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 

 

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Author: Dr Gill Lacey, SFEA, MIEEE (Teesside University). 

Topic: Calculating effects of implementing energy-saving standards. 

Tool type: Teaching. 

Relevant disciplines: Energy; Civil engineering; Construction; Mechanical engineering. 

Keywords: Built environment; Housing; Energy efficiency; Decarbonisation; AHEP; Sustainability; Higher education; Pedagogy. 

Sustainability competency: Systems thinking; Critical thinking; Integrated problem-solving.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses several 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 the following specific themes from 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 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities); SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production); SDG 13 (Climate Action). 

Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: Active pedagogies and mindsets; More real-world complexity.

Educational level: Beginner / intermediate. Learners are required to have basic (level 2) science knowledge, and ability to populate a mathematical formula and use units correctly. 

 

Learning and teaching notes: 

This activity allows students to consider the dilemmas around providing housing that is cheap to heat as well as cheap to buy or rent. It starts with researching these issues using contemporary news and policy, continues with an in-depth study of insulation, together with calculations of U values, heat energy and indicative costs.

Learners have the opportunity to: 

Teachers have the opportunity to: 

 

Supporting resources:  

To prepare for these activities, teachers may want to explain, or assign students to pre-read articles relating to heating a house with respect to: 

 

Introduction to the activity (teacher): 

Provide the stimulus to motivate the students by considering the dilemma: How do we provide affordable housing whilst minimising heating requirement? There are not enough homes in the UK for everyone who needs one. Some of the houses we do have are expensive to run, poorly maintained and cost a fortune in rent. How do we get the housing builders to provide enough affordable, cheap to run housing for the population? 

One possible solution is adopting Passivhaus standards. The Passivhaus is a building that conforms to a standard around heating requirements that ensures the insulation (U value) of the building material, including doors, windows and floors, prevents heat leaving the building so that a minimum heating requirement is needed. If all houses conformed to Passivhaus standards, the running costs for the householder would be reduced. 

 

Teaching schedule: 

Provide stimulus by highlighting the housing crisis in the UK:  

Students can then research and find the answers to the following questions using the following links, or other websites: 

 

Housing crisis in the UK: 

 

Students can work in groups to work on the extent of the problem from the bullet points provided. This activity can be used to develop design skills (Define the problem) 

 

1. Get the engineering knowledge about preventing heat leaving a house:

If you can prevent heat leaving, you won’t need to add any more, it will stay at the same temperature. Related engineering concepts are:   

 

2. Task:

a. Start with a standard footprint of a three-bed semi, from local estate agents. Make some assumptions about inside and outside temperatures, height of ceilings and any other values that may be needed.

b. Use the U value table to calculate the heat loss for this house (in Watts). The excel table has been pre-populated or you can do this as a group

  1. With uninsulated materials (single glazing, empty cavity wall, no loft insulation. 
  2. With standard insulation (double glazing, loft insulation, cavity wall insulation. 
  3. If Passivhaus standards were used to build the house. 

 c. Costs

  1. Find the typical cost for heating per kWh
  2. Compare the costs for replacing the heat lost.

 d. Final synoptic activity

  1. Passivhaus costs a lot more than standard new build. How do housebuilders afford it?
  2. Provide examples of the cost of building a Passivhaus standard building materials and reduced heating bills.
  3. Suggest some ‘carrots’ and ‘sticks’ that could be used to make sure housing in the UK is affordable to rent/buy and run.

 

3. Assessment:

The spreadsheet can be assessed, and the students could write a report giving facts and figures comparing different levels of insulation and the effects on running costs. 

 

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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.   

 

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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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Author: Dr. Sarah Jayne Hitt Ph.D. SFHEA (NMITE, Edinburgh Napier University). 

Topic: Building sustainability awareness. 

Tool type: Teaching. 

Relevant disciplines: Any. 

Keywords: Everyday ethics; Communication; Teaching or embedding sustainability; Knowledge exchange; SDGs; Risk analysis; Interdisciplinary; Social responsibility; AHEP; Sustainability; Higher education. 
 
