Authors: The Lemelson Foundation; Cynthia Anderson, Sarah Jayne Hitt and Jonathan Truslove (Eds.) 

Topic: Accreditation mapping for sustainability in engineering education. 

Tool type: Guidance. 

Engineering disciplines:  Any.

Keywords: Accreditation and standards; Learning outcomes; AHEP; Student support; Sustainability; Higher education; Students; Teaching or embedding sustainability.
 
Sustainability competency: Critical thinking; Systems thinking; Integrated problem-solving; Collaboration.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4). See details about mapping within the guide. 

Related SDGs: SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production). 

Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: Adapt and repurpose learning outcomes; More real-world complexity; Cross-disciplinarity.

 

Learning and teaching notes:

This guide maps the Engineering for One Planet (EOP) Framework to AHEP4. The EOP Framework is a practical tool for curricular supplementation and modification, comprising 93 sustainability focused learning outcomes in 9 topic areas. 

The Lemelson Foundation, VentureWell, and Alula Consulting stewarded the co-development of the EOP Framework with hundreds of individuals mostly situated in the United States. Now, in collaboration with the EPC and Engineers Without Borders UK, the EOP Framework’s student learning outcomes have been mapped to AHEP4 at the Chartered Engineer (CEng) level to ensure that UK educators can more easily align these outcomes and corresponding resources with learning activities, coursework, and assessments within their modules.  

 

Click here to access the guide. 

 

Supporting resources: 

EOP Comprehensive Teaching Guide 

EOP’s 13 Step-by-Step Ideas for Integrating Sustainability into Engineering Modules 

EOP Quickstart Activity Guide 

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.  

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters. 

Author: Mike Murray BSc (Hons) MSc PhD AMICE SFHEA (Senior Teaching Fellow in Construction Management, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of Strathclyde). 

Topic: Links between education for sustainable development (ESD) and intercultural competence. 

Tool type: Teaching. 

Engineering disciplines: Civil; Any. 

Keywords: AHEP; Sustainability; Student support; Local community; Higher education; Assessment; Pedagogy; Education for sustainable development; Internationalisation; Global reach; Global responsibility; EDI. 
 
Sustainability competency: Self-awareness; Collaboration; Critical thinking.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37. 

Related SDGs: SDG 4 (Quality education); SDG 16 (Peace, justice, and strong institutions). 
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: More real-world complexity; Active pedagogies and mindset development; Authentic assessment.

Educational level: Beginner. 

 

Learning and teaching notes: 

This resource describes a coursework aligned to three key pedagogical approaches of ESD. (1) It positions the students as autonomous learners (learner-centred); (2) who are engaged in action and reflect on their experiences (action-oriented); and (3) empowers and challenges learners to alter their worldviews (transformative learning). Specifically, it requires students to engage in collaborative peer learning (Einfalt, Alford, and Theobald 2022; UNESCO 2021). The coursework is an innovative Assessment for Learning” (AfL) (Sambell, McDowell, and Montgomery, 2013) internationalisation at home (Universities UK, 2021) group and individual assessment for first-year civil & environmental engineers enrolled on two programmes (BEng (Hons) / MEng Civil Engineering & BEng (Hons) / MEng Civil & Environmental Engineering). However, the coursework could easily be adapted to any other engineering discipline by shifting the theme of the example subjects. With a modification on the subjects, there is potential to consider engineering components / artifacts / structures, such as naval vessels / aeroplanes / cars, and a wide number of products and components that have particular significance to a country (i.e., Swiss Army Knife).

Learners have the opportunity to: 

Teachers have the opportunity to: 

 

Learning and teaching resources: 

 

Rationale: 

There have been several calls to educate the global engineer through imbedding people and planet issues in the engineering curriculum (Bourn and Neal, 2008; Grandin and Hirleman 2009). Students should be accepting of this practice given that prospective freshers are ‘positively attracted by the possibility of learning alongside people from the rest of the world’ (Higher Education Policy Unit, 2015:4). Correspondingly, ‘international students often report that an important reason in their decision to study abroad is a desire to learn about the host country and to meet people from other cultures’ (Scudamore, 2013:14). Michel (2010:358) defines this ‘cultural mobility’ as ‘sharing views (or life) with people from other cultures, for better understanding that the world is not based on a unique, linear thought’.  

 

Coursework brief summary extracted from the complete brief:

Civil Engineering is an expansive industry with projects across many subdisciplines (i.e. Bridges, Buildings, Coastal & Marine, Environmental, Geotechnical, Highways, Power including Renewables. In a group students are required to consult with an international mentor and investigate civil engineering (buildings & structures) in the mentor’s home country. Each student should select a different example. These can be historical projects, current projects or projects planned for the future, particularly those projects that are addressing the climate emergency. Students will then complete two tasks: 

 

Time frame and structure: 

1. Opening lecture covering:

a. Reasoning for coursework with reference to transnational engineering employers and examples of international engineering projects and work across national boundaries. 

b. Links between engineering, people, and planet through the example of biomimicry in civil engineering design (Hayes, Desha, & Baumeister, 2020) or nature-based solutions in the context of civil engineering technology (Cassina and Matthews ,2021). 

c. Existence of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as RedR UK (2023) Water Aid (2023) and Bridges to Prosperity (2023). 

d. The use of corporate social responsibility (CSR) to address problematic issues such as human rights abuses (Human Rights Watch, 2006) and bribery and corruption (Stansbury and Stansbury) in global engineering projects.  

 

2. Assign students to groups:

a. Identify international mentors. After checking the module registration list, identify international students and invite them to become a mentor to their peers.  Seek not to be coercive and explain that it is a voluntary role and to say no will have no impact on their studies. In our experience, less than a handful have turned down this opportunity. The peer international students are then used as foundation members to build each group of four first-year students. Additional international student mentors can be sourced from outside the module to assist each group. 

b. Establish team contracts and group work processes using the Carnegie Mellon Group Working Evaluation document

 

3. Allow for group work time throughout the module to complete the tasks (full description can be found in the complete brief). 

 

Assessment criteria: 

The coursework constitutes a 20% weighting of a 10-Credit elective module- Engineering & Society. The submission has two assessed components: Task 1) a group international poster with annotated sketches of buildings & structures (10% weighting); and Task 2) A short individual reflective writing report (10% weighting) that seeks to ascertain the students experience of engaging in a collaborative peer activity (process), and their views on their poster (product). Vogel et al, (2023, 45) note that the use of posters is ‘well-suited to demonstrating a range of sustainability learning outcomes’. Whilst introducing reflective writing in a first-year engineering course has its challenges, it is recognised that  reflective practice is an appropriate task for ESD- ‘The teaching approaches most associated with developing transformative sustainability values stimulate critical reflection and self-reflection’ (Vogel et al, 2023, 6). 

Each task has its own assessment criteria and process. Assessment details can be found in the complete coursework brief.  

 

Teaching reflection: 

The coursework has been undertaken by nine cohorts of first-year undergraduate civil engineers (N=738) over seven academic sessions between 2015-2024. To date this has involved (N=147) mentors, representing sixty nationalities. Between 2015-2024 the international mentors have been first-year peers (N=67); senior year undergraduate & post-graduate students undertaking studies in the department (N=58) and visiting ERASMUS & International students (N =22) enrolled on programmes within the department.  

Whilst the aim for the original coursework aligns with ESD (‘ESD is also an education in values, aiming to transform students’ worldviews, and build their capacity to alter wider society’ -Vogel et al ,2023:21) the reflective reports indicate that the students’ IC gain was at a perfunctory level. Whilst there were references to ‘a sense of belonging, ‘pride in representing my country’, ‘developing friendships’, ‘international mentors’ enthusiasm’ this narrative indicates a more generic learning gain that is known to help students acquire dispositions to stay and to succeed at university (Harding and Thompson, 2011). The coursework brief fell short of addressing the call ‘to transform engineering education curricula and learning approaches to meet the challenges of the SDGs’ (UNESCO,2021:125). Indeed, as a provocateur pedagogy, ‘ESD recognises that education in its current form is unsustainable and requires radical change’ (Vogel et al ,2023, 4).  

Given the above it is clear that the coursework requirement for peer collaboration and reflective practice aligns to three of the eight key competencies (collaboration, self-awareness, critical thinking) for sustainability (UNESCO, 2017:10). Scudamore (2013:26) notes the importance of these competencies when she refers to engaging home and international students in dialogue- ‘the inevitable misunderstandings, which demand patience and tolerance to overcome, form an essential part of the learning process for all involved’. Moreover, Beagon et al (2023) have acknowledged the importance of interpersonal competencies to prepare engineering graduates for the challenges of the SDG’s. Thus, the revised coursework brief prompts students to journey ‘through the mirror’ and to reflect on how gaining IC can assist their knowledge of, and actions towards the SDG’s. 

