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Integrating Economic and Environmental Sustainability for Undergraduate Education

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Environmental Engineering Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

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Paper Authors


Pablo K. Cornejo California State University, Chico

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Pablo K. Cornejo joined the Department of Civil Engineering at California State University, Chico as an Assistant Professor in Fall of 2016. Dr. Cornejo received his Ph.D. and Master's degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of South Florida (USF) and B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder. His doctoral research focused on the life cycle environmental impacts of wastewater management and resource recovery strategies. After obtaining his Ph.D., he conducted post-doctoral research at the University of Colorado at Boulder, investigating multi-criteria sustainability frameworks to aid decision-making for small drinking water treatment systems. Other research interests include greenhouse gas models for water reuse and desalination facilities; sustainability metrics for integrated resource recovery systems; and sustainable engineering education.

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Increasingly, engineers must approach problems considering economically viable, socially just, and environmentally sustainable solutions. This paper describes a new green engineering design course developed at California State University, Chico, which provides students with a sustainability framework to approach engineering problems considering the triple bottom (i.e., economic, social, environmental issues). Through a group project, students applied quantitative environmental and economic assessment tools (i.e., life cycle assessment software and life cycle cost analysis), decision-making strategies, and sensitivity analysis tools to evaluate real-world problems. Students’ (n=86) abilities to understand and apply key concepts in the course were evaluated by examining overall performance in the class and performance on group projects. The majority of students performed well in the class (average = 84%, standard deviation = 7%) and on the final group project report (average = 90%, standard deviation = 4%). Future versions of this course could be improved by introducing LCA software earlier in the curriculum and integrating this course as a pre-requisite or co-requisite to a senior capstone. By teaching students an innovative approach to the conventional evaluation-of-alternatives, students were able to propose designs that minimize environmental impacts (e.g., carbon footprint) and provide economically feasible solutions simultaneously. Consequently, this paper highlights a viable teaching model for other universities integrate sustainability into their curriculum.

Cornejo, P. K. (2017, June), Integrating Economic and Environmental Sustainability for Undergraduate Education Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28551

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