Sustainability competency: Systems thinking; Critical thinking; 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: Many SDGs could relate to this activity, depending on what students focus on. Teachers could choose to introduce the SDGs and dimensions of sustainability prior to the students doing the activity or the students could complete part one without this introduction, and follow on to further parts after an introduction to these topics. 
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: Active pedagogies and mindset development.

Educational level: Beginner / Intermediate. 

 

Learning and teaching notes:  

This learning activity is designed to build students’ awareness of different dimensions of sustainability through reflection on their everyday activities. This activity is presented in two parts. If desired, a teacher can use Part one in isolation, but Part two develops and complicates the concepts presented in Part one to provide for additional learning. Educators could incorporate shorter or longer versions of the activity as fits their needs and contexts. This activity could be presented without a focus on a specific area of engineering, or, students could be asked to do this around a particular discipline. Another powerful option would be to do the activity once at the beginning of term and then again at the end of term, asking students to reflect on how their perceptions have changed after learning more about sustainability. 

This activity could be delivered as an in-class small group discussion, as an individual writing assignment, or a combination of both. Students could even make a short video or poster that captures their insights.  

Learners have the opportunity to: 

Teachers have the opportunity to: 

 

Supporting resources 

 

Part one: 

Choose 3 activities that you do every day. These could be things like: brushing your teeth, commuting, cooking a meal, messaging your friends and family, etc. For each activity, consider the following as they connect to this activity: 

To help you consider these elements, list the “stuff” that is involved in doing each activity—for example, in the case of brushing your teeth, this would include the toothbrush, the toothpaste, the container(s) the toothpaste comes in, the sink, the tap, and the water.  

 

Part two: 

Teachers may want to preface this part of the activity through an introduction to the SDGs, or, they may want to allow students to investigate the SDGs as they are related to these everyday activities. Students could engage in the following: 

 

Acknowledgements: This activity is based on an Ethical Autobiography activity developed by Professor Sandy Woodson and other instructors of the “Nature and Human Values” module at the Colorado School of Mines. 

 

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Authors: Mr. Neil Rogers (Independent Scholar), Dr. Sarah Jayne Hitt Ph.D. SFHEA (NMITE, Edinburgh Napier University) 

Topic: Designing a flood warning system to communicate risk. 

Tool type: Teaching. 

Engineering disciplines: Electronic; Energy; Mechanical. 

Keywords: Climate change; Water and sanitation; Renewable energy; Battery Technologies; Recycling or recycled materials; AHEP; Sustainability; Student support; Local community; Environment; Future generations; Risk; Higher education; Assessment; Project brief. 

Sustainability competency: Systems thinking; Anticipatory; Strategic; Integrated problem-solving; 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. Potential alignments with AHEP criteria are shown below. 

Related SDGs: SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy); SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities). 

Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: More real-world complexity; Active pedagogies and mindset development; Authentic assessment.

Educational level: Intermediate / Advanced. 

 

Learning and teaching notes: 

This resource outlines a project brief that requires an engineer to assess the local area to understand the scale of flooding and the local context. This will highlight how climate change affects everyday life, how water usage is changing and happening on our doorstep.

The project also requires the engineer to be considerate of the needs of a local business and showcases how climate change affects the economy and individual lives, enabling some degree of empathy and compassion to this exercise.

Depending upon the level of the students and considering the needs of modules or learning outcomes, the project could follow either or both of the following pathways: 

 

Pathway 1 – Introduction to Electronic Engineering (beginner/intermediate- Level 4) 

In this pathway, the project deliverables could be in the form of a physical artefact, together with a technical specification. 

 

Pathway 2 – Electromagnetics in Engineering (intermediate/advanced- Level 5) 

This project allows teachers the option to stop at multiple points for questions and/or activities as desired.  

 

Learners have the opportunity to: 

Teachers have the opportunity to: 

 

Learning and teaching resources: 

 

Overview:  

A local business premises near to a river has been suffering from severe flooding over the last 10 years. The business owner seeks to install a warning system that can provide adequate notice of a possible flood situation. 

