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Climate change demands a change in transportation designs and materials, says ASU engineer

September 28, 2017

Rising temperatures require pavements to be more durable and sustainable

Extreme summer heat has become more frequent across the contiguous U.S. over the past 20 years, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. As temperatures continue to rise, transportation designs and materials will need to be more durable and sustainable, according to Kamil Kaloush, a professor in Arizona State University's SchoolThe School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment is part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment.

Kamil Kaloush

Question: How are climate change and increasing urban temperatures related?

Answer: The warming climate has resulted in an increased impact on urban heat islands — built-up areas where buildings, roofs and paved surfaces' temperatures can be hotter than the air itself. Known as the heat-island effect, this retained and radiated heat causes overall night temperatures to rise higher than in neighboring, less developed areas. Urban heat islands not only escalate the absorption and emittance of heat back into the atmosphere, the use of mechanical systems for cooling also triggers a rise in environmental pollutants, thereby causing additional burden on the environment.

Q: Pavements are a big contributor to urban heat-island effects. How can we make them better?

A: We work with government and industry partners to develop new designs and evaluate technologies that include modified pavement systems that better maintain safe and durable highways. We do this while keeping sustainability in mind — considering the important environmental, social and economic issues.

Our research on rubberized pavements and fiber-reinforced asphalt concrete has shown that these modified materials are durable and resilient. They offer better overall performance, which translates into road-user benefits, including improved ride quality, less fuel consumption, lower maintenance frequencies and safer roadways.

These pavements also offer the advantage of reduced pavement thickness, which in turn reduces use of natural resources and curtails greenhouse-gas emissions.

We also work with permeable pavements — pavements that allow movement of storm water through the surface — which can mitigate urban heat-island effect by dissipating heat more quickly than dense pavements. The improved water flow also has a positive effect on storm water management, and cooling pavement surface temperature. 

We’re working with local governments on the potential benefits of recycling old asphalt pavements. Although the national trends in recycling asphalt pavements are encouraging, the environmental conditions in Phoenix are extreme and need further consideration. Generally, we have found that the use of recycled asphalt pavements at moderate percentages can lead to greater resource conservation and a more environmentally friendly approach to paving.

Q: What are the biggest future challenges?

A: The International Disaster Database shows that extreme weather events have been increasing over the decades. To prepare for future climate-precipitated events, we need to invest in upgrading our severely distressed infrastructures while re-evaluating our current designs and specifications, looking at solutions that improve the performance of various transportation elements under extreme weather conditions. 

At the same time, as extreme weather events and the pressure of growing traffic demand continue, we will face increasing challenges to sustain and balance durability, user safety and effective mobility, and sustainability. Developing and installing sustainable pavements and other building materials will be critical to creating a sustainable future not only for our transportation infrastructure, but also for highly populated urban areas.


Top photo: During the 2016 Pavement Preservation and Maintenance Conference hosted at Arizona State University, local contractors provided a demonstration of six different chip-seal treatments, all finished with a micro surface to provide a uniform texture afterward. The project is designed to provide sustainability insights for local municipalities, the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

Terry Grant

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications


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University Innovation Alliance shows the power of collaboration

September 28, 2017

Number of low-income graduates increased by 24.7 percent at alliance's member institutions, including co-founder ASU

Three years ago, Arizona State University co-founded the University Innovation Alliance (UIA), a coalition of 11 major public research universitiesThe 11 member schools of the University Innovation Alliance are: ASU, Ohio State University, Georgia State University, University of California-Riverside, Iowa State University, University of Central Florida, Michigan State University, University of Kansas, Oregon State University, University of Texas at Austin and Purdue University. across the country, with the goal of graduating more low-income and underserved students. In that period, the number of low-income graduates increased by 24.7 percent among participating universities, and the number of undergraduate degrees awarded overall increased 9.2 percent (from 79,170 to 86,436).

These figures represent significant progress toward the alliance’s goal of graduating an additional 68,000 undergraduates — at least half of whom are low-income — by 2025. Currently, about 50 percent of ASU’s in-state undergraduate students are from low-income families.

The increased degree attainment sets the UIA firmly on the path to exceed its original goals, predicting an additional 94,000 graduates by 2025.

As it stands today, the United States is 3 million graduates short of what is needed to fill the 63 percent of jobs in 2018 that will require a postsecondary education. By 2025, that gap is predicted to grow to 16 million. The graduate deficit is particularly acute among low-income students, raising serious concerns about the nation’s future prosperity and the economic mobility of millions of Americans.

“The future economic competitiveness of the United States depends on higher education’s ability to innovate together in order to improve learning and outcomes at scale,” said Michael M. Crow, chair of the UIA and president of ASU. “Our progress in creating opportunity for a growing population of low-income and underserved students bodes well for the role of the UIA and other institutions to expand and diversify the nation’s talent pool and workforce. That’s good for everyone. ” 

In just three years, member institutions have implemented and scaled numerous successful initiatives that address student retention and success, many of which had their start at ASU. The success of ASU’s eAdvisor system, for example, inspired participating universities to implement similar solutions at their colleges. This nationally recognized innovation has helped improve freshman retention at ASU by 9.5 percent and helped increased six-year graduation by 19.3 percent.

UIA members have developed systems that use predictive analytics and academic advising to identify and intervene with students at risk of dropping out of college. Universities have also created innovation fellowships to build internal capacity at UIA universities and scale effective programming, in order to drive student success.

“We believe the progress we’re announcing is significant,” said Bridget Burns, executive director of the UIA. “We hope that more universities join us in setting and reporting on ambitious goals so that together we can help unlock the promise of a postsecondary degree for more students.”

The UIA recently announced its latest scaling project to provide students at its member universities with completion grants to ensure that potential graduates aren’t derailed by financial challenges. Preliminary data from the UIA shows that as many as 4,000 Pell-eligible seniors in good academic standing are at risk of being dropped from classes or not allowed to graduate because less than $1,000 is owed to their respective institution. Through funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates, UIA members will provide completion grants to students beginning this fall.

“At its core, the UIA will bring the American dream within reach of many more deserving students,” said Michael V. Drake, president of Ohio State University, a founding member institution.

In 2018, the UIA will host a groundbreaking national convening, bringing together campuses from within and beyond the alliance to share strategies that advance student success and transform higher education.

By piloting new programs, sharing insights about their relative costs and effectiveness, and scaling those interventions that are successful, the alliance is catalyzing systemic changes in the higher education system. 


Top photo: Some of ASU's newest graduate make their mark on a chalkboard wall set up at the May 2017 Undergraduate Commencement. Photo by Andy DeLisle/ASU

Katherine Reedy

Media Relations Officer, Media Relations & Strategic Communications