 

References: 

Beagon, U., Kövesi, K., Tabas, B., Nørgaard, B., Lehtinen, R., Bowe, B., Gillet, C & Claus Spliid, C.M .(2023). Preparing engineering students for the challenges of the SDGs: what competences are required? European Journal of Engineering Education, 48(1): 1-23 

Bourn, D and Neal, I. (2008). The Global Engineer: Incorporating Global Skills within the UK Higher Education of Engineers. Engineers against Poverty and Institute of Education. 

Einfalt, J., Alford, J & Theobald, M.(2022). Making talk work: using a dialogic approach to develop intercultural competence with students at an Australian university, Intercultural Education, 33(32):211-229 (Grandin and Hirleman 2009). 

Harding, J and  Thompson, J. (2011). Dispositions to stay and to succeed, Higher Education Academy, Final Report 

Higher Education Policy Unit .(2015). What do prospective students think about international students 

Human Rights Watch. (2006). Building Towers, Cheating Workers: Exploitation of Migrant Construction Workers in the United Arab Emirates  

Michel, J. (2010). Mobility of engineers; the European experience, In UNESCO, Engineering: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities for Development, pp 358-360 

Sambell, K, McDowell, L and Montgomery, C.(2013). Assessment for Learning in Higher Education. London: Routledge. 

Scudamore, R. (2013). Engaging home and international students: A guide for new lecturers, Advance HE 

Stansbury, C. and Stansbury, N. (2007) Anti-Corruption Training Manual: Infrastructure, Construction and Engineering Sectors, International Version, Transparency International UK. Online.  

UNESCO. (2021). Engineering for Sustainable Development, delivering on the sustainable development goals,  

Universities UK. (2021). Internationalisation at home – developing global citizens without travel: Showcasing Impactful Programmes, Benefits and Good Practice,   

Vogel, M., Parker, L., Porter, J., O’Hara, M., Tebbs, E., Gard, R., He, X and  Gallimore,J.B .(2023).  Education for Sustainable  Development: a review  of the literature 2015-2022, Advance HE 

 

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Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters. 
 
 
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Author: Ramiro Jordan (University of New Mexico). 

Topic: Communicating river system sustainability.  

Tool type: Teaching. 

Relevant Disciplines: Civil; Mechanical. 

Keywords: Water and sanitation; Infrastructure; Community sustainability; Health; Government policy; Social responsibility; AHEP; Higher education; Sustainability; Project brief; Water quality control.
 
Sustainability competency: Systems thinking; Anticipatory; Collaboration; Integrated problem-solving; Strategic.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 hereand navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: SDG 3 (Good health and well-being); SDG 4 (Quality education); SDG 6 (Clean water and sanitation); SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth). 
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: Active pedagogies and mindsets; More real-world complexity.

Educational level: Intermediate. 

 

Learning and teaching notes:  

This is an example project that could be adapted for use in a variety of contexts. It asks students to devise a “sustainability dashboard” that can not only track indicators of river system sustainability through technical means, but also communicate the resulting data to the public for the purpose of policy decisions. Teachers should ideally select a local river system to focus on for this project, and assign background reading accordingly. 

Learners have the opportunity to: 

Teachers have the opportunity to: 

 

Supporting resources: 

 

Introduction: 

Two vital and unique resources for the planet are water and air. Any alterations in their composition can have detrimental effects on humans and living organisms. Water uses across New Mexico are unsustainable. Reduced precipitation and streamflows cause increased groundwater use and recharge.  Serious omissions in state water policy provide no protection against complete depletion of groundwater reserves.   

The water governance status quo in New Mexico will result in many areas of New Mexico running out of water, some sooner, some later, and some already have. Because Water is Life, water insecurity will cause economic insecurity and eventual collapse.   

Water resources, both surface and groundwater, and total water use, determine the amount of water use that can be sustained, and then reduce total water use if New Mexico is to have water security.  The public must therefore recognise that action is required. Availability of compiled, accessible data will lead to and promote our critical need to work toward equitable adaptation and attain sustainable resiliency of the Middle Rio Grande’s common water supply and air quality. 

A data dashboard is needed to provide on-line access to historical, modern, and current perspectives on water, air quality, health, and economic information.  A dashboard is needed to help inform the public about why everyone and all concerned citizens, institutions and levels of government must do their part! 

 

Project brief:  

The Middle Rio Grande region of New Mexico has particular sustainability and resilience requirements and enforceable legal obligations (Rio Grande Compact) to reduce water depletions of the Rio Grande and tributary groundwater to sustainable levels.  However, there is a lack of accessible depictions of the Middle Rio Grande’s water supply and demand mismatch. Nothing publicly accessible illustrates the surface water and groundwater resources, water uses, and current water depletions that cannot be sustained even if water supplies were not declining.  Therefore, there is a corresponding lack of public visibility of New Mexico’s water crisis, both in the Middle Valley and across New Mexico. Local water institutions and governments are siloed and have self-serving missions and do not recognise the limits of the Middle Valley’s water resources.   

A water data dashboard is needed to provide online open access to historical, modern, and current perspectives on water inflows, outflows, and the change in stored surface and groundwater.  This dashboard should inform the public about why everyone and all water institutions and levels of government must do their part! 

 

Given:  

 

Objectives:   

 

Acknowledgements: The 2023 Peace Engineering summer cohort of Argentine Fulbright Scholars who analysed the Middle Rio Grande Case Study concluded that water in the Middle Rio Grande is a community problem that requires a community driven solution.   

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. 

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Author: Jing Zhao (University of West of England). 

Topic: Investigating the decarbonisation transition. 

Type: Teaching. 

Relevant disciplines: Civil; Structural; Chemical; Mechanical; Electrical; Computing. 

Keywords: Decarbonisation, Housing, Built environment; Net zero, Carbon emissions; Energy efficiency; Sustainable energy; Local community; Curriculum; Higher education; Sustainability; Assessment. 
 
Sustainability competency: Systems thinking; Anticipatory; Collaboration; Self-awareness; Normative.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: SDG 4 (Quality education); SDG 7 (Affordable and clean energy); SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure); SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities). 
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: More real-world complexity; Active pedagogies and mindsets; Authentic assessment.

Educational level: Beginner. 

 

Learning and teaching notes: 

The purpose of this exercise is to encourage students to think in a socio-technical perspective of delivering extreme low carbon housing (e.g. Passivhaus), in order to support the occupants in adapting to new technologies and low-carbon lifestyle, shifting the paradigm from building isolated energy efficient homes to forming low-carbon communities.  

Learners have the opportunity to: 

Teachers have the opportunity to: 

 

Supporting resources: 

  

Terminology: 

Before beginning the activity, teachers and learners will want to become familiar with the following concepts. 

 

Activity overview:  

Students will role-play the post occupancy stage of inhabiting a Passivhaus home by playing different characters with different priorities (and personalities). Students will need to learn what new technologies and features are included in Passivhaus and what difficulties/problems the residents might encounter, and at the same time familiarise themselves with contemporary research on energy behaviour, performance gap, rebound effect, as well as broader issues in decarbonisation transition such as social justice and low carbon community building. Through two community meetings, the community manager needs to resolve the residents’ issues, support the residents in learning and adapting their behaviours, and devising an engagement plan to allow the residents to form a self-governed low-carbon community. 

 

Step one: Preparation prior to class: 

Provide a list of reading materials on ‘performance gap’, ‘rebound effect’, ‘adaptive comfort’, energy behaviour, usability and control literature, as well as on Passivhaus and examples of low-carbon features and technologies involved to get a sense of what difficulties residents might encounter.  

To prepare for the role-play activity, assign students in advance to take on different roles (randomly or purposefully), or let them self-assign based on their interests. They should try to get a sense of their character’s values, lifestyle, priorities, abilities. Where no information is available, students can imagine the experiences and perspectives of the residents. Students assigned to be community managers or building associations will prepare for the role-play by learning about the Passivhaus system and prepare ways to support occupants’ learning and behaviour adaptation. The goal is to come up with an engagement plan, facilitate the residents to form their own community knowledge base and peer support. (Considering 1. Who are you engaging (types of residents and their characteristics); 2. How are you engaging (level of engagement, types of communication; 3. When are you engaging (frequency of engagement) 

 

Step two: In class, starting by giving prompts for discussions: 

Below are several prompts for discussion questions and activities that can be used. Each prompt could take up as little or as much time as the educator wishes, depending on where they want the focus of the discussion to be. 

 

  1. Discuss what support the residents might need in post occupancy stage? Who should provide (/pay for) the support? For how long? Any examples or best practice that they might know? Does support needs to be tailored to specific groups of people? (see extra prompts at the end for potential difficulties)
  2. Discuss what the risks are involved in residents not being sufficiently supported to adapt their behaviour when living in a low-carbon house or Passivhaus? (reflect on literature)
  3. Discuss what are the barriers to domestic behaviour change? What are the barriers to support the residents in changing behaviour and to build low-carbon community? 

