Sustainability on engineering programmes; the need for a holistic approach

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Byrne, Edmond P.
Fitzpatrick, John J.
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The North East American Society of Engineering Education
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The teaching of sustainability on engineering curricula has increasingly become an essential feature. This has coincided with an increased focus on sustainability by professional institutions through stated policy positions and documents, though accreditation documentation has yet to be brought into line with these emerging positions. The creation of a sustainable society is a complex multi-disciplinary multi-stage project that will necessarily dominate mankind’s endeavour throughout the coming century. The pathway to a road towards sustainability will require a paradigm shift among society in general. Sustainability is a normative endeavour with uncertain outcomes requiring collaboration, teamwork and an ability to work with, respect and learn from other disciplines and professions as well as local communities and governments. This is largely new territory for the engineer. Moreover this approach can only be embraced by the engineer who sees value in and a rationale for pursuing it. Engineers must clearly see the contribution they can make; they need to see how many of the fundamental or threshold concepts in engineering can be employed as central and basic tenets of the evolving meta-discipline that is sometimes called sustainability science. This can only really be achieved if sustainability exists as a common threadline throughout programmes, in such a way that it is conceived as a necessary lens through which all engineering practice is filtered. Once this is achieved engineers will be well positioned to take the lead in moving towards developing a sustainable society rather than just designing the tools to move towards this goal as mere ‘paid hands’. This paper will examine some existing basic threshold concepts in engineering and show how these can be used to embed sustainability throughout curricula so as to provide the graduate engineer of the twenty-first century with the motivation, vision and tools to be the leaders in our shared quest to create a truly sustainable global society.
Sustainability , Teamwork , Global Economy , Material and energy balances , Environment
Byrne, E.P., Fitzpatrick, J.J., 2009. Sustainability on engineering programmes; the need for a holistic approach. IN: NE ASEE(North East American Society of Engineering Education) 2009 NE ASEE Conference: Engineering in the New Global Economy. Newport, Connecticut, USA, 3-4 April 2009