Tuesday, September 2, 2014

NSF Awards Grant to BBISS Researchers



The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a $2.5 million grant to an innovative multidisciplinary research project led by BBISS Director, Professor John Crittenden.  The three year project, under the Resilient Interdependent Infrastructure Processes and Systems program (RIPS), is designed to develop the theory that infrastructure systems, with their many interdependencies and complex adaptations, have many similarities to ecological systems.  The insights that arise from this grant will be useful in the future development of tools and methods used in the design and evaluation of urban infrastructure systems and their resilience under stresses like climate change, urban growth patterns, and extreme weather events.  The investigators also expect that perspective will be gained by examining the relative advantages of ecological design versus engineering approaches in the design of complex systems such as urban infrastructure. 

One of the most unique aspects of this work is its multi-disciplinary nature.  The project team spans across ten different units, from five of the six colleges at Georgia Tech, plus the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI).  The project team is:

  •  John Crittenden (PI) – Dir., Brook Byers Institute of Sustainable Systems, CEE
  • Baabak Ashuri (Co-PI) – Dir., Economics of the Sustainable Built Environment Lab, BC
  • Richard Fujimoto (Co-PI) - Computational Science and Engineering
  • Marc Weissburg (Co-PI) – Co-Dir., Center for Biologically Inspired Design, Biology
  • Jennifer Clark (Co-PI) – Dir., Center for Urban Innovation, Public Policy
  • Miroslav Begovic - Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Nancey Green Leigh – Assoc. Dean for Research, College of Arch., City and Regional Planning
  • Subhrajit Guhathakurta – Dir., Center for Geographic Information Systems, CRP
  • Tom McDermott - Deputy Director and Director of Research, GTRI
  • Valerie Thomas - Industrial and Systems Engineering
  • Bert Bras – Dir., Sustainable Design and Manufacturing Program, Mechanical Engineering

The main hypothesis of this project is that infrastructure systems that are interconnected and decentralized are more resilient than those that are isolated and centralized.  A secondary hypothesis is that decentralized infrastructure systems are also more adaptable and scalable.  However, the means to assess these hypotheses are not readily at hand.  Currently, infrastructure systems are designed, built, and operated as independent entities with little consideration for how they interact with other infrastructure systems, or even within their socio-economic context.  This project will develop that capability and then use it to understand the resilience of centralized versus decentralized infrastructure systems at the metropolitan, city, and community level. Atlanta, GA will serve as a test bed.
There are 4 main research thrusts of this project.
  1.   A functional model for water, energy, and transportation infrastructures will be built based in system dynamics.  This model will be used to assess how infrastructure systems respond and adapt to various stressors under different urban growth scenarios.  
  2.  A model to quantify the resilience of water, energy, and transportation infrastructures will be developed with an ecological engineering approach to resilience.  Proposed designs will be benchmarked with this model taking into account climate change stressors and a demographically representative cohort of stakeholders.
  3. An agent-based simulation tool of the socio-economic environment will be developed to understand decision-making and system performance under stressors.  This tool will capture the impacts to service amongst the stakeholders, feed decisions back to the systems model, and provide prescriptions for future development/rehabilitation.
  4. A model of resilience and sustainability will be developed for water, energy, and transportation infrastructures to assess the effects of climate change stressors like extreme heat events, droughts, and floods and how these infrastructure systems interact with each other under such stresses.

This research represents a new system-of-systems approach to engineering the resilience of critical urban infrastructures.  Developing models which place urban infrastructure systems in context with their physical and socio-economic environments will serve to bridge the gap between social decision making processes and the design of urban systems.  As the world increasingly urbanizes and contends with complex ecological constraints, unique approaches such as this project may contribute to the framing of a national research agenda for integrating urban resilience and sustainability into urban planning. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Student Sustainability Organizations - 2014

Students Organizing for Sustainability members in the GT Community Garden.
This is our annual feature highlighting Georgia Tech's student sustainability related organizations for the new academic year. Georgia Tech has a strong tradition of student led clubs and organizations. Sustainability related groups have proven to be no exception in this regard. The list below is a comprehensive picture of the broad range of sustainability related student organizations and volunteer opportunities available. Please help us keep this list current. Contact us with updates, or additions.