 

Step three: Class 1 Role Play  

Prior to the Role Play, consider the following prompts: 

Consider the variety of residents and scenarios:

Their varying demographics, physical and mental abilities, lifestyle and priorities. The following characters are examples. Students can make up their own characters. Students can choose scenarios of  

1) social housing or; 

2) private owner-occupier  

Social housing tenants will likely have a more stretched budget, higher unemployment rate and a bigger proportion of disabled or inactive population. They will have different priorities, knowledge and occupancy patterns than private owner-occupier, and will be further disadvantaged during decarbonisation transition (Zhao, 2023). They will need different strategies and motivations to be engaged. The characters of residents could be chosen from a variety of sources (e.g. RIBA Brief generator), or based on students’ own experiences. Each character needs to introduce themselves in a succinct manner. 

 

Other stakeholders involved include: 

They are role-specific characters that don’t necessarily need a backstory. They are there to listen, take notes, give advice and come up with an engagement plan. 

 

Consider the post occupancy in different stages: 

  1. Prior to move-in 
  2. Move-in day 
  3. The initial month 
  4. Change of season  
  5. Quarterly energy audit meeting 

 

Consider the difficulties the residents might encounter: 

 

Consider the different engagement levels of the residents: 

 

The role-play consists of two community meetings over two classes. The first meeting is held at two weeks after move-in date. The second meeting at 6 months of occupancy. The meeting should include a variety of residents on one side, and the ‘chair’ of the meeting on the other. (Consider the accessibility and inclusivity of the meetings as when and where those will be held). In the first meeting, residents will get to know each other, ask questions about house-related problems occurred in the first two weeks, voice concerns. Community managers/council members will chair the meeting, take notes and make plans for support. The teacher should act as a moderator to guide students through the session. First the teacher will briefly highlight the issue up for discussion, then pass it to the ‘chair’ of the meeting. The ‘chair’ of the meeting will open the meeting with the purpose of the meeting – to support the residents and facilitate a self-governed low carbon community. They then ask the residents to feedback on their experience and difficulties. At the end of the first meeting, the group of students will need to co-design an engagement plan, including setting agendas for the second meeting in a 6-month interval (but in reality will happen in the second class) and share the plan with the residents and the class. The teacher and class will comment on the plan. The group will revise the plan after class so it’s ready for the second meeting. 

 

Step four: Homework tasks: Revising the plan 

The students will use the time before the second class to revise the plan and prepare for challenges, problems occurred over the 6-months period. 

Optional wild cards could be used as unpredictable events occur between the first and second meeting. Such events include: 

 

Step five: Class 2 Role play 

The second meeting in the second class will either be chaired by community managers/council members, or be chaired by a few residents, monitored by community managers/council members. The second meeting begins the same way. The students playing residents should research/imagine problems occurred during the 6 months period (refer to literature), and what elements of the engagement plan devised at the end of the first meeting worked and what hasn’t worked. The ‘chair’ of the meeting will take notes, ask questions or try to steer the conversations. At the end of the second meeting, the ‘chair’ of the meeting will reflect on the support and engagement plan, revise it and make a longer-term plan for the community to self-govern and grow. At the end of this class, the whole class could then engage in a discussion about the outcome of the meetings. Teachers could focus on an analysis of how the process went, a discussion about broader themes of social justice, community building, comfort, lifestyle and value system. Challenge students to consider their personal biases and position at the outset and reflect on those positions and biases at the end of the meeting. 

 

 

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Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters. 
 
 
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Authors: Diana Adela Martin (University College London), Suleman Audu and Jeremy Mantingh (Engineers Without Borders The Netherlands). 

Topic: Circular business models. 

Tool type: Teaching. 

Relevant disciplines: Chemical; Biochemical; Manufacturing. 

Keywords: Circular business models; Teaching or embedding sustainability; Plastic waste; Plastic pollution; Recycling or recycled materials; Responsible consumption; Teamwork; Interdisciplinary; AHEP; Higher education. 
 
Sustainability competency: Integrated problem-solving; Collaboration; Systems thinking.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: SDG 4 (Quality education); SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities); SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production); SDG 13 (Climate action); SDG 14 (Life below water). 
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: More real-world complexity, Active pedagogies and mindset development, Authentic assessment, Cross-disciplinarity.

Educational level: Intermediate. 

 

Learning and teaching notes:   

This case study is focused on the role of engineers to address the problem of plastic waste in the context of sustainable operations and circular business solutions. It involves a team of engineers developing a start-up aiming to tackle plastic waste by converting it into infrastructure components (such as plastic bricks). As plastic waste is a global problem, the case can be customised by instructors when specifying the region in which it is set. The case incorporates several components, including stakeholder mapping, empirical surveys, risk assessment and policy-making. This case study is particularly suitable for interdisciplinary teamwork, with students from different disciplines bringing their specialised knowledge.  

The case study asks students to research the data on how much plastic is produced and policies for the disposal of plastic, identify the regions most affected by plastic waste, develop a business plan for a circular business focused on transforming plastic waste into bricks and understand the risks of plastic production and waste as well as the risks of a business working with plastic waste. In this process, students gain an awareness of the societal context of plastic waste and the varying risks that different demographic categories are exposed to, as well as the role of engineers in contributing to the development of technologies for circular businesses. Students also get to apply their disciplinary knowledge to propose technical solutions to the problem of plastic waste. 

The case is presented in parts. Part one addresses the broader context of plastic waste and could be used in isolation, but parts two and three further develop and add complexity to the engineering-specific elements of the topic.  

 

Learners have the opportunity to:  

Teachers have the opportunity to include teaching content purporting to: 

 

Recommended pre-reading: 

Part one:

Part two:

 

Part one: 

Plastic pollution is a major challenge. It is predicted that if current trends continue, by 2050 there will be 26 billion metric tons of plastic waste, and almost half of this is expected to be dumped in landfills and the environment (Guglielmi, 2017). As plastic waste grows at an increased speed, it kills millions of animals each year, contaminates fresh water sources and affects human health. Across the world, geographical regions are affected differently by plastic waste. In fact, developing countries are more affected by plastic waste than developed nations. Existing reports trace a link between poverty and plastic waste, making it a development problem. Africa, Asia and South America see immense quantities of plastic generated elsewhere being dumped on their territory.  At the moment, there are several policies in place targeting the production and disposal of plastic. Several of the policies active in developed regions such as the EU do not allow the disposal of plastic waste inside their own territorial boundaries, but allow it on outside territories.  

 

Optional STOP for activities and discussion 

 

Part two: 

Impressed by the magnitude of the problem of plastic waste faced today, together with a group of friends you met while studying engineering at the Technological University of the Future, you want to set up a green circular business. Circular business models aim to use and reuse materials for as long as possible, all while minimising waste. Your concern is to develop a sustainable technological solution to the problem of plastic waste. The vision for a circular economy for plastic rests on six key points (Ellen McArthur Foundation, n.d.): 

  1. Elimination of problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging through redesign, innovation, and new delivery models is a priority 
  2. Reuse models are applied where relevant, reducing the need for single-use packaging 
  3. All plastic packaging is 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable 
  4. All plastic packaging is reused, recycled, or composted in practice 
  5. The use of plastic is fully decoupled from the consumption of finite resources 
  6. All plastic packaging is free of hazardous chemicals, and the health, safety, and rights of all people involved are respected 

 

Optional STOP for group activities and discussion 

 

Part three: 

The start-up SuperRecycling aims to develop infrastructure solutions by converting plastic waste into bricks. Your team of engineers is tasked to develop a risk assessment for the operations of the factory in which this process will take place. The start-up is set in a developing country of your choice that is greatly affected by plastic waste. 

 

Optional STOP for group activities and discussion 

 

Acknowledgement: The authors want to acknowledge the work of Engineers Without Borders Netherlands and its partners to tackle the problem of plastic waste. The case is based on the Challenge Based Learning exploratory course Decision Under Risk and Uncertainty designed by Diana Adela Martin at TU Eindhoven, where students got to work on a real-life project about the conversion of plastic waste into bricks to build a washroom facility in a school in Ghana, based on the activity of Engineers Without Borders Netherlands. The project was spearheaded by Suleman Audu and Jeremy Mantingh. 

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters. 

To view a plain text version of this resource, click here to download the PDF.

Author: Dr. Jemma L. Rowlandson (University of Bristol). 

Topic: Achieving carbon-neutral aviation by 2050.  

Tool type: Teaching. 

Relevant disciplines: Chemical; Aerospace; Mechanical; Environmental; Energy.  

Keywords: Design and innovation; Conflicts of interest; Ethics; Regulatory compliance; Stakeholder engagement; Environmental impact; AHEP; Sustainability; Higher education; Pedagogy; Assessment. 
 
