeholders throughout the process to ensure that the impacts are fully understood by the relevant communities
In the UK, the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) introduced a net-zero strategy in 2021 which outlined guidance for relevant operators on minimizing GHG emissions during the decommissioning phase. While net-zero strategies and climate resilience strategies are not one and the same, the guidance provided by the OGA does provide owner-operators with insights into approaches that address both ambitions, including:
- Environmental Co-BenefitsIdentify materials and resources that can provide environmental co-benefits across other projects
- Execute decommissioning plans with re-use and repurpose
In instances where the cost of alleviating potential climate risks to existing infrastructure outweighs the potential benefits of their installation, a managed retreat or planned relocation response may be the most appropriate. As stated in Lifecycle Phase 1, such strategies must be rooted in a human-rights-based framework, particularly if the decision to relocate has been imposed on communities through top-down measures. Guidance is limited in this field, however Weerasinghe et al. (2014) offers decision-makers high-level advice on planned relocation considerations, including their integration into national strategies and plans, such as NAPs and land use planning. Chapter 1.4.3 points to further guidance on this topic.
A burgeoning field related to the concept of managed retreat is the theory of rewilding i.e., returning land previously occupied by infrastructure or heavily managed land such as farmland to its natural state, enabling the ecosystem to sustain itself ad infinitum. This represents a step beyond simply introducing green or green/blue infrastructure into spaces previously dominated by grey infrastructure or farmland, as a rewilded area requires little to no human intervention to maintain itself. In order for this to be achieved, trophic complexity, stochastic disturbances and population dispersal must be prioritized as part of a successful rewilding scheme. These concepts are explained in greater detail in a paper published in 2019, which also outlines a framework for the implementation of a successful rewilding project.
In summary, the framework requires:
- An analysis of the ecological status of the focus area;
- An assessment of the viability of different management options; and
- An adaptive management approach to the implementation of the rewilding actions.
There are limitations to the applicability of rewilding as an approach post-end-of-life, including the availability of space. The land reclaimed from the complete removal of infrastructure must be sufficiently large to sustain a stable ecosystem or border an existing ecosystem to which it can be returned. In addition, given the immaturity of the concept, there are significant knowledge gaps that must be addressed if the concept is going to succeed as a viable and resilient approach to the end-of-life stage of the infrastructure lifecycle. Research conducted in 2017 identified five areas of research that require addressing: better knowledge of the relationship between actions and impacts; improved risk assessment processes; enhanced estimates of spatiotemporal differences in potential economic costs and related benefits; improved recognition and description of the likely social impacts of a given rewilding project; and facilitated development of a holistic and realistic framework for the monitoring and evaluation of rewilding projects.
Finally, within a policy context, a better understanding of the opportunities and constraints is required. The compositionalist paradigm, common in environmental legislation today, could prove insufficient in addressing the needs of successful rewilding approaches, given that climate change may have already made, and will continue to make previously suitable habitats unsuitable to species previously found there. Therefore, in order to facilitate the operationalisation of rewilding, governments must act to update existing legislation and put in place new regulations that support and encourage the adoption of the approach. Guidance on the integration of rewilding into the current policy context is outlined in a 2017 paper, available here.
Accounting for climate resilience in the Operations and Maintenance phase of an asset and in planning out an end-of-life strategy will significantly reduce the risk of forced premature abandonment of an asset due to climate shocks. Nevertheless, there is always inherent climate-related risk. Unanticipated severe events can render infrastructure unusable and force operators or decision-makers to abandon assets prior to their planned end-of-service. There is an emerging paradigm change within the scientific literature which advocates for a shift from fail-safe to safe-to-fail infrastructure to improve climate resilience. Fail-safe infrastructure is designed to withstand shocks and stresses up to a given threshold, which when crossed can result in catastrophic failure (Type 1 failure), such as in the case of the Morandi bridge in Genoa in 2018 or flood defenses in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Conversely, safe-to-fail infrastructure, as per Kim et al. (2019), is designed to lose function in controlled ways (Type 2 failure). This means limiting the likelihood of cascading or severe system failures resulting from Type 1 failure. Systems ThinkingA successfully implemented safe-to-fail strategy requires system-wide stakeholder engagement. Guidance on safe-to-fail strategies is limited, given its relatively recent emergence, however the Rijkswaterstaat “room for the river” project is an example of where the principles of safe-to-fail have been successfully implemented as part of a resilience-building design strategy.