  • Association of Environmental Engineers and Scientists - AEES is a student-run organization, traditionally a graduate student group, we now involve many undergraduate students in our professional and social events. Our organization’s main goal is to improve the overall educational experience  of the students in our department. We aim to provide a professional and social network to environmental engineering students  at Georgia Tech. We provide professional development services to our students, act as a communication channel between students and faculty, provide assistance to students attending conferences, and work to maintain a high quality of student life. AEES also provides a link between students and their potential employers.
     
  • Alternative Service Break - ASB creates programs that provides high-quality service trips over school holidays to members of the Georgia Tech student body. ASB works in partnership with the Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement to meet this goal. Since the time of ASB’s first program in 2011, ASB's footprint has expanded from a single service trip to now collectively offering thirteen different service opportunities to Georgia Tech students. ASB’s reach extends from Jacksonville, Florida, to Tom’s River, New Jersey; and we will offer our first international trip in the spring. Most importantly, ASB strives to produce programs that bring together students on our campus, engages our alumni network, and to serve the communities that our students engage with. We are proud to be building an outlet through which Georgia Tech students serve our world.

  • Bicycle Infrastructure Improvement Committee - The GT BIIC was formed in late 2010 by SGA, to bring together graduate and undergraduate students with staff members of the Georgia Tech offices of Capital Planning and Space Management, Parking and Transportation, Facilities, etc. Together they are tasked with improving bicycle infrastructure on campus through the evaluation of existing facilities, the creation of events and programs, securing funding for facility improvements, and other related endeavors. They represent a commitment of students and staff to sustainability, mobility, safety, healthy living, and a choice of travel modes.

  • Cooks for Heritage, Education, Fellowship, and Service - Cooks for Heritage, Education, Fellowship, and Service, also known as CHEFS, is the cooking club on campus. We strive to provide our members with fun, interesting activities that both expand their cooking knowledge and help the community around them.

  • Circle K - Circle K is a service and leadership development organization for college students sponsored by Kiwanis International. We participate in volunteer projects around the community, such as at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Project Open Hand, Boys and Girls Club, and more. We have many leadership opportunities, including committee chair positions, and also promote fellowship among club members  by having various social events. There are also opportunities for awards and scholarships. Overall, we provide club members with as many chances to volunteer as possible and have fun at the same time.

  • Earth Day Planning Committee - Georgia Tech's Earth Day celebration is among the largest in the Southeastern US. This is possible because of dedicated people who work to bring this annual event into being. The Earth Day Planning Committee welcomes students into the process. If you are interested, conact Cindy Jackson.

  • Energy Club - The purpose of  the Energy Club is to educate students on the unique challenges and opportunities that are impacting the global energy industry. We bring together students, alumni, faculty and industry professionals in a forum that allows for interaction, discussion, exchange of innovative ideas and networking. We also develop student leadership specifically in the area of energy.

  • Engineers for a Sustainable World - Engineers for a Sustainable World at Georgia Tech promotes engineering that fosters environmental, social, and economic sustainability and focuses the combined resources of Georgia Tech students, faculty, and alumni to develop sustainable solutions for local, regional and national problems.

  • Engineers Without Borders - Georgia Tech - EWB-GT is a student chapter of a national non-profit organization called Engineers Without Borders-USA. We serve as a resource for connecting Georgia Tech students with opportunities for personal development and a stronger understanding of global health concerns and humanitarian engineering. Our student members design and implement solutions for health and infrastructure needs in developing communities.
     
  • Enterprise to Empower - Enterprise to Empower (En2Em, also serves as the undergraduate chapter of Net Impact) is a Georgia Tech student organization that seeks to educate, enable, and engage students in social entrepreneurship, helping them discover how their skills and talents in any field -- from business to engineering -- can be applied to the social problems of the world today. More than just enabling students to start new enterprises and organizations, En2Em sees the need to equip all those in our generation with the skills of leadership, creativity, and empathy for others so that they may become positive change-agents in their communities and workplaces.