Sustainability competency: Systems thinking; Anticipatory; Critical thinking; Integrated problem-solving; Strategic; Collaboration.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37. 

Related SDGs: SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy); SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure); SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production); SDG 13 (Climate Action). 
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: More real-world complexity; Active pedagogies and mindset development; Authentic assessment.

Educational aim: Apply interdisciplinary engineering knowledge to a real-world sustainability challenge in aviation, foster ethical reasoning and decision-making with regards to environmental impact, and develop abilities to collaborate and communicate with a diverse range of stakeholders. 

Educational level: Intermediate. 

 

Learning and teaching notes: 

This case study provides students an opportunity to explore the role of hydrogen fuel in the aviation industry. Considerable investments have been made in researching and developing hydrogen as a potential clean and sustainable energy source, particularly for hydrogen-powered aircraft. Despite the potential for hydrogen to be a green and clean fuel there are lingering questions over the long-term sustainability of hydrogen and whether technological advancements can progress rapidly enough to significantly reduce global carbon dioxide emissions. The debate around this issue is rich with diverse perspectives and a variety of interests to consider. Through this case study, students will apply their engineering expertise to navigate this complex problem and examine the competing interests involved.  

This case is presented in parts, each focusing on a different sustainability issue, and with most parts incorporating technical content. Parts may be used in isolation, or may be used to build up the complexity of the case throughout a series of lessons.  

Learners have the opportunity to: 

Teachers have the opportunity to: 

 

Supporting resources:  

 

Learning and teaching resources: 

Hydrogen fundamentals resources: 

We recommend encouraging the use of sources from a variety of stakeholders. Encourage students to find their own, but some examples are included below: 

 

Pre-Session Work: 

Students should be provided with an overview of the properties of hydrogen gas and the principles underlying the hydrogen economy: production, storage and transmission, and application. There are several free and available sources for this purpose (refer to the Hydrogen Fundamentals Resources above). 

 

Introduction 

At Airbus, we believe hydrogen is one of the most promising decarbonisation technologies for aviation. This is why we consider hydrogen to be an important technology pathway to achieve our ambition of bringing a low-carbon commercial aircraft to market by 2035.” – Airbus, 2024 

As indicated in the industry quote above, hydrogen is a growing area of research interest for aviation companies to decarbonise their fleet. In this case study, you are put in the role of working as an engineering consultant and your customer is a multinational aerospace corporation. They are keen to meet their government issued targets of reducing carbon emissions to reach net zero by 2050 and your consultancy team has been tasked with assessing the feasibility of powering a zero-emission aircraft using hydrogen. The key areas your customer is interested in are: 

 

Part one: The aviation landscape 

Air travel connects the world, enabling affordable and reliable mass transportation between continents. Despite massive advances in technology and infrastructure to produce more efficient aircraft and reduce passenger fuel consumption, carbon emissions have doubled since 2019 and are equivalent to 2.5 % of global CO2 emissions.  

 

 

Your customer is interested in the feasibility of hydrogen for aviation fuel. However, there is a debate within the management team over the sustainability of hydrogen. As the lead engineering consultant, you must guide your customer in making an ethical and sustainable decision.  

Hydrogen is a potential energy carrier which has a high energy content, making it a promising fuel for aviation. Green hydrogen is produced from water and is therefore potentially very clean. However, globally most hydrogen is currently made from fossil fuels with an associated carbon footprint. Naturally occurring as a gas, the low volumetric density makes it difficult to transport and add complications with storage and transportation. 

 

 

Part two: Hydrogen production 

Hydrogen is naturally abundant but is often found combined with other elements in various forms such as hydrocarbons like methane (CH4) and water (H2O). Methods have been developed to extract hydrogen from these compounds. It is important to remember that hydrogen is an energy carrier and not an energy source; it must be generated from other primary energy sources (such as wind and solar) converting and storing energy in the form of hydrogen.  

 

 

The ideal scenario is to produce green hydrogen via electrolysis where water (H2O) is split using electricity into hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2). This makes green hydrogen potentially completely green and clean if the process uses electricity from renewable sources. The overall chemical reaction is shown below: 

However, the use of water—a critical resource—as a feedstock for green hydrogen, especially in aviation, raises significant ethical concerns. Your customer’s management team is divided on the potential impact of this practice on global water scarcity, which has been exacerbated by climate change. You have been tasked with assessing the feasibility of using green hydrogen in aviation for your client. Your customer has chosen their London to New York route (3,500 nmi), one of their most popular, as a test-case. 

 

 

Despite its potential for green production, globally the majority of hydrogen is currently produced from fossil fuels – termed grey hydrogen. One of your team members has proposed using grey hydrogen as an interim solution to bridge the transition to green hydrogen, in order for the company to start developing the required hydrogen-related infrastructure at airports. They argue that carbon capture and storage technology could be used to reduce carbon emissions from grey hydrogen while still achieving the goal of decarbonisation. Hydrogen from fossil fuels with an additional carbon capture step is known as blue hydrogen. 

However, this suggestion has sparked a heated debate within the management team. While acknowledging the potential to address the immediate concerns of generating enough hydrogen to establish the necessary infrastructure and procedures, many team members argued that it would be a contradictory approach. They highlighted the inherent contradiction of utilising fossil fuels, the primary driver of climate change, to achieve decarbonisation. They emphasised the importance of remaining consistent with the ultimate goal of transitioning away from fossil fuels altogether and reducing overall carbon emissions. Your expertise is now sought to weigh these options and advise the board on the best course of action. 

 

 

Part three: Hydrogen storage 

Despite an impressive gravimetric energy density (the energy stored per unit mass of fuel) hydrogen has the lowest gas density and the second-lowest boiling point of all known chemical fuels. These unique properties pose challenges for storage and transportation, particularly in the constrained spaces of an aircraft.  

 

 

As the lead engineering consultant, you have been tasked with providing expert advice on viable hydrogen storage options for aviation. Your customer has again chosen their London to New York route (3,500 nmi) as a test-case because it is one of their most popular, transatlantic routes. They want to know if hydrogen storage can be effectively managed for this route as it could set a precedent for wider adoption for their other long-haul flights. The plane journey from London to New York is estimated to require around 15,000 kg of hydrogen (or use the quantity estimated previously estimated in Part 2 – see Appendix for example).  

 

 

Part four: Emissions and environmental impact 

In Part four, we delve deeper into the environmental implications of using hydrogen as a fuel in aviation with a focus on emissions and their impacts across the lifecycle of a hydrogen plane. Aircraft can be powered using either direct combustion of hydrogen in gas turbines or by reacting hydrogen in a fuel cell to produce electricity that drives a propeller. As the lead engineering consultant, your customer has asked you to choose between hydrogen combustion in gas turbines or the reaction of hydrogen in fuel cells. The management team is divided on the environmental impacts of both methods, with some emphasising the technological readiness and efficiency of combustion and others advocating for the cleaner process of fuel cell reaction.  

 

 

Both combustion of hydrogen in an engine and reaction of hydrogen in a fuel cell will produce water as a by-product. The management team are concerned over the effect of using hydrogen on the formation of contrails. Contrails are clouds of water vapour produced by aircraft that have a potential contribution to global warming but the extent of their impact is uncertain.  

 

 

So far we have considered each aspect of the hydrogen debate in isolation. However, it is important to consider the overall environmental impact of these stages as a whole. Choices made at each stage of the hydrogen cycle – generation, storage, usage – will collectively impact the overall environmental impact and sustainability of using hydrogen as an aviation fuel and demonstrates how interconnected our decisions can be.  

 

 

Part five: Hydrogen aviation stakeholders 

Hydrogen aviation is an area with multiple stakeholders with conflicting priorities. Understanding the perspectives of these key players is important when considering the feasibility of hydrogen in the aviation sector.   

 

 

Your consultancy firm is hosting a debate for the aviation industry in order to help them make a decision around hydrogen-based technologies. You have invited representatives from consumer groups, the UK government, Environmental NGOs, airlines, and aircraft manufacturers.  

 

 

Stakeholder Key priorities and considerations
Airline & Aerospace Manufacturer 
  • Cost efficiency (fuel, labour, fleet maintenance) – recovering from pandemic. 
  • Passenger experience (commercial & freight). 
  • Develop & maintain global supply chains. 
  • Safety, compliance and operational reliability. 
  • Financial responsibility to employees and investors. 
  • Need government assurances before making big capital investments. 
UK Government 
  • Achieve net zero targets by 2050 
  • Promote economic growth and job creation (still recovering from pandemic). 
  • Fund research and innovation to put their country’s technology ahead. 
  • Fund renewable infrastructure to encourage industry investment. 
Environmental NGOs 
  • Long-term employment for aviation sector. 
  • Demand a sustainable future for aviation to ensure this – right now, not in 50 years. 
  • Standards and targets for industry and government and accountability if not met. 
  • Some NGOs support drastic cuts to flying. 
  • Want to raise public awareness over sustainability of flying. 
Consumer 
  • Environmentally aware (understand the need to reduce carbon emissions). 
  • Also benefit greatly from flying (tourism, commercial shipping, etc.). 
  • Safety and reliability of aircraft & processes. 
  • Cost effectiveness – want affordable service

Appendix: Example calculations 

There are multiple methods for approaching these calculations. The steps shown below are just one example for illustrative purposes.  

