The future of our roads

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Roads have become one of the last targets of climate change: temperature increases, floods, snowfalls… Climate experts report the consequences of this phenomenon for people, fauna, and flora… However, the most recently detected damaged elements are necessary for the transport of people and goods: roads. Their degradation has accelerated considerably and calls for more lasting solutions.

Although the emergence of roads dates back to the Mesopotamian civilization, the first asphalt roads emerged during the 19th century, driven by John Loudon McAdam. This Scottish engineer saw many advantages in the application of asphalt for roads: versatility, flexibility, and contribution to noise reduction. However, asphalt roads have always had one problem: polluting effects.

Pollution on the roads

In recent years, many voices have been raised against polluting vehicles because of their environmental damage. However, it is not the only harmful agent within land infrastructures. In 2020, scientists at Yale University discovered that asphalt roads generate secondary organic aerosols that increase the number of particulate pollutants in the air.

This finding triggered a response from the private and public industries. Whereas this first one is already looking for alternatives for cleaner road construction, the second is increasing investment in infrastructure restoration and repair. In the United States, for example, the Inflation Reduction Act signed by Joe Biden includes a combination of tax credits and direct funding to increase the supply of sustainable materials used in bridges and roads.

The effects of climate change

As a result, it is expected that roads will change in the coming years, following the ESG trend in which other sectors are already moving. Paradoxically, this change will benefit roads: one of the infrastructures affected by the effects of climate change.

Every year natural disasters are increasingly affecting the planet. However, in the case of asphalt roads, it is flooding which damages them. The contact of water with the asphalt causes a phenomenon known as stripping: the separation of the asphalt binder from the stone aggregate. The most recent case is in the Canary Islands. The Cabildo (local government) estimates the damage caused to roads by tropical storm “Hermine” at €4,000,000.

As road safety is a priority for everyone, every time there are rises or cracks in the asphalt, it is necessary to fix them, costing a lot of money. The most common material for this purpose is hot asphalt concrete. Hot asphalt concrete is not only costly and environmentally damaging to manufacture but also requires a facility (at a maximum distance of 100 kilometers from the area) to carry out the repairs.

DIY to the stage

How do we deal with these manufacturing, transportation, and implementation costs? As in other sectors such as furniture (the famous case of IKEA), the Do It Yourself (DIY) could be a paradigm shift.

What if a concrete mix, manufactured in bulk, could be worked at room temperature without needing specific machinery? What if this concrete mix was also composed of recycled materials from old pavements? This solution is the one offered by Único Asfaltos. This company has managed to transfer the “Do It Yourself” model to the asphalt sector, incorporating its advantages associated with recycling and cost savings.

The renewable origin of the raw materials and the possibility of applying them without needing specialized machinery is the perfect mix to maintain sustainable road safety. At Fellow Funders, we have been committed to ESG projects for years. For this reason, we have recently opened a financing round for Único Asfaltos to help the company in its growth plan. A necessary growth for the future of our roads.

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