Asee peer logo

Integrating the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Envision Rating System to Assess Sustainability in Civil Engineering Capstone Design

Download Paper |


2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Integrating Sustainability and Resilience Concepts into Courses

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Leslie R Brunell P.E. Stevens Institute of Technology (School of Engineering and Science)

visit author page

Leslie Brunell, PhD, PE is a Teaching Professor at Stevens Institute of Technology. She coordinates both the civil and multidisciplinary engineering senior design projects. These projects are the culmination of the undergraduate engineering experience. Students design an innovative solution to a complex problem. She has recruited professional sponsors who mentor the civil engineering design projects. The projects expose the civil engineering students to real world design problems. The students gain first hand experience communicating professionally, developing schedules, meeting deadlines and preparing professional quality reports and presentations. Prof. Brunell is also the director of the Water Resouces graduate program. In addition to Senior Design she teaches Surveying and Water Resources.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Civil Engineering Capstone Design requires undergraduate students to work in teams with professional mentors to develop solutions to relevant real-world problems. Recent changes to both ABET Engineering Accreditation Criteria (EAC) and the Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge (CEBOK3) emphasize the importance of sustainability in design. Realistic design solutions need to consider risk assessment, societal and environmental impacts, relevant codes, standards and regulations, sustainability and resilience. The design teams developed innovative design solutions while gaining an understanding of the impact the solutions have in global, economic, environmental and societal contexts. Students learned to consider the increasing demands for improved transportation systems, resilient and sustainable cities and renewable energy.

This paper focuses on how using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) along with the ASCE Envision Rating System increases civil engineering undergraduate students’ awareness of sustainability as they complete their capstone designs. Over the course of two years, 2018-2020, twenty-five civil or multidisciplinary engineering design projects focused on the design of infrastructure; vehicular and pedestrian bridges, buildings; mixed use multistory, civil/site projects; flood control, emergency relief housing and renewable energy, were developed with an awareness of sustainability.

The SDG’s were introduced as each design teams began working on their projects. Each student was required to pick at least one goal for incorporation into the proposed design, and every design team was required to use the Envision rating system as a guide to improve the sustainability of their proposed design. The Envision online scoresheets introduce 64 sustainability and resilience credits which the design teams used to assess the sustainability of the proposed designs. The emphasis on sustainability by incorporating both the UN SDG’s and Envision expanded the focus of the design to consider the overall plan, construction, maintenance and life cycle of the projects. The incorporation of both criteria helped to guide student decisions, evaluate the environmental impact of the designs and address the benefits the proposed design had on their respective communities. The exposure to both the UNSDGs and the Envision Rating System was supported by the professional mentors. One company even provided funding to support students to complete the Envision training and become Envision Sustainability Professionals.

Design assessments/rubrics were developed for each oral presentation and written submission to evaluate student understanding. These assessments aligned ABET 1 – 7, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Envision Rating system. The UN SDG’s and the Envision Rating System served as a guide for the student teams to develop sustainable design solutions which considered the economic, environmental and social impacts of the designs.

Consideration of sustainability within the undergraduate Capstone Design is linked to Profession Ethics for all Civil Engineers as noted in the BOK3, “strive to comply with the principles of sustainable development in the performance of their professional duties.” Using both the UN SDG’s and Envision is a realistic way to bridge the gap between the undergraduate design experience and the professional expectations students will be obligated to consider in their future careers.

Brunell, L. R. (2020, June), Integrating the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Envision Rating System to Assess Sustainability in Civil Engineering Capstone Design Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34848

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: © 2020 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