  • Georgia Tech Model UN - GTMUN is a two day conference for high school students that takes place on Georgia Tech’s campus. Established in 1998, this conference has worked to bring international affairs to the high schools of the Southeast. The conference has grown in size over the years and now attracts schools from the entire Southeast and beyond. Run by Georgia Tech students from a variety of majors, GTMUN offers a range of committees and issues for high school students to enjoy. We strive to educate and enlighten high school students on a number of international issues. We also help develop the public speaking, writing, and leadership skills of the high schools students and our staff.

  • HyTech Racing - HyTech Racing is a student team at the Georgia Institute of Technology that formed with the intent of competing at the Formula Hybrid International Competition. The annual Formula Hybrid International Competition is an offshoot from the prestigious Formula SAE Competition. Hosted by Dartmouth College, it has been held five times starting in 2007 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. From late April to early May, teams from educational institutions around the world bring plug-in hybrid-electric, open-wheeled vehicles to perform in a variety of design and performance challenges. Design, Endurance, Autocross, and Acceleration events emphasize the importance of a balance between performance and efficiency.

  • Ideas 2 Serve - I2S is a business  plan competition for current Georgia Tech students and recent alumni who have early stage product/service ideas or venture concepts that are geared towards creating a better world. Entries might focus on reducing poverty, alleviating hunger, promoting health and wellness, improving air and water quality, reducing of the rate of depletion of natural resources, or developing alternate sources of energy just to name a few!

  • The Maker's Club - The Makers Club is a collective of students who believe in the value of a hands on education. Our Mission is twofold: To provide students the resources they need to design and fabricate in a collaborative environment; and to educate the Georgia Tech community on fabrication with open, student taught classes and events.

  • Net Impact - Net Impact inspires a new generation to use their careers to tackle the world's toughest social and environmental problems. We empower student and professional leaders to act locally though our vibrant chapter network and connect globally online and through our flagship conference. By 2020, we will mobilize a million new leaders to drive positive change in the workplace and the world.

  • (ORGT) Outdoor Recreation Georgia Tech - We offer a number of programs throughout the year from caving and rock climbing to whitewater rafting and sea kayaking. Rent equipment at the Wilderness Outpost for your own camping excursion or join us on an organized outing. ORGT employs staff and students and accepts volunteers.

  • Society for BioDiversity - The Society for BioDiversity aims to encourage and facilitate student involvement in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) initiatives to promote and increase the retention of underrepresented and underserved minorities in STEM careers. Many of our initiatives are bidirectional in order to impact students on-campus as well as students in local K-12 schools. Through facilitating professional development, community outreach, networking among peers, peer mentorship, we hope to help to impact the diversity and growth in the biology world.

  • (SEED) Society of Engineers for Environmental Development - Interested in organizing the biggest imagination and ideation party ever? SEED focuses on fabricating, encouraging the process of ideation, and problem solving with application to real world problems in the fields of alternate energy systems, global warming, sustainable energy, healthcare, communication, human interaction and much more.

  • Solar Jackets - The Georgia Tech Solar Jackets is a student organization dedicated to the design and construction of competitive solar racing vehicles. We seek to develop teamwork, leadership, and innovative engineering skills by providing training and hands-on experience in solving real-world engineering problems. We are a student-run organization, built on the dedication and ambition of our members. The solar race car project promotes cross-disciplinary learning and interaction, and it necessitates engineering excellence, leadership, and teamwork from all students involved.

  • Starter Bikes - Starter Bikes began as a collaborative project between Georgia Tech’s Students Organizing for Sustainability and the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. Volunteers refurbish abandoned and donated bikes into low-cost, entry level bicycles for students and community members in need of inexpensive but reliable transportation. The program is also available for people who would like to try a bike, but don’t want to make a large up-front investment until they have more experience. Starter Bikes also provides free access to tools, so you can fix your bike yourself. Volunteers are available to provide mechanical expertise.

  • Student Government Association Sustainability Committee - The purpose of the Campus Sustainability Committee is to facilitate cooperation between faculty, staff and student sustainability movements and present a united front for Georgia Tech Sustainability efforts in our interactions with the City of Atlanta and larger global community, and further to be direct advocates for students' sustainability concerns in SGA.