Rijkswaterstaat 'room for the river'
The Room for the River program is a set of civil engineering works across the Netherlands, aiming to reduce flood risk by restoring a more natural and dynamic flow to four major rivers, following narrowly averted major floods in 1993 and 1995 that nearly overwhelmed the existing system of defences. It reflects a paradigm shift in water management, away from an emphasis on higher and stronger dikes to a broader approach, including the principles of safe-to-fail.a
“Continuous engagement with local stakeholders played a central role in fostering the acceptability of the solutions which required difficult trade-offs. Detailed planning and monitoring coupled with budget certainty facilitated the move from undertaking vulnerability assessment to implementing measures to reduce this vulnerability. Lastly, measures designed to work with nature, sometimes labelled ‘green infrastructure’, can preserve flexibility towards potential futures, and generate important co-benefits that support both public acceptability and sound financial outcomes”a
a Vallejo, L. & Mullan, M., 2017. Climate-resilient infrastructure: Getting the policies right, Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Theme 2: Circular Economy Considerations at the End-of-Life
Circular economy principles, such as reducing the extraction and use of finite resources, can enhance system-wide resilience to climate shocks and stresses when applied to the end-of-life process. By prioritizing the reuse and recycling of materials, components and equipment reclaimed from assets at the end of their operational lives, future infrastructure projects can reduce their dependence on raw materials, whose extraction and refinement can contribute to climate change as well as being vulnerable to its effects. This approach promotes both flexibility and increases the robustness of the wider system. The reduced reliance on raw materials through the reuse of those already present within the system represents a step towards an approach that is more circular and less linear in nature. The system is therefore less dependent on external factors and thus more resilient. In addition, by option to reuse materials, equipment and components or introduce new ones where required increases the flexibility of the supply chain. In addition, a circular process can enable assets or land to be reused or repurposed. This not only reduces costs and material usage, but also reduces the need to encroach on pristine and unused spaces and ecosystems.
9.2.1 Reuse and recycle material, components, and equipment
Transitioning from a linear to a circular end-of-life process promotes the reuse and recycling of materials, components, and equipment. Total decommissioning, within the context of energy infrastructure, refers to a process that sees the restored land on which the asset stood returned to the grantor post-decommissioning. Best practice, as outlined in Arup’s Circl-E Report, involves applying circular economy principles to ensure the most efficient recovery of materials, components and equipment. This minimizes waste and maximizes efficiencies, thus adding resilience to the wider system and future projects that benefit from the reclamation of reusable components. Total decommissioning best practices that exploit circular economy principles include the following:
- Environmental Co-BenefitsDismounting and reuse of machineries, components, and materials to decouple future projects from raw material extraction and use. Both the extraction process of raw materials as well as their use within the economic system have the potential to contribute to climate change impacts, either by producing emissions themselves, or by resulting in increased wastage of materials that are already in circulation.
- Environmental Co-BenefitsOpting for dismantling over demolition has a positive impact on energy and water consumption, and consequently emissions. The process therefore provides economic co-benefits.
- Total decommissioning requires a wider range of professional skills compared to demolition. Capacity BuildingEffective governance can therefore provide local stakeholders with the opportunity for capacity building and skills-sharing, thereby providing social co-benefits.
This approach can be facilitated by a modular and standardized approach to the construction phase (see Action 7.2.3), such as in the case of offshore oil platforms. This is already commonplace within the energy sector. Applying this approach across other infrastructure sectors could further encourage the efficient reuse and recycling of materials, components and equipment and decouple the supply chain from the consumption of raw materials. A recent report by the Royal Academy of Engineers also advocates for the adoption of circular economy principles within the (de-)construction sector, citing waste minimization as an effective tool in the decarbonization process, ultimately reducing the impact the end-of-life process has on climate change. This represents a positive shift within the sector towards wider circularity principles.
This process can be streamlined through the use of material passports, which provide standardized data, information, and documentation to all relevant stakeholders across the entire lifecycle and value chain of an asset. An EU-funded project provides comprehensive best-practice guidance for relevant actors on the introduction and use of material passports. The guidance covers a number of aspects which ensure that resilience is integrated into the outcomes, including guidance on the identification of environmental and social co-benefits through the use of LCAs and the effective dissemination of data across interdisciplinary actors. In addition, the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB) have developed a certificate which specifically encourages the adoption of circular economy principles during the deconstruction phase.
Despite these recent developments, evidence of practical applications of these approaches is sparse and a seminal report on the circular economy has identified the need for more research to be conducted into the potential that circular economy has in increasing climate resilience in sectors beyond agriculture. Therefore, applied examples and case studies on this subject are limited.
Policies that promote and facilitate the trade of circular products and materials could encourage further adoption of these practices. Guidance in developing such policy is available in “The National Policy Instrument Framework” developed by Circle Economy. At the national level, the European Commission has adopted a circular economy action plan that member states are in the process of implementing. Widespread adoption of such policies has the potential to positively influence the final stage of the infrastructure lifecycle by ensuring that practices that directly contribute to climate change, such as mineral extraction and steel production, are kept to a minimum.
9.2.2 Reuse and repurpose a space or asset post-handover
Site regeneration is an alternative climate-resilient solution to traditional decommissioning and demolition options. Environmental Co-BenefitsResilience through Regeneration (RtR) is an approach which sees green infrastructure solutions integrated into community-scale flood prevention masterplanning. Vacant properties and land are redeveloped and solutions such as bio-swales, rain gardens and riparian corridors introduced. Applying the RtR framework has proven effective in communities in Texas looking to create “sponge cities” that are more resilient to urban flooding.
