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Multidiscipline Team Teaching Approach To Enhance Project Based Learning Of Sustainable Design

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Civil Engineering Teaching Part Two

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.915.1 - 13.915.14



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Paper Authors

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Steven Burian University of Utah

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William Johnson University of Utah

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Fred Montague University of Utah

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Arrin Holt Cooper Roberts Simonsen Associates

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Jim Nielson Cooper Roberts Simonsen Associates

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Rachel David Cooper Roberts Simonsen Associates

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

Multidiscipline Team Teaching Approach to Enhance Project-Based Learning of Sustainable Design


This paper describes a multidiscipline team-taught course providing a project-based learning environment for students of sustainable design practices at the university level. The Sustainability Practicum course developed by the authors at the University of Utah aims to integrate students from multiple disciplines with faculty and design professional mentors, also from multiple disciplines. Multidiscipline student teams are first provided a basic introduction to sustainability concepts and then introduced to an on-going building or development project, environmental assessment, or coupled human-natural process investigation for which they must incorporate a sustainable feature. By using active projects for the course, students are immersed directly into the planning and design experience providing them insight into stakeholder-client- decision maker-professional practice interactions. Students become involved in these interactions as they innovate, plan, design, and in some cases create, implement, or construct their sustainability project. This paper describes the challenges and benefits of the multidisciplinary approach to teaching and learning sustainability concepts and the value of using on-going projects and involving design professionals.


A Google search of ‘sustainability’ returns more than 13 million hits. Thousands of definitions of the term can be found from a wide range of perspectives. Wikipedia, for example, defines sustainability, in general, as the characteristic of a process or state that can be maintained at a certain level indefinitely. Sustainability must be placed in the context of a particular process to narrow its scope for tractable application. The purview of civil engineers is generally resource sustainability and sustainable development. One of the most often referenced definitions of sustainable development was presented by the Brundtland Commission1:

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

This definition continues to be reincarnated in various forms, including the definition of sustainable development adopted by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Board of Direction:

“Sustainable Development is the challenge of meeting human needs for natural resources, industrial products, energy, food, transportation, shelter, and effective waste management while conserving and protecting environmental quality and the natural resource base essential for future development.”

As Mays2 points out, the concept of sustainability is not new. However, officially recognition of the concept in practice has come relatively recently. For example, The ASCE Board of Directors introduced the concept into their Code of Ethics a little more than a decade ago3.

Burian, S., & Johnson, W., & Montague, F., & Holt, A., & Nielson, J., & David, R. (2008, June), Multidiscipline Team Teaching Approach To Enhance Project Based Learning Of Sustainable Design Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3876

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