A real alternative to precast highway sound barriers

May 27, 2010

When it comes to highway sound barriers, options are few and far between. Precast has long remained the industry standard due, in large part, to lack of acceptable, cost-effective alternatives. However, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission recently completed a sound barrier project using a composite alternative—Eco Sound Barrier—that offers an combination of affordability, sustainability and architectural flexibility.

When it comes to highway sound barriers, options are few and far between. Precast has long remained the industry standard due, in large part, to lack of acceptable, cost-effective alternatives. However, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission recently completed a sound barrier project using a composite alternative—Eco Sound Barrier—that offers an combination of affordability, sustainability and architectural flexibility.

In 2008, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission became the first to use the sound barrier on the $100 million renovation of a 7 ½-mile stretch of highway on the Pa. Turnpike. The project involved the reconstruction of a section of the turnpike near the Ohio border that expanded the existing four-lane highway to six lanes. The sound barrier was used to provide noise mitigation on the section of the turnpike that runs through Enon Valley, Pa.

Centria presented Eco Sound Barrier to the turnpike commission as an option for the project. The first highway product to be Cradle-to-Cradle certified, the sound barrier is made from 23% recycled material and is 100% recyclable at the end of its useful life.

“There is certainly something to be said about the environmental benefits of this product,” said Kevin Scheurich, project manager for the Pa. Turnpike.

Most appealing to the turnpike commission, however, was the cost savings. Total installed costs for the sound barrier are less than those of traditional precast barriers, so the turnpike commission approached contractor Joseph B. Fay Co. with the new product.

“Right away we saw the potential advantages of using [the sound barrier],” said Eric Klimas, project manager for Joseph B. Fay. “We then had our engineers spend some time with it and found it to be a good alternative to precast.”

At only 4.25 lb per sq ft, the sound barrier weighs dramatically less than precast panels and requires far fewer trucks to transport it to the jobsite—cutting down on emissions and lowering a project’s carbon footprint while reducing transportation and labor costs.

When all the different factors were figured, the 1,800-ft-long by 15-ft-high sound barrier came in almost $385,000 under budget.

Scheurich said the product’s benefits are impressive and that now it is just a matter of seeing if the barrier can withstand the test of time.

“We are looking at it from a lifecycle perspective right now,” Scheurich said.

Although the Pa. Turnpike project was the first application for a highway project, Centria has used the same steel- and foam-composite panels in structural building applications for more than 40 years. Exterior composite wall systems using these panels have performed for decades in diverse climates and environments with little or no maintenance required, according to Todd Padezanin, Eco Sound Barrier product manager.

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