 

Part two: Hydrogen production 

Challenge: Estimate the volume of water required for a hydrogen-powered aircraft.   

Assumptions around the hydrogen production process, aircraft, and fuel requirement can be given to students or researched as a separate task. In this example we assume: 

 

Example estimation: 

1. Estimate the energy requirement for a mid-size jet 

No current hydrogen-fuelled aircraft exists, so we can use a kerosene-fuelled analogue. Existing aircraft that meet the requirements include the Boeing 767 or 747. The energy requirement is then: 

 

2. Estimate the hydrogen requirement 

Assuming a hydrogen plane has the same fuel requirement:

 

3. Estimate the volume of water required 

Assuming all hydrogen is produced from the electrolysis of water: 

Electrolysis reaction:

For this reaction, we know one mole of water produces one mole of hydrogen. We need to calculate the moles for 20,000 kg of hydrogen: 

 

 

 

With a 1:1 molar ratio, we can then calculate the mass of water: 

This assumes an electrolyser efficiency of 100%. Typical efficiency values are under 80%, which would yield: 

 

Challenge: Is it feasible to power the UK aviation fleet with water? 

 

The total energy requirement for UK aviation can be given to students or set as a research task.  

Estimation can follow a similar procedure to the above. 

Multiple methods for validating and assessing the feasibility of this quantity of water. For example, the UK daily water consumption is 14 billion litres. The water requirement estimated above is < 1 % of this total daily water consumption, a finding supported by FlyZero.  

 

Part three: Hydrogen storage 

Challenge: Is it feasible to store 20,000 kg of hydrogen in an aircraft? 

There are multiple methods of determining the feasibility of storage volume. As example is given below. 

 

1. Determining the storage volume 

The storage volume is dependent on the storage method used. Density values associated with different storage techniques can be research or given to students (included in Table 2). The storage volume required can be calculated from the mass of hydrogen and density of storage method, example in Table 2.  

Table 2: Energy densities of various hydrogen storage methods 

 

2. Determining available aircraft volume 

A straightforward method is to compare the available volume on an aircraft with the hydrogen storage volume required. Aircraft volumes can be given or researched by students. Examples: 

This assumes hydrogen tanks are integrated into an existing aircraft design. Liquid hydrogen can feasibly fit into an existing design, though actual volume will be larger due to space/constraint requirements and additional infrastructure (pipes, fittings, etc) for the tanks. Tank size can be compared to conventional kerosene tanks and a discussion encouraged over where in the plane hydrogen tanks would need to be (conventional liquid fuel storage is in the wings of aircraft, this is not possible for liquid storage tanks due to their shape and infrastructure storage is inside the fuselage). Another straightforward method for storage feasibility is modelling the hydrogen volume as a simple cylinder and comparing to the dimensions of a suitable aircraft.  

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters. 
 
 
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Author: Dr Irene Josa (UCL) 

Topic: Embodied carbon in the built environment. 

Type: Teaching. 

Relevant disciplines: Civil engineering; Environmental engineering; Construction management. 

Keywords: Embodied carbon; Resilient construction practices; Climate change adaptation; Ethics; Teaching or embedding sustainability; AHEP; Higher education; Pedagogy; Environmental impact assessment; Environmental risk; Assessment. 
 
Sustainability competency: Integrated problem-solving; Systems thinking; Critical thinking; Collaboration; Anticipatory.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: SDG 4 (Quality education); SDG 9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure); SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities); SDG 13 (Climate action). 
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: More real-world complexity; Active pedagogies and mindset development; Authentic assessment; Cross-disciplinarity.

Educational aim: To foster a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities in balancing environmental sustainability and profitability/safety in construction projects. To develop critical thinking and decision-making skills in addressing social, economic, and environmental considerations. To encourage students to propose innovative and comprehensive solutions for sustainable urban development. 

Educational level: Intermediate. 

 

Learning and teaching notes: 

Before engaging with the case study, learners should be familiar with the process of calculating embodied carbon and conducting a cost-benefit analysis. The case study is presented in three parts. In Part one, an ambitious urban revitalisation project is under development, and a project manager needs to find a balance between financial considerations and the urgent need for sustainable, low-embodied carbon construction. In Part two, the project being developed is located in a coastal area prone to climate change-related disasters. The team needs to ensure that the project is durable in the face of disasters and, at the same time, upholds sustainability principles. Lastly, in Part three, stakeholders involved in the two previous projects come together to identify potential synergies. 

Learners have the opportunity to: 

Teachers have the opportunity to: 

 

Supporting resources 

 

Learning and teaching resources: 

Environmental impact assessment: 

Social impact assessment: 

Economic impact assessment: 

Systems thinking and holistic analysis approaches (PESTLE, SWOT): 

Real-world cases to explore:

 

Part one: 

In the heart of an urban revitalisation project, the company CityScape Builders is embarking on a transformational journey to convert a neglected area into a vibrant urban centre which will be named ReviveRise District. This urban centre will mostly be formed by tall buildings. 

Avery, the project manager at CityScape Builders, is under immense pressure to meet tight budget constraints and deadlines. Avery understands the project’s economic implications and the importance of delivering within the stipulated financial limits. However, the conflict arises when Rohan, a renowned environmental advocate and consultant, insists on prioritising sustainable construction practices to reduce the project’s embodied carbon. Rohan envisions a future where construction doesn’t come at the cost of the environment. 

On the other side of the situation is Yuki, the CFO of CityScape Builders, who is concerned about the project’s bottom line. Yuki is wary of any actions that could escalate costs and understands that using low-embodied carbon materials often comes with a higher price tag.  

In light of this situation, Avery proposes exploring different options of construction methods and materials that could be used in the design of their skyscrapers. Avery needs to do this quickly to avoid any delay, and therefore consider just the most important carbon-emitting aspects of the different options.  

 

Optional STOP for questions and activities 

 

Part two:

CityScape Builders is now embarking on a new challenge, ResilientCoast, a construction project located in a coastal area that is susceptible to climate change-related disasters. This region is economically disadvantaged and lacks the financial resources often found in more developed areas.  

Micha, the resilience project manager at CityScape Builders, is tasked with ensuring the project’s durability in the face of disasters and the impacts of climate change. Micha’s primary concern is to create a resilient structure that can withstand extreme weather events but is equally dedicated to sustainability goals. To navigate this complex situation, Micha seeks guidance from Dr. Ravi, a climate scientist with expertise in coastal resiliency. Dr. Ravi is committed to finding innovative and sustainable solutions that simultaneously address the climate change impacts and reduce embodied carbon in construction. 

In this scenario, Bao, the local community leader, also plays a crucial role. Bao advocates for jobs and economic development in the area, even though Bao is acutely aware of the inherent safety risks. Bao, too, understands that balancing these conflicting interests is a substantial challenge. 

In this situation, Micha wonders how to construct safely in a vulnerable location while maintaining sustainability goals.  

 

Optional STOP for questions and activities 

 

Part three: 

Robin and Samir are two independent sustainability consultants that are supporting the projects in ReviveRise District and ResilientCoast respectively. They are concerned that sustainability is just being assessed by embodied carbon and cost sustainability, and they believe that sustainability is a much broader concept than just those two indicators. Robin is the independent environmental consultant working with ReviveRise District officials and is responsible for assessing the broader environmental impacts of the construction project. Robin’s analysis spans beyond embodied carbon, considering local job creation, transportation effects, pollution, biodiversity, and other aspects of the project. 

Samir, on the other hand, is a municipal board member of ResilientCoast. Samir’s role involves advocating for the local community while striving to ensure that sustainability efforts do not compromise the safety and resilience of the area. Samir’s responsibilities are more comprehensive than just economic considerations; they encompass the entire well-being of the community in the face of climate change. 

Robin and Samir recognise the need for cross-city collaboration and information sharing, and they want to collaborate to ensure that the sustainability efforts of both projects do not create unintended burdens for their communities. They acknowledge that a comprehensive approach is necessary for analysing broader impacts, and to ensure both the success of the construction projects and the greater good of both communities. They believe in working collectively to find solutions that are not only sustainable but also beneficial to all stakeholders involved. 