  • (SOS) Students Organizing for Sustainability - Students Organizing for Sustainability is a student-run organization at the Georgia Institute of Technology dedicated to promoting the awareness and implementation of environmentally and economically sustainable practices on our campus and in the local Atlanta community. Our current main effort is the operation and enhancement of the Georgia Tech Community Garden, located at the southeast corner of the Instructional Center building.

  • Tech Beautification Day - Tech Beautification Day is an opportunity for students, faculty, staff, and alumni to volunteer to work on campus beautification and landscaping projects.

  • Trailblazers - The purpose of GT Trailblazers is to increase student and faculty appreciation for the outdoors through trail adventure and exploration. Throughout the fall and spring semesters, GT Trailblazers also leads a variety of environmental service projects in the Atlanta metropolitan area. These projects are open to both students and faculty, and include but are not limited to trail-building and maintenance projects on hiking and biking trails, invasive species removal, and other conservation-related projects.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Director Crittenden to be Given Honors in China


BBISS Director, John Crittenden, will be on a whirlwind tour of China during the first part of June.  His travels will begin at the International Conference on Engineering Science and Technology (ICEST 2014) where the theme will be, "Engineering and the Future of Humankind." The event, which is sponsored by UNESCO, will provide a forum for 1,200 engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs and government officials from CAETS member academies and the international engineering community. Professor Crittenden will participate in the first plenary session where he will deliver a talk titled, “Developing Sustainable Infrastructures to Solve Gigaton Problems."


Two days later, Professor Crittenden will speak at a forum to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the School of Environment at Tsinghua University.  His talk is entitled, “Advances in Advanced Oxidation Processes for Water Treatment." This will be followed by a meeting of the Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences (RCEES) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences which Professor Crittenden will co-chair.  The meeting will focus on an NSF funded pilot project entitled “Ecological Infrastructure Engineering for Sustainable Development of Chinese Cities,” and is organized to facilitate collaboration between Georgia Tech researchers and researchers in China.  This kick-off meeting will also be attended by Georgia Tech faculty members Subhro Guhathakurta, and Perry Yang. The following faculty will be involved over the term of the project:



 Godfried L. Augenbroe
College of Architecture
Building energy simulation
Bert Bras
School of Mechanical Engineering
Computer-aided engineering, design and manufacturing; environmentally conscious design, design for recycling and robust design

Marilyn Brown
School of Public Policy
Climate change, market analysis of new and improved energy technology and policy analysis
Miroslav Begovic
School of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Analysis, monitoring and control of voltage stability in electrical power systems
Yongsheng Chen
School of Civil & Environmental Eng.
Membrane technology, nanomaterials, and sustainability
John C. Crittenden
School of Civil & Environmental Eng.
Sustainable systems, pollution prevention, and infrastructure ecology
Steven  
French
School of City & Regional Planning
Geographic information systems, planning support systems, sustainability
Richard M. Fujimoto
College of Computing
Execution of discrete-event simulation programs on parallel and distributed computing platforms
Subhrajit Guhathakurta
School of City & Regional Planning
Geographic information systems, planning support systems, sustainability

Haesun
Park

College of Computing
Numerical algorithms; data and visual analytics; scientific computing; bioinformatics; missing value estimation; text analysis and parallel computing
Perry Yang
School of City & Regional Planning
Ecological urban planning, landscape ecology, urban ecology, and spatial analysis
Valerie Thomas
School of Industrial &
Systems Engineering
Environmental impacts and costs of energy systems, environmental impacts of products and services, and the effects of policies and technologies on energy systems



Crittenden will then travel to Northeast Normal University to establish a collaboration project on chemical oxidation processes for water treatment.

The tour will culminate in the 12th General Assembly of the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) scientists and engineers.  Being elected into the Chinese Academy of Engineering is the highest academic title for the field of engineering in China.  "I am deeply honored to be inducted into the Chinese Academy of Engineering," Crittenden said.  "It is my hope that through my involvement in the CAE that I may work with my colleagues to further the development of sustainable cities that will benefit, not only the coming generations of the people of China, but all the future city dwellers in our rapidly urbanizing world." 

