Life cycle assessment of tunnel structures: Assessment of the New Austrian Tunnelling Method using a case study

Bernhard Willibald Hopf, Endrit Hoxha, Marco Scherz, Harald Heichinger, Helmuth Kreiner, Alexander Passer

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


One important measure to combat progressing climate change is compliance with and under no circumstances to exceed the decreasing greenhouse gas budget. Every economic sector must strive to make its ecological contribution to achieve this objective. The construction sector is largely responsible for these negative environmental burdens. Although tunnels are considered to have extensive energy and material consumptions the literature has failed to present their environmental impacts. Aimed at this knowledge gap, the objective of this study is to present the life cycle assessment (LCA) of a tunnel construction project situated in Bulgaria. The study analyzes the impacts of the New Austrian Tunnelling Method (NATM) using the case study "Modernization of Railway Section Elin Pelin-Kostenets – Lot 3". Moreover, by applying dominance and sensitivity analyses, the environmental drivers and optimization potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions are identified. The results show that steel, shotcrete, and concrete, contribute the most to the global warming potential indicator and are responsible for 85% of this. Furthermore, the life cycle stages for the production of materials and components have a share close to 85 % of the total global warming potential. These findings may help future tunnelling construction projects to improve the environmental performance and thus to combat the alarming development of climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Article number 012117
JournalIOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022
EventSustainable Built Environment D-A-CH Conference 2022 - Built environment within Planetary Boundaries: SBE22 berlin - Natural Building Lab constructive design and climate adaptive architecture TU Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Duration: 20 Sept 202223 Sept 2022


  • case study
  • GWP
  • LCA
  • NATM
  • New Austrian Tunnelling Method
  • scenario analyses
  • tunnel construction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

Fields of Expertise

  • Sustainable Systems


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