 

Optional STOP for questions and activities 

 

The above questions and activities call for the involvement of cross-disciplinary teams, requiring expertise not only in engineering but also in planning, policy, and related fields. Ideally, in the classroom setting, students with diverse knowledge across these disciplines can be grouped together to enhance collaboration and address the tasks proposed. In cases where forming such groups is not feasible, the educator can assign specific roles such as engineer, planner, policymaker, etc., to individual students, ensuring a balanced representation of skills and perspectives. 

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters. 
 
 
To view a plain text version of this resource, click here to download the PDF.

Author: Ema Muk-Pavic, FRINA SHEA (University College London) 

Topic: Links between sustainability and EDI 

Tool type: Guidance. 

Relevant disciplines: Any. 

Keywords: Sustainability; AHEP; Programmes; Higher education; EDI; Economic Growth; Inclusive learning; Interdisciplinary; Global responsibility; Community engagement; Ethics; Future generations; Pedagogy; Healthcare; Health.
 
Sustainability competency: Self-awareness; Normative; Collaboration; Critical thinking.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: All 17. 
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: Active pedagogies and mindset development; More real-world complexity.

Who is this article for: This article should be read by educators at all levels in Higher Education who wish to understand how engineering practice can promote sustainable and ethical outcomes in equality, diversity, and inclusion. 

 

Supporting resources: 

Center for Responsible Business (CRB). (2023). Case study: Sustainability initiatives by a gemstone manufacturing organisation: community engagement, decent work and gender empowerment. New Delhi: Center for Responsible Business (CRB) 

Montt-Blanchard, D., Najmi, S., & Spinillo, C. G. (2023). Considerations for Community Engagement in Design Education. The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation, 9(2), 234-263.  

Phillips SP, G. K. (2022, Nov 5). Medical Devices, Invisible Women, Harmful Consequences. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Nov 5, 19(21). 

Royal Academy of Engineering. (2018). Designing inclusion into engineering education. London: Royal Academy of Engineering.  

Sultana F, e. a. (2023). Seaweed farming for food and nutritional security, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and women empowerment: A review. Aquaculture and Fisheries, 8(5), 463-480 

 

Premise:  

The role of engineering is to enhance the safety, health and welfare of all, while protecting the planet and reversing existing environmental damage by deploying engineering solutions that can meet urgent global and local needs across all sectors (Engineering Council, 2021). The socioeconomic and environmental problems are strongly linked and finding responsible solutions is of imminent urgency that requires a holistic interdisciplinary perspective.  

 

Sustainability and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI): 

Equality, diversity, and Inclusion are interlinked concepts that emphasise equal opportunities, the inclusion of underrepresented groups, and the benefits that derive from diverse perspectives within the engineering field. Because sustainability is a global phenomenon, achieving the objective of “providing for all” should be a priority for all engineering professionals to ensure solutions are developed that benefit all (Jordan et al., 2021).  To address sustainability challenges, engineers need to keep in mind that some communities are disproportionately impacted by climate change and environmental harm. It is essential to empower these communities to create systematic change and advocate for themselves. 

 

A strategic pedagogical approach to sustainability and EDI: 

A variety of pedagogical strategies can be applied to incorporate diversity and inclusion perspectives into sustainability engineering. Rather than adopting an “add-on” approach to the existing programmes it is recommended to fully embed inclusive and sustainable perspectives in the existing curriculum. These perspectives should be incorporated following a learning path of the students, from the beginning of the programme in the engineering fundamentals, starting with raising awareness and understanding of these perspectives and gradually improving student knowledge supported by evidence and further to implementing and innovating in engineering practice and solutions. By the end of the programme, diversity and inclusion and sustainability perspectives should be fully incorporated into the attitude of the graduates so that they will consider this when approaching any engineering task. This approach would go hand-in-hand with incorporating an ethics perspective. 

Some practical examples of implementation in the programme and gradually deepening student learning are: 

 

1. Awareness and understanding: 

a. Define sustainability and its relation to EDI. 

b. Engage with practical examples in modules that can be considered and discussed from EDI, ethical, and sustainability perspectives (e.g. present a product related to the subject of a class; in addition to discussing the product’s engineering characteristics, extend the discussion to sustainability and diverse stakeholders perspective – who are the end users, what is the affordability, where does the raw material comes from, how could it be recycled etc.)  

 

2. Applying and analysing: 

Seek out case studies which can expose the students to a range of EDI issues and contexts, e.g.: 

a. Examples of “sustainable” engineering solutions aimed toward “wealthy” users but not available or suitable for the “poor”. Question if EDI was considered in stakeholder groups (who are the target end users, what are their specific needs, are the solutions applicable and affordable for diverse socioeconomic groups (e.g. high-tech expensive sophisticated medical devices, luxury cars).

b. Examples of product design suffering from discriminatory unconscious bias (e.g. medical devices unsuitable for women (Phillips SP, 2022); “affordable housing projects” being unaffordable for the local community, etc.). 

c. Positive examples of sustainable engineering solutions with strong EDI perspectives taken that are also financially viable (e.g. sustainable water and sanitation projects, seaweed farming for food security and climate change mitigation (Sultana F, 2023), sustainable gem production (Center for Responsible Business (CRB), 2023) etc.) 

 

3. Implementing, evaluating, and creating: 

a. Use existing scenario-based modules to focus on finding solutions for the sustainability problems that will improve socioeconomic equality, access to water, improvement of healthcare, and reduction of poverty. This will guide students to implement sustainability principles in engineering while addressing social issues and inequalities. 

b. In project-based modules, ask students to link their work with a specific UNSDG and evidence an approach to EDI issues. 

 

4. Provide visibility of additional opportunities:

Extracurricular activities (maker spaces, EWB UK’s Engineering for People Design Challenge, partnership with local communities, etc.) can represent an additional mechanism to bolster the link between sustainable engineering practice and EDI issues. Some of these initiatives can even be implemented within modules via topics, projects, and case studies. 

A systematic strategic approach will ensure that students gain experience in considering the views of all stakeholders, and not only economic and technical drivers (Faludi, et al., 2023). They need to take account of local know-how and community engagement since not all solutions will work in all circumstances (Montt-Blanchard, Najmi, & Spinillo, 2023). Engineering decisions need to be made bearing in mind the ethical, cultural, and political questions of concern in the local setting. Professional engineers need to develop a global mindset, taking into account diverse perspectives and experiences which will increase their potential to come up with creative, effective, and responsible solutions for these global challenges. (Jordan & Agi, 2021) 

 

Leading by example: 

It is of paramount importance that students experience that the HE institution itself embraces an inclusive and sustainable mindset. This should be within the institutional strategy and policies, everyday operations and within the classroom. Providing an experiential learning environment with an inclusive and sustainable mindset can have a paramount impact on the student experience and attitudes developed (Royal Academy of Engineering, 2018). 

 

Conclusion: 

Engineering education must prepare future professionals for responsible and ethical actions and solutions.  Only the meaningful participation of all members of a global society will bring us to a fully sustainable future. Thus, the role of engineering educators is to embed an EDI perspective alongside sustainability in the attitudes of future professionals. 

 

References: 

Burleson, G., Lajoie, J., & et al. (2023). Advancing Sustainable Development: Emerging Factors and Futures for the Engineering Field. 

Center for Responsible Business (CRB). (2023). Case study: Sustainability initiatives by a gemstone manufacturing organisation: community engagement, decent work and gender empowerment. New Delhi: Center for Responsible Business (CRB). 

Engineering Council. (2021). Guidance on Sustainability. London: Engineering Council UK. 

Faludi, J., Acaroglu, L., Gardien, P., Rapela, A., Sumter, D., & Cooper, C. (2023). Sustainability in the Future of Design Education. The Journal of Design, Economics and Innovation, 157-178. 

International Labour Organization. (2023). Transformative change and SDG 8: The critical role of collective capabilities and societal learning. Geneva: International Labour Organization.  

Jordan, R., & Agi, K. (2021). Peace engineering in practice: A case study at the University of New Mexico. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 173. 

Montt-Blanchard, D., Najmi, S., & Spinillo, C. G. (2023). Considerations for Community Engagement in Design Education. The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation, 9(2), 234-263.  

Phillips SP, G. K. (2022, Nov 5). Medical Devices, Invisible Women, Harmful Consequences. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Nov 5, 19(21). 

Royal Academy of Engineering. (2018). Designing inclusion into engineering education. London: Royal Academy of Engineering. 

Sultana F, e. a. (2023). Seaweed farming for food and nutritional security, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and women empowerment: A review. Aquaculture and Fisheries, 8(5), 463-480.  

United Nations. (2023). The Sustainable Development Goals Report. New York: United Nations. 

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.  

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters. 

 

To view a plain text version of this resource, click here to download the PDF.

Authors: Maryam Lamere, Marianthi Leon, Wendy Fowles-Sweet, Lucy Yeomans,  Laura Fogg-Rogers (University of the West of England, UWE Bristol). 

Topic: Opportunities and challenges for integrating ESD into engineering programmes via PBL. 