Regeneration can also take the form of a transformation of the site into something that serves a new purpose while retaining some of the features of the original asset. Whereas the total decommissioning approach discussed in Action 9.2.1 focusses on the efficient dismantling and reuse of materials and equipment, reuse maximization, or waste minimization, focuses on repurposing existing assets into a new facility on site which may have an entirely different purpose, oftentimes community focused. Another term for this is ‘adaptive re-use’, and there are many examples ranging from parkland converted from railway infrastructure to the conversion of industrial sites to housing. Equity and Social Co-BenefitsThis approach can often generate local employment opportunities and may provide social benefits such as public space or community infrastructure. In addition, it provides environmental benefits, including the avoidance of developing pristine sites or those vulnerable to climate change out of necessity.
Finally, within the energy sector, repowering a plant which is set to be decommissioned offers the opportunity to introduce efficiency improvements, typically through equipment modernization.Systems ThinkingCommon among wind turbine renewals, technological improvements offer the opportunity to maintain or increase capacity without requiring the use of more space, or a reduction in the redundancy required to ensure a resilient energy supply. Repowering strategies are most effective when integrated holistically into national energy strategies, to ensure systemic considerations are made.
A combination of the strategies outlined in this section as well as in Action 9.2.1 can begin to provide resilience-minded end-of-life solutions as described in Action 9.1.2. However, as stated above, these considerations are still in their infancy, and are yet to become widespread. Steps must be taken throughout the entire infrastructure lifecycle to enable the final stage to also contribute to a climate-resilient future positively.
Tempelhofer Feld, Berlin'
Closed in 2007, the pre-WWII airport, once one of Germany’s largest airports, became the country’s biggest park in 2010. With over 300 hectares of space, the park has a six-kilometer cycling, skating and jogging trail, a 2.5-hectare BBQ area, a dog-walking field covering around four hectares and a picnic area. The park also has repurposed a number of its hangars as emergency refugee accommodation.a In addition to providing cultural, regulating, and supporting ecosystem services, the Allende Kontor community garden within the park has applied circular economy aspects, such as the reuse of materials to create raised beds to provide provisioning ecosystem services. Community gardeners use an exchange economy to trade and distribute produce grown in the park, helping to feed local communities using local produce.b
a Vincent, A., Bertini, L. & Shilling, K., 2021. Asset Resilience for Operations – COVID-19 & beyond, Sydney: Arup.
b Scheve, J., 2014. . Ort, Raum und Vergemeinschaftung in einem urbanen Gartenprojekt auf dem Tempelhofer Feld in Berlin, Bremen: Universität Bremen, Forschungszentrum Nachhaltigkeit.
Climate Change Mitigation Considerations
Theme 1: Selecting an end-of-life strategy that supports resilience
By this stage of the infrastructure lifecycle, most of the emissions that an asset will produce have been produced. Nevertheless, minimizing the emissions at this stage is important in the pursuit of carbon neutrality and can be supported by emissions lowering practices and off-setting schemes.
When advocating for the relocation or abandonment of infrastructure, holistic benefit considerations must be made, particularly if the infrastructure is providing services to underserved or marginalized communities. This is also true for infrastructure that provides economic or physical security. An equitable end-of-life approach should ensure no community is disproportionately negatively impacted by its absence.
Theme 2: Circular Economy Considerations at the End-of-Life
In reusing and recycling materials, components and equipment, circular economy approaches at the end-of-life stage ensure fewer virgin materials are required in future projects. This therefore ensures that fewer emissions are produced as a result. Further emissions reductions approaches applied during the decommission or dismantling of assets could further contribute to climate change mitigation.
Particularly in the case of space-repurposing, equitable decision-making would ensure that no community is forced to relocate or is further marginalized by a change in function. If the decision to repurpose is being made to protect vulnerable populations, the alternative provided should be equal to, or better than the original situation. Repurposed assets also have the potential to create new social value, for example new public space or social infrastructure.
Downstream Benefits of a Resilience-based Approach in the End of Life Phase
While the End-of-Life phase is the final phase in the linear lifecycle framework used by Infrastructure Pathways, in practice, it is one that connects to and intersects with the other phases of the infrastructure lifecycle, as is true of the other phases considered, creating a more circular and complex network of phases.
For example, practices adopted at the end-of-life stage, such as those outlined in Theme 2:Circular Economy Considerations at the End-of-Life, can directly contribute to the design and construction phases of other infrastructure projects. By reducing reliance on virgin materials, the resource loop will become more insular and therefore more resilient to external disruptions than traditional linear supply chains, and it will contribute to more sustainable construction practices.
In addition, novel approaches to the end-of-life stage adopted by forward-thinking owners and operators can help to shape government policies and plans. Regulations that advocate for circular approaches can be informed, developed, and improved by best practices as the infrastructure sector moves towards encouraging and requiring more resilient processes and outcomes across the entire lifecycle of assets, networks, and systems.
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