Asee peer logo

Integrating Sustainability Into Civil Engineering Curricula

Download Paper |


2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Programmatic Curriculum Developments

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.743.1 - 8.743.7



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Kevin Sutterer

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2615

Integrating Sustainability into Civil Engineering Curricula

Michael Robinson, P.E., Kevin Sutterer, P.E. Department of Civil Engineering Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Introduction As U.S. civil engineers debate the body of knowledge that should be a part of civil engineering education under American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Policy 4652 or within current undergraduate curricula, one component not commonly included in current curricula but absolutely fundamental to our graduates is sustainability. Sustainable development is defined by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development11 as “...development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs...” It is well documented that a worldwide crisis is approaching if sustainability does not become a fundame ntal consideration in development.10

ASCE recognizes this need, as documented in its first fundamental Canon of its Code of Ethics: “Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public and shall strive to comply with the principles of sustainable development in the performance of their professional duties.3 ” Sustainable engineering is already a major consideration for construction of many federal projects, and many industries are also recognizing that sustainable design leads to better, more economical, longer lasting facilities that are people-friendly. Inevitably, much of major construction in the coming decades will feature sustainable design and construction processes.

Sustainability must become a fundamental consideration in all civil engineering design and construction. As the leaders of change in fundamental civil engineering processes, it is the responsibility of civil engineering departments nationwide to lead the movement toward sustainable civil engineering development through research and education of their students. The ASCE code of ethics suggests that failure to do so is a breach of civil engineering education ethics. In addition, to make sustainability a fundamental consideration in all civil engineering work is simply good engineering. Through sustainability, civil engineers can elevate the level of engineering to reduce life-cycle and beyond life-cycle costs through only moderate additional engineering costs. An additional selfish but valid aspect of sustainable civil engineering development is that it increases the engineers’ role in development.

Groundbreaking, funded work in development of civil engineering curricula to include sustainability is well documented.6,7,8,9 This work has been done by early leaders in civil engineering sustainability education, often with the assistance of funding. This work is a resource for other departments, but may not address hurdles to sustainability education faced in other departments. For example, the majority of civil engineering faculty are not knowledgeable about sustainability, and department leaders may not perceive the magnitude of the need. Once convinced of the need for sustainability education, faculty may ask what is the scope of fundamental sustainable engineering knowledge and tools required by civil engineering graduates? The pinch to fit more material into crowded curricula while reducing total credit hours is well recognized. Where can additional material be added and who will pay for it?

“Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ? 2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

Sutterer, K. (2003, June), Integrating Sustainability Into Civil Engineering Curricula Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12190

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2003 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015