Tool type: Guidance. 

Relevant disciplines: Any.  

Keywords: Education for sustainable development; Project-based learning; Problem-based learning; Engineering design; Sustainability; AHEP; UK-SPEC; Pedagogy; Higher education; Curriculum. 
 
Sustainability competency: Critical thinking; Integrated problem-solving, Collaboration.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: SDG 4 (Quality education); SDG 13 (Climate action). 
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: More real-world complexity; Active pedagogies and mindset development.

Who is this article for? This article should be read by educators at all levels in higher education who are seeking an overall perspective on using PBL for integrating sustainability in engineering education. Engaging with this topic will also help to prepare students with the soft skill sets that employers are looking for. 

 

Premise: 

Engineering graduates are increasingly required to implement sustainability-focussed initiatives within industry, alongside enhanced expectations from professional bodies and the UK specification (UK-SPEC) for engineers (Engineering Council, 2024). However, a recent study of UK Higher Education institutions highlighted that only a handful have implemented Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into their curricula in a systemic manner (Fiselier et al., 2018), which suggests many engineering institutions still need support in this area. This article aims to explain opportunities and challenges for integrating ESD into engineering programmes via project-based learning. 

 

 1. An overview of problem-based learning as a tool for teaching sustainability within engineering:

To develop sustainability-literate graduates, the Higher Education Academy (AdvanceHE) and the UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) emphasise that students need to:  

  1. understand what the concept of environmental stewardship means for their discipline and their professional and personal lives; 
  2. think about issues of social justice, ethics, and wellbeing, and how these relate to ecological and economic factors; and 
  3. develop a future-facing outlook by learning to think about the consequences of actions, and how systems and societies can be adapted to ensure sustainable futures (QAA & HEA, 2014).  

Problem-Based Learning (PBL) provides a suitable teaching method for addressing these educational objectives. It is an influential approach in engineering education that emphasises real-world problem-solving and student-centred investigation. PBL deeply engages engineering students, prompting them to develop higher-level thinking skills while they personally confront and navigate economic, social, and environmental issues. This method fosters holistic systems thinking, interdisciplinary insights, ethical considerations, and an emphasis on the long-term viability of technical solutions (Cavadas and Linhares, 2023), while also inspiring and motivating learners (Loyens, 2015). 

While PBL can be delivered through theoretical case study examples, the term is used interchangeably with Project-Based Learning within engineering education. Both problem-based learning and project-based learning share characteristics such as collaboration and group work, the integration of knowledge and practice, and foregrounding problem analysis as the basis of the learning process (De Graaff and Kolmos, 2003). One of the main differences is where the parameters lie: with problem-based learning the parameters are defined at the beginning and students are able to find a range of solutions; with project-based learning the parameters lie at the end and students are expected to reach a specific end solution (Savery, 2006). There is also a difference in the role of the tutor and the information they provide: in problem-based learning the tutor facilitates but gives little information, while in project-based learning they are both a facilitator and a source of knowledge (Savery, 2006). Project based learning may be more accepted within engineering education since it is considered to more closely resemble the reality of the profession (Perrenet, Bouhuijs and Smits, 2000), hence Aalborg’s working definition of PBL as “Problem-Oriented, Project-Organized, Learning” (Dym et al., 2005) 

PBL thus facilitates the creation of immersive student-centric environments where group projects enable collaborative learning (Kokotsaki, Menzies and Wiggins, 2016). As Lozano et al. (2017) highlight, the nature of PBL advances critical thinking and problem-solving in engineering contexts, enabling students to critically reflect on sustainability concepts and apply this understanding to real-world challenges. Importantly, it is paramount in engineering education to foster action-oriented competencies and incorporate social contextualisation aspects (Fogg-Rogers et al., 2022), such as ethical nuances, justice, and equality, ensuring a comprehensive grasp of an engineer’s role amidst evolving societal and environmental challenges (Wang et al., 2022).  

 

2. Overcoming challenges within PBL:

While PBL presents an obvious approach for embedding sustainability, there are a series of challenges which engineering educators need to overcome to facilitate transformational learning. This section presents some of the most common challenges encountered, along with pedagogic solutions.  

 

Lack of apparent topic relevance
Sustainability topics can sometimes be treated as isolated topics, rather than an integrated aspect of an engineering problem. A perception of sustainability in engineering is that it is not implicit in design, manufacture, and operation; rather it is often perceived as an ‘add-on’ to technical skill development. This applies to both students and teachers: both require support to understand the relevance and complexities of sustainability. When academics delivering sustainability materials may struggle to relate the topic to their own engineering disciplines, students may fail to see how they can impact change. Students must work on real-world projects where they can make a difference locally or globally, and they are more inclined towards sustainability topics that are relevant to their subject discipline with subject experts.  

 

Dealing with an overwhelming amount of information
Students can be overwhelmed by the large amounts of multidisciplinary information that needs to be processed when tackling real-world problems. This can also be a challenge for academics delivering teaching, especially if the topic is not related to their speciality. Additional support (and training), along with allocation of teaching workload, are needed to successfully integrate sustainability contexts for both staff and students.   

 

Group work challenges
PBL is best conducted by mixing individual study and group work. However, groups can fail if group creation, monitoring, supporting, and assessing processes are inconsistent, or not understood by academic tutors or students. Tutors need to act as group facilitators to ensure successful collaborative learning.  

 

Issues with continual engagement
PBL often requires active engagement of students over an extended period (several weeks or months). This can be a challenge, as over time, students’ focus and priorities can change. We suggest that whole programmes need to be designed around PBL components, so that other modules and disciplines provide the scaffolding and knowledge development to the relevant PBL topics.  

 

Delivering PBL online 

PBL is best delivered using experiential hands-on learning. For example, at UWE Bristol, this is provided through civic engagement with real-world industry problems and service learning through engagement with industry, schools, and community groups (Fogg-Rogers et al., 2017). This experiential learning was exceptionally challenging to deliver online during the COVID-19 pandemic, and programmes would need to be re-designed for online learning. 

 

3. Recommendations for successful implementation of PBL:

Sustainability topics need to be embedded within engineering education so that each discipline-specific engineering problem is explored within PBL from a technical, economic, ethical, and sustainability perspective.  Drawing from UWE Bristol’s journey of ESD implementation using PBL, key recommendations are outlined below.  

 

Managing academic workload
In the initial phases of ESD integration at UWE Bristol, a small number of committed academics contributed a lot of time, effort, and dedication to push through and enable ESD acceptance from staff and students. Programme-wide implementation of ESD required wider support at the institutional level, alongside additional support for module leaders and tutors, so they felt capable of delivering ESD with a realistic workload. 

 

Structured delivery of ESD
Structuring delivery over time and throughout different modules enables students to work through large amounts of information. Providing summative feedback/assessments during key phases of the PBL exercise can also help students stay on track and manage their workload. At UWE Bristol, group presentations with pass/fail grading are introduced mid-project, so students can present information gathered about the context, before beginning problem-solving. 

 

Managing group work challenges
PBL is best conducted by mixing individual study and group work. Ensuring assessment briefs have implicit sustainability requirements is vital to embedding ESD concepts, so that students can see the need for engagement. This is further enhanced by stating the relevance to workplace contexts and UK-SPEC requirements. Tutors need to facilitate group dynamics and engagement, along with providing support structures for students who, for whatever reason, are unable to engage with group work.  

 

Creating an enabling environment for ESD integration
The integration of sustainable development throughout the curricula at UWE Bristol has been supported at the institutional level, and this has been critical for the wide scale rollout. An institution-wide Knowledge Exchange for Sustainability Education (KESE) network was created to support staff by providing a platform for knowledge sharing. Within the department, Staff Away days were used to run sustainability workshops to discuss ESD and topics of interest to students. An initial mapping exercise was conducted to highlight where sustainability was already taught within the curriculum and to identify the discipline relevant contexts (Lamere et al., 2022). Further training and industrially relevant contexts were provided to convince some staff that sustainability needed to be included in the curriculum, along with evidence that it was already of great relevance in the wider engineering workplace. This led to the development of an integrated framework of key learning requirements which embedded professional attributes and knowledge of the UK-SPEC.  

 

Student motivation and continual engagement  

For sustainability education to be effective, the content coverage should be aligned, or better still, integrated, with the topics that form part of students’ disciplinary studies. To maintain continual engagement during the PBL delivery and beyond, clear linkages need to be provided between learning and future career-related practice-based sustainability activities. Partnerships have been developed with regional stakeholders and industry, to provide more context for real-world problems and to enable local service learning and community action (Fogg-Rogers, Fowles-Sweet, 2018). Industry speakers have also been invited to contribute to lectures, touching on a wide range of sustainability and ethical issues. ESD teaching is also firmly linked to the individual’s own professional development, using the UK-SPEC competency requirements, and linked to end-point assessments. This allows students to see the potential impact on their own professionalism and career development. 