 

Time frame & structure:
This project can be completed over 30 hours, either in a block covering 2-3 weeks (preferred) or 1 hour per week over the academic term. This project should be attempted in teams of 3-5 students. This would enable the group to develop a prototype, but the Specification (Pathway 1) and Technical Report (Pathway 2) could be individual submissions without collusion to enable individual assessment.

It is recommended that a genuine premises is found that has had the issues described above and a site visit could be made. This will not only give much needed context to the scenario but will also trigger emotional response and personal ownership to the problem. 

To prepare for activities related to sustainability, teachers may want to read, or assign students to pre-read the following article:
‘Mean or Green: Which values can promote stable pro-environmental behaviour?’ 

 

Context and Stakeholders: 

Flooding in the local town has become more prevalent over recent years, impacting homes and businesses. A local coffee shop priding itself on its ethical credentials is located adjacent to the river and is one of the businesses that has suffered from severe flooding over the last 10 years, causing thousands of pounds worth of spoilt stock and loss of revenue. The local council’s flood warning system is far from adequate to protect individuals on a site-by-site basis. So the shop is looking for an individual warning system, giving the manager and staff adequate notice of a possible flood situation. This will enable stock to be moved in good time to a safer drier location. The shop manager is very conscious of wanting to implement a sustainable design that uses sustainable materials and renewable energy, to promote the values of the shop. It is becoming clear that such a solution would also benefit other businesses that experience flooding and a wider solution should also be considered. 

 

Pathway 1 

This project requires assessment of the local area and ideally a visit to the retailer to understand their needs and consider options for water level monitoring. You are required to consider environmental and sustainable factors when presenting a solution.

After a visit to the premises:  

  1. Discussion: What is your initial reaction to the effects of the flooding and does it surprise you? What might your initial reaction reveal to you about your own perspectives and values?
  2. Discussion: What is your initial reaction to the causes of the flooding and does it surprise you? What might your initial reaction reveal to you about your own perspectives and values?
  3. Discussion and activity: List the potential issues and risks to installing a device in or near to the river bank.
  4. Activity: Research water level monitoring. What are the main technical and logistical issues with this technology in this scenario?
  5. Activity: Both cost-benefit and sustainable trade-off analyses are valuable approaches to consider in this case.  Determine the possible courses of action and undertake both types of analysis for each position by considering both short- and long-term consequences.    
  6. Reflection: Obligations to future generations: Do we have a responsibility to provide a safe and healthy environment for humans that don’t yet exist, or for an ecosystem that will eventually change? 

 

Design Process​:

To satisfy the learning outcomes identified above the following activities are suggested. 

 

Assessment activity 1 – Physical artefact: 

Design, build and test a prototype flood warning device, monitoring various water levels and controlling an output or outputs in an alarm condition to meet the following as a minimum:
 

a) The device will require the use of an analogue sensor that will directly or indirectly output an electrical signal proportional to the water level. 

b) It will integrate to appropriate Operational Amplifier circuitry. 

c) The circuitry will control an output device or devices. 

d) The power consumption of the complete circuit will be assessed to allow an appropriate renewable energy supply to be specified (but not necessarily be part of the build). 

 

Assessment activity 2 – Technical specification: 

The written specification and accompanying drawings shall enable a solution to be manufactured based on the study, evaluation and affirmation of the product requirements. 

The evaluation of the product requirements and consequent component selection will reference the use of design tools and problem-solving techniques. In compiling the specification the component selection and integration will highlight the underlying engineering principles that have been followed. The specification shall be no more than 1000 words (plus illustrations and references). 

 

Pathway 2

This project requires assessment of the local area and ideally a visit to the retailer to understand their needs and consider options for water level monitoring.

You are required to consider environmental and sustainable factors when presenting a solution. 