This lifelong honor is granted every two years to no more than 60 people per cycle. To date, there are 807 members. This year's group of 51 includes four from the United States (one of which is Crittenden), one from Australia, and one from Denmark, bringing the total number of foreign CAE inductees to date to 45.  The CAE extends membership to prominent scientists from other countries to bolster international collaboration in engineering, science and technology.  560 candidates were considered for the honor during this cycle. The Chinese Academy of Engineering was originally established in 1994 and is an institution of the State Council of China.  The CAE is China’s equivalent to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in the United States, to which Crittenden was elected in 2002.  The current president of the CAE is Zhou Ji.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Brook Byers Professors Honored



May 2014
L to R: John Gardner, Elsa Reichmanis, Bruce Karas, Bert
Bras, Diana Rivenburgh, John Crittenden, Steve Leffin, and

Marilyn Brown

On March 10th, 2014, The Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems hosted an event at the Historic Academy of Medicine to honor three Georgia Tech professors as the inaugural recipients of the title Brook Byers Professor.  Professors Bert Bras, Marilyn Brown, and Elsa Reichmanis were joined by three corporate sustainability leaders and moderator, Diana Rivenburgh as well as Professor John Crittenden in a broad ranging panel discussion.  The three corporate participants were John Gardner from Novelis, Bruce Karas from Coca-Cola, and Steve Leffin from UPS.

Made possible by a gift from Shawn and Brook Byers, a 1968 Georgia Tech alumnus in Electrical Engineering, the Brook Byers Professorships provide resources to enable and enhance cross-disciplinary, collaborative research and education in sustainability, energy, and water.  The three recipients were recommended by their peers, chosen by the Provost, and approved by the Board of Regents.  The Brook Byers Professorship is the highest title bestowed at Georgia Tech for those engaged in sustainability related research and education.

Michael Chang, Deputy Director of the Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems, said in his opening comments how remarkable it was for three people to be appointed to such a title at once.  He went on to express his hopes for how Bras, Brown and Reichmanis would realize the opportunities for collaboration and synergy that were possible with a cluster appointment such as this that might not be possible individually.

The discussion ranged from the sustainability issues that are foremost in the minds of those in the corporate world, to how higher education can prepare graduates to both succeed professionally and bring about a more sustainable world.

All those in attendance were treated to a copy of Diana Rivenburgh’s new book, The New Corporate Facts of Life: Rethink Your Business to Transform Today’s Challenges into Tomorrow’s Profits, courtesy of Novelis.

A video of the event is on our YouTube channel (1:20)

A summary of points made during the discussion follows:

Steve Leffin:  Compressed natural gas, propane, and liquefied natural gas are viable alternative fuels for package trucks that achieve a more sustainable balance than liquid petroleum fuels.  UPS has been and will continue to phase in these vehicles.

Bruce Karras:  Water is a fundamental issue for Coca Cola’s business.  It is not only in every product, but it is critical to every production process.  Closing loops for water is a major sustainability initiative for Coca Cola.  Another is how the millennial demographic group uses social media with regards to the sustainability attributes of Coca Cola products.

John Gardner:  Novelis is working towards becoming a supplier of 100% recycled content products.  This is possible because aluminum is infinitely recyclable with no degradation in quality.

Diana Rivenburgh:  What opportunities and challenges are on the horizon that require attention and investment in order to be addressed effectively?

Leffin:  UPS uses scenario planning to help prepare for the future.  One such scenario looked at what might happen if oil prices reached $200 a barrel.  Other factors that will have an impact are water scarcity, technological innovation, personal mobility, changing regulatory frameworks, expansion and upward mobility of those people at the base of the pyramid, ubiquitous use of mobile devices, and the rapid expansion of urban spaces such that people may not have an “address.”  The world is likely to be very different over the next two decades.  Capital investments will need to be made with great care to anticipate the coming changes.

Gardner:  Companies need to look beyond the boundaries of their business operations.  Life Cycle Assessment is a trend that enables companies to do this.  Novelis is working on using its products in the light-weighting of cars and trucks to increase fuel efficiency.  Currently about 33% of its feed stock comes from recycled materials. Novelis is moving towards sourcing 80% of its feed stock from recycled materials which would halve Novelis’ carbon footprint, meanwhile doubling their business.

