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Lessons Learned: Applications of Sustainability Rating Systems in Civil Engineering Capstone Design Courses

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Sustainability in Civil Engineering Education: Service Learning, Capstone Integration, Student Affect and Rating Systems

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

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Paper Authors


Norb Delatte P.E. Oklahoma State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Norbert J. Delatte, Jr., P.E., is Professor and Head of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Oklahoma State University. He is the author of Beyond Failure: Forensic Case Studies for Civil Engineers (ASCE Press, 2009). In addition, he is the Editor of ASCE’s Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice. Dr. Delatte is a registered professional engineer in the States of Ohio and Alabama and in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

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Tricia Heather Hatley Freese and Nichols, Inc

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This paper describes experiences over several years at two different universities of difficulties and successes in applying sustainability rating systems in civil engineering capstone sequences. Current civil engineering ABET program criteria requires that “The curriculum must prepare graduates to… include principles of sustainability in design.” A logical place to meet this requirement is in the capstone design course.

This has presented several challenges: • Student knowledge about sustainability is highly variable, based in large part on treatment in prerequisite courses • Students lack familiarity with the available rating tools and systems • Some tools are not available free • When projects involve outside clients, those clients may not place much emphasis on sustainability • Students may apply trivial and superficial treatments to sustainability, or may attempt to graft it on at the end of the project • Students may put too much faith in marketing by trade associations, and state that “we used material X which is sustainable because their web site says so”

Early efforts focused on using the LEED rating system. This turned out to have a number of challenges. One is the focus on buildings as opposed to infrastructure projects. Another is that many of the LEED points are either out of the control of the engineer, or somewhat trivial. As a result, the student work was often uneven and sometimes unsatisfactory

The first author recently moved from University A to University B, but continued teaching the capstone class.

More recently, there has been more success in applying the Envision rating system, which is more broadly applicable to infrastructure than LEED. Envision can also be applied to building projects.

A local consulting firm was found that was willing to introduce the student groups to the Envision tool, present case studies, and to coach them in how to apply it to their projects. This has led to multiple benefits. Because the material is presented by an outside consulting firm, rather than faculty, the students attach more credibility to it. The effort is also timed better, coming in the middle of the project development stage, rather than toward the end.

In response to call for papers: Applications of Sustainability Rating Systems in Civil Engineering Curriculum

Delatte, N., & Hatley, T. H. (2019, June), Lessons Learned: Applications of Sustainability Rating Systems in Civil Engineering Capstone Design Courses Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33062

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