After a visit to the premises:  

  1. Discussion: What is your initial reaction to the effects of the flooding and does it surprise you? What might your initial reaction reveal to you about your own perspectives and values?
  2. Discussion: What is your initial reaction to the causes of the flooding and does it surprise you? What might your initial reaction reveal to you about your own perspectives and values?
  3. Discussion and activity: List the potential issues and risks to installing a device in or near to the river bank.
  4. Activity: Both cost-benefit and sustainable trade-off analyses are valuable approaches to consider in this case.  Determine the possible courses of action and undertake both types of analysis for each position by considering both short- and long-term consequences.      

 

Wireless communication of information electronically is now commonplace. It’s important for the learners to understand the differences between the various types both technically and commercially to enable the most appropriate form of communication to be chosen.

Pathway 1 above explains the need for a flood warning device to monitor water levels of a river. In Pathway 2, this part of the challenge (which could be achieved in isolation) is to communicate this information from the river to an office location within the town. 

 

Design Process: 

Design a communications system that will transmit data, equivalent to the height of the river in metres. The maximum frequency and distance over which the data can be transmitted should be explored and defined, but as a minimum this data should be sent every 20 seconds over a distance of 500m. 

 

Assessment activity – Technical report:       

A set of user requirements and two possible technical solutions shall be presented in the form of a Technical Report: 

The report shall be no more than 3000 words (plus illustrations and references)  

 

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Author: Onyekachi Nwafor (CEO, KatexPower). 

Topic: Waste management. 

Tool type: Teaching. 

Relevant disciplines: Environmental; Civil; Systems engineering. 

Keywords: Sustainability; Environmental justice; Water and sanitation; Community engagement; Urban planning; Waste management; Nigeria; Sweden; AHEP; Higher education. 
 
Sustainability competency: Systems thinking; Integrated problem-solving competency; Strategic competency.

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 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation); SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities); SDG 13 (Climate Action).  
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: More real-world complexity; Active pedagogies and mindset development; Cross-disciplinarity.

Educational level: Beginner. 

 

Learning and teaching notes: 

This case study juxtaposes the waste management strategies of two cities: Stockholm, Sweden, renowned for its advanced recycling and waste-to-energy initiatives, and Lagos, Nigeria, a megacity grappling with rapid urbanisation and growing waste challenges. The contrast and comparison aim to illuminate the diverse complexities, unique solutions, and ethical considerations underlying their respective journeys towards sustainable waste management. 

This case is presented in parts. If desired, a teacher can use Part one in isolation, but Parts two and three develop and complicate the concepts presented in Part one to provide for additional learning. The case study allows teachers the option to stop at multiple points for questions and/or activities, as desired.   

 

Learners have the opportunity to: 

Teachers have the opportunity to: 

 

Learning and teaching resources: 

Websites: 

Government publications: 

Journal articles: 

 

Part one: 

You are a renowned environmental engineer and urban planner, specialising in sustainable waste management systems. The Commissioner of Environment for Lagos invites you to analyse the city’s waste challenges and develop a comprehensive, adaptable roadmap towards a sustainable waste management future. Your mandate involves: 

 

Optional STOP for questions and activities: 

 

Part two: 

As you delve deeper, you recognise the multifaceted challenges Lagos faces. While Stockholm boasts advanced technologies and high recycling rates, its solutions may not directly translate to Lagos’s context. Limited infrastructure, informal waste sectors, and diverse cultural practices must be carefully considered. Your role evolves from simply analysing technicalities and policies to devising a holistic strategy. This strategy must not only champion environmental sustainability but also champion social equity, respecting the unique socio-economic and cultural nuances of each urban setting. You must design a system that: 

 

Optional STOP for questions and activities: 

 

Adaptability for diverse contexts: 

 

Discussion prompts: 

 

Part three: 

While implementing your strategy, you encounter enthusiasm from some sectors but also resistance from others, particularly informal waste workers and industries whose livelihoods may be impacted. Balancing immediate socio-economic concerns with long-term environmental benefits becomes crucial. 

 

Optional STOP for questions and activities: 

 

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

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.

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