Karas:  A supply chain-wide view of sustainability is beginning to emerge.  Life cycle assessment is a big part of that.  Designing with the proper end-of-use in mind is critical.  Currently, everything is designed for landfill.  Coca Cola has been working on the development of plant based PET resin for its containers as a way to move away from its reliance on petroleum based materials.
Brown: There are already lots of good sustainable technologies available, but what we lack is a good policy environment to allow them to flourish.  There are policies that in place or coming on-line soon that are helpful in bringing about sustainability such as: more stringent CAFE standards, upcoming Clean Air Act revisions may include regulations to limit water consumption in thermal electricity generation, and the trend towards real-time pricing of energy to encourage usage during off-peak times.

There are major sustainability issues for which there are no definitive policies in place such as: allowing the free export of LNG globally could double or triple the cost, the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline may buffer an increase in oil prices but at what environmental cost, the denial of the pipeline might slow the development of the resource but might have worse environmental consequences if the oil is transported by other modes such as rail, putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions will lead to better market viability for carbon efficient and renewable technologies.

Bras: Corporations are broadening their perspectives by partnering with companies in different, seemingly unrelated markets. Ford’s MyEnergi Lifestyle is a project that partners the auto maker with an appliance company and solar panel manufacturer to investigate what synergies might be possible amongst these product categories.  Companies are also beginning to think of their business models in terms of services to the consumer rather than product offerings.

Karas: Where Good Ideas Come From by Steve Johnson is a helpful resource for companies looking to broaden their perspective and engage in partnerships with other companies in adjacent market niches.

Elsa Reichmanis:  Research in sustainability for chemistry and biomolecular engineering tend to be on longer time horizons.  They are focused on some of the major challenges facing humanity such as water, energy and food supply.  Science and engineering can’t solve these problems without involvement from other disciplines including public policy and business.  Higher education is preparing graduates with these ideas in mind.

Crittenden: BBISS works primarily in the area of sustainable urban infrastructure systems.  Cities can be likened to the largest machines humanity has ever built. There has been a lot of attention on sustainable technologies and materials at the product scale, but not so at the urban scale.  Today’s decisions about urban infrastructure remain for a long time and the majority of environmental impacts occur throughout the day to day use.  Lots of infrastructure is going to be built in the coming decades, especially in rapidly urbanizing countries like China.  BBISS advocates a shift in thinking about infrastructure from the current paradigm of discrete systems or elements to one of “Infrastructure Ecology.”  This paradigm considers multiple infrastructure layers, systems and elements and their interactions and emergent properties as critical to maximizing the function of infrastructure as providing comfort and wealth in a durable and resilient way.

Leffin: Measurements of ecological impact are currently leveled at the business and product level.  It may make more sense to begin to measure at the economic sector or systems level.  It is possible that some sectors or systems may have bigger discrete footprints but will eliminate the necessity of smaller or more highly differentiated businesses that, in total, add up to much greater impact.  For example, expanding public transportation results in greater impacts for the public transportation sector, but has the potential to displace much greater impacts in the personal transportation sector.  So, under some proposals, the individual public transportation systems would be penalized for their increased local impacts even while they serve to reduce impact on a global scale.

Brown:  Measuring impacts at the national level doesn’t reveal things like the U.S. selling coal to Europe or the offshoring of energy intensive manufacturing processes. The greenhouse gas emissions for the U.S. might go down, but some of that reduction is actually embodied in products that are manufactured in China but consumed in the U.S.  It is important that students understand these nuances.

Leffin:  The World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) understand these nuances and are working to incorporate these issues into their work with the business community.

Reichmanis:  Higher education will also need to take a more holistic approach to educating students.  Most disciplines are still mostly stove-piped.  Moving to a multi-disciplinary education model will produce graduates today that will accelerate our progress toward sustainability in the private sector tomorrow.

Gardner: Corporations working with institutions like Georgia Tech are vital to keep the personnel pipeline filled with people who understand sustainability and can innovate.  Novelis built a global R+D center in Kennesaw yet it struggles to find the right people to hire.

