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The Sustainable Classroom:Efforts To Teach Sustainability To Engineering Students

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Sustainability Issues

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1327.1 - 10.1327.8



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Paper Authors

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Peter Bosscher

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Jeffrey Russell

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

The Sustainable Classroom: Teaching Sustainability to Tomorrow’s Engineers1

By Peter J. Bosscher, Jeffrey S. Russell, and W.B. Stouffer2

INTRODUCTION Why is an education in Sustainable Engineering needed and what should it look like? Engineers play a central role in creating infrastructure in the world by acting as problem solvers who apply their knowledge and experience to projects that meet human needs. They work on a wide range of issues and projects, and as a result, how engineers work can have a significant impact on progress toward sustainable development. How engineers are educated has a significant effect on the way in which they work and the way in which they understand their role in sustainability. This paper explores one way in which engineers can to be educated in sustainability—service- oriented learning. BACKGROUND Sustainability is slowly but surely finding its way into university curricula. An overview of the progress from 1992 to 1997 is contained in the report The Engineer’s Response to Sustainable Development, dated February 1997, and published by World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO). In the US many engineering colleges have developed extensive programs with special courses on the environment and sustainable technologies. Internationally, other institutions have also integrated these concepts into their courses. In 1999, the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) approved a statement on the need for education in engineering sustainability. The statement reads: “Engineering students should learn about sustainable development and sustainability in the general education component of the curriculum as they are preparing for the major design experience.” For example, studies in economics and ethics are necessary to understand the need to use sustainable engineering techniques, including clean technologies. In teaching sustainable design, faculty should ask their students to consider the impacts of design upon U.S. society, and upon other nations and cultures. Engineering faculty should use systems approaches, including interdisciplinary teams, to teach pollution techniques, life cycle analysis, industry ecology and other sustainable engineering concepts. Case studies, including studies of university-industry-government partnerships, can be used to illustrate the importance of the multidisciplinary aspects of designed systems, the impacts of those systems upon society and the environment, and the practical viability of the sustainability concept. Sustainability is even being pushed in engineering accreditation. The organization responsible for coordinating this process—the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology

1 Paper presented at the Annual ASEE Conference in Portland, Oregon, June 12-15, 2005. 2 Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, U. of Wisconsin, Madison, Professor and Chair, Civil and Environmental Engineering, U. of Wisconsin, Madison, and Research Associate, University of Wisconsin, Madison, respectively. Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Bosscher, P., & Russell, J. (2005, June), The Sustainable Classroom:Efforts To Teach Sustainability To Engineering Students Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14237

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: © 2005 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