Integrating Sustainability into Major Infrastructure Projects: Four Perspectives on Sustainable Tunnel Development

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Although sustainability is on the agenda of many countries and agencies, it is still a great challenge to properly integrate sustainability into major infrastructure projects, like tunnels. This is remarkable, as it is commonly accepted that the construction and operation of these civil infrastructures have a heavy impact on environmental, economic and social sustainability. In academia, the foregone conclusion seems to point to a lack of vision about sustainability with respect to tunnels. This article presents an empirical study that investigates sustainability ideas amongst tunnel practitioners in the Netherlands. The case was used as a practical environment to get access to tunnel practitioners, to explicitly define the meaning of a sustainable tunnel in its development phase. Perceptions of sustainable tunnels were extracted by means of a commonly accepted research methodology called Q-methodology. By applying this method, four perspectives were obtained: perspectives with a focus on energy, resilience, social or a transitional focus. Each perspective highlights distinct focal points on how to operationalize sustainability for tunnel projects. Each perspective is also accompanied by an anti-focus; how sustainability should not be approached, sometimes contrary to other perspectives. These insights help project practitioners in creating awareness for the existence of different perspectives, and subsequently help to focus project management efforts to implement sustainability in specific projects
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2019


  • sustainable project management
  • sustainable tunnel
  • perspectives on sustainability
  • Q-methodology

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