 

These recommendations can enable engineering educators to integrate sustainability topics within the curriculum using PBL to enhance student learning and engagement.  

 

References:  

Cavadas, B., Linhares, E. (2023). ‘Using a Problem-Based Learning Approach to Develop Sustainability Competencies in Higher Education Students’, in Leal Filho, et al. W., Azul, A.M., Doni, F., Salvia, A.L. (eds) Handbook of Sustainability Science in the Future. Springer, Cham. (Accessed 05 February 2024) 

De Graaff, E. and Kolmos, A. (2003) ‘Characteristics of Problem-Based learning’. International Journal of Engineering Education. 19 (5), pp. 657–662. 

Dym, C.L., et al.  Agogino, A.M., Eris, O., Frey, D.D. and Leifer, L.J. (2005) ‘Engineering design thinking, teaching, and learning’. Journal of engineering education. 94 (1), pp. 103–120. 

Engineering Council (2024). UK-SPEC Fourth Edition. (Accessed 05 February 2024).  

Fogg-Rogers, L., Lewis, F., & Edmonds, J. (2017). ‘Paired peer learning through engineering education outreach’, European Journal of Engineering Education, 42(1). (Accessed 05 February 2024).   

Fogg Rogers, L., & Fowles-Sweet, W. (2018). ‘Engineering and society: Embedding active service learning in undergraduate curricula’, in J. Andrews, R. Clark, A. Nortcliffe, & R. Penlington (Eds.), 5th Annual Symposium of the United Kingdom & Ireland Engineering Education Research Network (125-129). Aston University 

Fogg-Rogers, L., Bakthavatchaalam, V., Richardson, D., & Fowles-Sweet, W. (2022). ‘Educating engineers to contribute to a regional goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2030’. Cahiers COSTECH, 5, Article 133 

Fiselier, E. S., Longhurst, J. W. S., & Gough, G. K. (2018). ‘Exploring the current position of ESD in UK higher education institutions.’ International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 19(2), 393–412.  

Kokotsaki, D., Menzies, V. and Wiggins, A. (2016) ‘Project-based learning: A review of the literature.’ Improving Schools. 19 (3), pp. 267–277. 

Lamere, M., Brodie, L., Nyamapfene, A., Fogg-Rogers, L., & Bakthavatchaalam, V. (2022). ‘Mapping and enhancing sustainability literacy and competencies within an undergraduate engineering curriculum’ in 9th Research in Engineering Education Symposium and 32nd Australasian Association for Engineering Education Conference (REES AAEE 2021) (298-306) 

Lozano, R., Merrill, M.Y., Sammalisto, K., Ceulemans, K. and Lozano, F.J. (2017), ‘Connecting competences and pedagogical approaches for sustainable development in higher education: a literature review and framework proposal’, Sustainability, Vol. 9 No. 10, pp. 1889-1903. 

Perrenet, J.C., Bouhuijs, P.A.J and Smits, J.G.M.M. (2000) ‘The Suitability of Problem based Learning for Engineering Education: Theory and practice.’ Teaching in Higher Education. 5 (3) pp.345-358. 

QAA & HEA. (2014). Education for sustainable development: guidance for UK higher education providers. Retrieved from Gloucester, UK. 

Savery, J.R. (2006) Overview of Problem-based Learning: Definitions and Distinctions.  The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning. 1 (1), pp. 9–20. 

Wang, Y., Sommier, M. and Vasques, A. (2022), ‘Sustainability education at higher education institutions: pedagogies and students’ competences’, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 23 No. 8, pp. 174-193.  

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.  

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters. 

 

To view a plain text version of this document, click here to download the PDF.

Author: Mark J. Heslop (University of Strathclyde). 

Topic: ESD in Chemical Engineering projects. 

Tool type: Guidance. 

Relevant disciplines: Chemical. 

Keywords: Problem-based learning; Education for sustainable development; Circularity; Circular economy; Assessment; AHEP; Sustainability; Higher education; Design; Data; Pedagogy. 
 
Sustainability competency: Systems-thinking; Collaboration; Integrated problem-solving.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: SDG 2 (Zero hunger); SDG 3 (Good health and well-being); SDG 4 (Quality education); SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production); SDG 13 (Climate action). 
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: Active pedagogies and mindset development; Authentic assessment; More real-world complexity.

Who is this article for? This article should be read by Chemical Engineering educators in higher education who are seeking to integrate sustainability in their project modules. Engaging with this topic will also help to prepare students with the soft skill sets that employers are looking for. 

 

Premise: 

The design project (DP) is considered to be the major focus of the CE curriculum, where students work in groups to design a complete chemical process – feeds, products process routes, energy requirements, financial aspects and emissions.  It is considered challenging for various reasons including the following: the requirement to recall and combine knowledge covered previously in taught classes (some of which may have been forgotten), dealing with a huge corpus of data (unavailability, uncertainty, some being in conflict and some being superfluous) and all the design decisions that need to be made from many options.  This is a major contrast with standard taught modules where all the data required is normally provided in advance.  Just making decisions is not enough – they need to be timely and justified otherwise the project may be rushed and may not complete by the deadline.  This is why the DP is valued by employers.  Furthermore, if Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is embedded in the design project, it is more likely that students will take forward sustainability into the workplace. Figure 1 illustrates Chemical processes and the design project.   

 

1. Subject (CE) and DP pictorial representations:

Part (a) is a generic representation of a chemical process and shows the input-output nature of chemical processes.  A chemical process takes a feed and converts it to useful products (the process shown has two equipment units and four streams). Part (b) is a representation of the design project, where the specification (or brief) is provided to groups at the start (DSpec) and the final submission (or solution) is the information in part (a).  Part (c) shows that specifications can be product-based (the top two) or feed-based (the bottom two).  The dashed lines indicate specifications where the flowrate and composition of the feed/product is subject to design choice – a typical factor that will extend the design procedure and require more decision-making. 

 

 2. Inclusion of sustainability in the project topic and communication with students:

This is fairly straightforward in CE design projects, because of the circular economy and the associated waste minimisation.  So, from Figure 1, a feed-based (rather than product-based) specification can be employed.  Topics that have been used at Strathclyde in recent years have been the utilisation of coffee grounds, food waste and (in 2024) green and garden waste. It is helpful that such topics can be linked to many of the UN SDGs. Furthermore, waste products are often complex with many components, and one of the characteristics of chemical engineering is the various separation techniques. These two factors should be communicated to students to improve engagement.   

 

3. Inclusion of sustainability as an ESD activity to be carried out by groups:

One of the complicating factors about the UN SDGs is that there are so many, meaning that there is the possibility of a chemical process having both positive and negative impacts on different SDGs. This means that groups really need to consider all of the SDGs.  This might be conveniently demonstrated as per Table 1.  Certainly, it would be hoped that there are more ticks in column 2 than in column 3.  Column 4 corresponds to minimal change, and column 5 where there is not enough information to determine any impact. 

 

Table 1: Sustainability rating form for design project submissions   

As an example, consider a design project which is based on better utilisation of green waste.  Let us say that this results in less greenhouse gas emissions, as well as there being less need to plant and harvest plants.  This will result in positive outcomes for SDG12 and SDG13.  There are also positive effects because more land can be used for crops, and there will be higher plant coverage during the year.  It could be argued then that there are minor positive effects om SDG2 and SDG3.  The subsequent SDG profile in Table 1 shows two major impacts and two minor impacts – this might be typical for DPs.  

 

4. Assessment of sustainability in the design project:

Table 2 shows the typical sections in a DP submission.  For convenience these are shown as having equal 20-mark contributions.  One way of determining marks is to divide these sections into a number of dimensions, for example: use of the literature, technical knowledge, creativity/innovation and style/layout.  Sustainability could then be included as a fifth dimension.  It is then a case of determining the sustainability dimension for each of the marking sections.  It could be argued that sustainability is particularly important at the start of the project (when feeds and amounts are being decided) and at the end (when the final process is being assessed).  This explains the larger weightings in Table 2. Coherence refers to how well the submission reads in terms of order and consistency and is thus independent of sustainability.  The weightings are subject to debate, but they do at least give the potential for consistent (and traceable) grading between different assessors.        

 

Table 2: Design project assessment now including ESD   

References: 

Byrne, E.P. (2023) “The evolving engineer; professional accreditation sustainability criteria and societal imperatives and norms”, Education for Chemical Engineers 43, pp. 23–30  

Feijoo, G., Moreira, M.T. (2020) “Fostering environmental awareness towards responsible food consumption and reduced food waste in chemical engineering students”, Education for Chemical Engineers 33, pp. 27–35  

IChemE (2021), “Accreditation of chemical engineering programmes: a guide for education providers and assessors” 

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters. 

 

To view a plain text version of this resource, click here to download the PDF.

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