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Incorporating Sustainability into the Civil Engineering curriculum via cross course collaborations

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Teaching and Assessing Sustainability and Life Long Learning

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.735.1 - 23.735.15



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Paper Authors

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Claire L. Antaya Arizona State University Orcid 16x16

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Melissa M. Bilec University of Pittsburgh


Piervincenzo Rizzo University of Pittsburgh

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Dr. Piervincenzo Rizzo earned his Laurea—M.S. equivalent—in Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Palermo, Italy in 1998. After serving in the Italian Army Corps of Engineering, Dr. Rizzo moved to the U.S.A. where he earned a master's degree in 2002 and a Ph.D. in 2004 in Structural Engineering at the University of California at San Diego. In September 2006 he became an assistant professor at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh and promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2012. Dr. Rizzo’s research interests are in nondestructive evaluation and structural health monitoring using techniques such as ultrasound, acoustic emission, thermography, solitary waves, and electromechanical impedance. His current and past researches have been supported by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the National Science Foundation, the American Society for Nondestructive Testing, and various Pitt’s seed funding mechanism. He is the recipient of the 2002 Fellowship Research Award and the 2007 Faculty Grant Award from the American Society for Nondestructive Testing, and the 2012 Achenbach Medal, created to recognize a young individual making an outstanding contribution to the advancement of the field of Structural Health Monitoring. Dr. Rizzo is the author of seven book chapters, 53 peer-reviewed journal papers, and more than 120 conference papers and presentations.

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Amy E. Landis Arizona State University

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Incorporating Sustainability into the Civil Engineering curriculum via cross course collaborationsAs concerns of global climate change and energy independence increases, concepts ofsustainability are critical components to civil engineers’ education. Civil engineers will play asignificant role in designing, constructing, and maintaining systems. Professors at the Universityof Pittsburgh (UPitt) and Arizona State University (ASU) are collaborating to integratesustainability into the Civil Curriculum in two manners; first, via target sustainability unitsand/or labs that are integrated into traditional Civil courses and second, via the creation of newcourses whose foci are on sustainability.This paper presents and discusses the development and effectiveness of two unique sustainabilitylabs and their implementation into three collaborative course activities that have been designedto enhance experiential learning of sustainability concepts. The three Civil and EnvironmentalEngineering (CEE) courses are: Introduction to Nondestructive Evaluation and Structural HealthMonitoring (NDE), Design for the Environment (DfE), and Green Buildings: Design andConstruction (GB). Two active learning labs are discussed in this paper, including an energy labutilizing an infrared thermography (IRT) camera and a sustainable materials lab exploringelements of environmentally contentious designs. An example of the improvement withintraditional civil engineering course NDE is illustrated by the IRT energy audit activity (Figure1). Students utilize the IRT camera to conduct an energy audit of buildings by calculating thebuilding’s energy envelope, identifying solutions for major sources of energy losses, andproposing methods of achieving energy and cost savings and improving the sustainable buildingelements. They communicate results of the audit through an industry report format which enablesthe students obtain real world experiences they overwhelmingly request pre-graduation.New courses, DfE and GB, are taught almost entirely through experiential learning activities,where ex-cathedra (i.e. authoritative, lecture-style) teaching is minimized. The concurrentteaching of these classes at UPitt and ASU enhances student collaboration. Tacit knowledge isgained through experiential learning and prepares these engineering  professionals  of  the  future  to  solve  complex  and  multidisciplinary  problems  in  a  sustainable  and  global  context.  Pre-and post-assessment surveys are administered to assess changes in student perceptions ofsustainability concepts and applications over a 4-year period for the traditional civil course,NDE, and the new civil courses, DfE and GB. This paper will present drastic changes inperceptions of sustainability concepts and applications over time and present a statistical analysisof changes in student learning outcomes over time as a result of the service- and active learningexperiences, reinforcing the potential for future cross-course, multi-university experientiallearning collaborations.Figure 1. IRT Cross-course Module. Example of house survey by means of an infrared camera;taken from NDE 2011 and NDE/DfE 2012 student reports. Left to right: Exterior kitchen wall;Wall section where students calculated energy loss from the vent in 2012. The temperature ontop left of each figure is the temperature associated with the center of the IR’s view-finder.

Antaya, C. L., & Bilec, M. M., & Rizzo, P., & Landis, A. E. (2013, June), Incorporating Sustainability into the Civil Engineering curriculum via cross course collaborations Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19749

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