Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Civil Engineering (MCE)

Document Type

Master's Thesis




Civil Engineering

First Advisor

Dr.Diana M. Byrne


Urban trees are critical assets to cities around the world. They act as a green infrastructure system to provide various environmental, economic and social benefits to their surrounding environments. However, the quality of life of urban trees is severely threatened by uncontrolled urbanization and climate change. The compaction of urban soils to meet the structural stability requirements for buildings and pavements directly restricts tree growth. Soil cells are green infrastructure placed in tree wells to transfer active and static loads to pavements. This allows for reduced soil compaction and increased tree root expansion. However, because the technology is still in its infancy stages, the potential global environmental impacts of its implementation are still unknown. This study uses the life cycle assessment (LCA) to quantify the environmental impacts of soil cells planned for tree plots on the University of Kentucky campus. The LCA assesses the project in five life cycle phases: materials extraction, transportation, construction, operation, end-of-life. The materials extraction and transportation phases were found to be the largest contributors to the total environmental impacts quantified within the LCA. Additionally, through sensitivity and uncertainty analyses, it was shown that transportation distance and mass of plastic should be targeted to reduce the system’s total environmental impacts, especially for the impact categories of ozone and fossil fuel depletion. Ultimately, this study can inform the sustainability of soil cells design and operation.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)