Bras: On the other hand, most companies still hire graduates based on their depth of knowledge in their discipline rather than their breadth of multidisciplinary knowledge.  Georgia Tech mechanical engineering students are now given 15 credit hours of free electives so that they can broaden their perspectives.

Leffin:  One way the UPS encourages more holistic thinking among its employees is to get them involved in volunteer forestry projects.  It’s very important for students to seek out similar experiences where they get exposure to natural systems as a way shift their perspective towards thinking holistically.

Brown:   Public policy has an important role to play.  Policy makers need operate from the facts in the world and a deep understanding of science and technology.  The failure of ethanol policy in the U.S. is an excellent example of decision makers listening to influences other than the experts in the energy policy realm.

Karas:  Water efficiency is a critical factor for Coca-Cola.  Currently most of the thinking is how to use water more efficiently one time versus using that same water multiple times before treatment and discharge.  Students ought to understand better how newer, more efficient technologies integrate better with existing systems that are less efficient.  We can’t get there overnight.  There has to be a transition.

Reichmanis:  We have to balance a holistic approach to educating engineers with the in-depth material that engineers need to effectively practice their profession.  Life-cycle assessment can be a way to achieve this balance.  Another way is to understand that an engineering graduate will be required to continue learning after graduation day.  Teaching students to collaborate with other people from different disciplines to solve problems is a something that higher education can do better to fill this gap.

Brown:  Integrating the supply side with the demand side is becoming more important.  We often educate for the optimization of one or the other in isolation.

Crittenden: Transportation is access to function. Reductionism in engineering is not enough – it’s not enough to only look at how individual products can be made more efficiently or to be more efficient. There’s a limit to the amount of efficiency that can be achieved and there’s a limit to the number of efficient products that can exist sustainably.  We will need to take radical approaches to fulfilling the underlying needs that our products and systems fulfill.

Bras: User behavior can be just as important as efficiency technologies in achieving efficiency goals.  Proper training for efficient use is often cheaper than the technology.  If you make the most efficient product, it won’t perform as intended if it’s not used as intended.  A litmus test for whether a new efficiency technology will integrate well into a given setting is to ask the question, “Would my (wife, husband, grandmother, stubborn co-worker, etc.) use that?”

Leffin:  Transparency enabled by the internet is a major factor in the sustainability conversation.

Rivenburgh:  How do we teach the students of today to solve the problems of tomorrow given that the ones we know about are really difficult and that there will be many problems that we can’t know about today?

Brown:  Engaging everyone in discussions surrounding the problems.  Georgia Tech is leading the way in the diversity of students.

Crittenden: “We want to change the face of engineering through sustainability.  But, we also want to change the faces of engineers as well.”
Reichmanis:  The world is getting smaller.  Solutions that are acceptable to us may not be somewhere else in the world.

Bras:  Preparing students for problems that aren’t known yet has to combine the fundamentals of science and engineering with an understanding of the global context in which we must now make decisions.  Being immersed in a diverse setting is one way to achieve that.

Crittenden: There is strong relationship between population growth and childhood mortality.  Sustainable technologies in much of the developing world amounts to proper sanitation so that children don’t get sick and die.  This is a knowable and soluble problem that we can deal with now.

Rivenburgh:  Education of girls is also a big factor in population.

Karas:  We have to think carefully about the lens through which we view problems.  Solutions for the developed world are not necessarily viable in the developing world.

(Question from the audience)
Dennis Creech (Southface Energy Institute):  How do we bridge the gap between the skills, knowledge, and wisdom in the academic and business communities with the policies and decisions we see in our local, regional and state governments?


Brown:  Masters students at Georgia Tech in public policy have to fulfill and internship.  Most do so at the state and federal level.  There is probably a bit of reverse education happening from the student to the decision makers about the science and engineering involved in sustainability decisions.

Reichmanis:  Those who choose science and engineering as a career don’t tend to become involved in the political side of their professional expertise.  People currently in academia could become more involved in communicating with the public and with decision makers as well as teach their students to more effectively do the same.

Resources: