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Using a УCampus as a Classroom ConceptФ to Highlight Sustainability Practice to Engineers and Scientists.

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Dev. Chem. Eng. Mineral Process. 12(3/4). pp. 383-392, 2004.
Using a ‘‘Campus as a Classroom Concept”
to Highlight Sustainability Practice to
Engineers and Scientists
G. Evans”, P. Scaife, B. Maddox and K. Galvin
Discipline of Chemical Engineering, University of Newcastle,
Callaghan, New South Wales 2308, Australia
Chemical engineering at the University of Newcastle has introduced a “Systems
Thinking” approach in response to the changing needs of today’s young engineers,
particularly in relation to sustainable development and interaction with the wider
community. The basic concepts are reinforced to the students in the form of case
studies. The activities cover a broad range of traditional chemical engineering
principles. including fluid mechanics, heat and mass transfer, process flowsheeting,
and design. The case studies have the additional dimensions of life cycle modelling,
environmental impact assessment, and direct interaction with the broader community.
ln this paper, two examples, involving Building Design and On-Site Water
Management, are presented, including a brief description, desired learning outcomes,
results and general observations. Generally, it was found that the case studies
provided an excellent framework for establishing a systems approach to arriving at
solutions, and acted as a focus for quantitative analysis using the various tools taught
during the course. Most importantly, the material presented assisted students to
understand the practices which contribute to the transition to a sustainable society.
The changing role of engineers, and chemical engineers in particular [l], is an
important issue facing educational institutions and professional organisations. Clift
[2] describes t h s change by considering three phases (Mark 1-3) in the historical
development of the approach to engineering. A (traditional) Mark 1 Engineer made
decisions based on choosing the best technology to take advantage of the available
materials and energy to optimise profit. No consideration was given to whether the
technology was to operate in a sustainable way. More recently, a Mark 2 Engineer
focused on supplying human needs as a primary role. Decisions were still based upon
* Author for correspondence (Geoflrey.Evans@newcastle.
G. Evans, P. Scafe, B. Maddox and K.Galvin
utilising “best” technology and sound scientific principles in order to obtain financial
gain, but with the additional dimension of providing social benefit such as
environmental protection in the form of end-of-pipe-treatment or cleanup technology.
The Engineer of today (Mark 3) goes beyond the cleanup approach and practices
Clean Technology, defined as “a means of providing a human benefit which, overall,
uses less resources and causes less environmental damage than alternative means with
which it is economically competitive”. Clift [2] describes the advent of Clean
Technology as a paradigm shift in the role of the chemical engineer, in that the
principle goes beyond pollution prevention and waste minimisation to recognising
that the nature of the product itself can be an environmental problem.
The views of Clift, and others [3, 41, are reinforced by Lovins [ 5 ] , who highlights
the numerous past and present practices that obviously are not sustainable. The
assessment is not all negative, and Lovins provides examples where significant
advances in the pathway to sustainability have already been achieved by a change in
the philosophy of how we apply technological solutions to meeting societal needs. In
response to the changing role of engineers in society, professional bodies, such as the
Institution of Chemical Engineers, are placing increasing importance on the education
of new graduates in the three areas of sustainability. These are environmental
awareness, societal interaction and economic performance. Arguably, these three
areas are at the heart of the paradigm shift in chemical engineering practice mentioned
by Clifi.
A recent survey [ 6 ] involving engineering students from 19 Universities across
Europe, North and South America, the Far East, and Australia, was undertaken to
provide an overview of students’ current knowledge and understanding of sustainable
development. The survey involved a number of questions in the following four
general topic areas:
1. Environmental issues.
2. Environmental legislation, policy and standards.
3. Environmental tools, technologies and approaches.
4. Sustainable development.
Overall, it was found that while students were interested in sustainable development,
the level of knowledge and understanding of environmental and sustainability issues
was not satisfactory. A number of topics were also identified which would benefit the
students if they were introduced into the course. Finally, it was recommended that
these topics could be more effectively introduced if they were made as relevant to
engineering as possible.
The Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Newcastle,
Australia, was a participant in the survey, and a number of areas were identified
where the students’ knowledge could be improved [7, 81. The response has been the
introduction of a number of campus-based case studies, which take advantage of the
approaches taken in the design, construction and maintenance of the University’s
infrastructure, and the willingness of the Facilities Management Services personnel to
become directly involved in the students’ educational experience. The aim of this
paper is to describe the approach taken to incorporate these case studies into the
undergraduate curriculum. Two of the studies are described briefly, as well as an
assessment of the enhancement in the overall learning process.
“Campusas a Classroom Concept” to Highlight Sustainability Practice
The Approach at the University of Newcastle
In chemical engineering courses, students are trained in heat and mass transfer,
process design principles, and they are exposed to modelling techniques such as
computational fluid dynamics and process modelling. They learn to combine various
unit operations in order to develop an overall process. However, while economic
evaluations and HAZOP analyses are a normal part of their training, environmental
issues, such as greenhouse gas emissions, are only now being taken into account.
Social aspects of their design projects are not normally considered, even in qualitative
terms. Also, interactions between process chains are not included.
The desired paradigm shift to “Systems Thinking”, as we define it, in which
broader boundaries are set, requires that students be exposed to the diverse
interactions that occur withm and between our industrial process systems, and with
other sections of the economy, such as the built environment. Fundamentally, systems
thrnking is the reverse of the traditional scientific approach [9], which studies objects
in isolation, and breaks them down to study their parts. Systems thinking focuses on
the interaction between the parts, in terms of control, communication and feedback.
The systems thinking approach is introduced the second year of the course in a
subject entitled “Sustainability for Engineers and Scientists”. Briefly, the subject is
designed to increase student awareness of world activity, and to relate it to concepts
of sustainability within a social, economic, environmental, and globalisation frame of
reference. Systems thinking is applied in developing a mental framework in which to
make objective assessments of the implementation of sustainability principles.
Specific topics include:
1. State of the World: Resources consumption; and air, water, and land
2. Local, National, and International Impacts and Responses.
3. Role of the Engineer and Scientist.
4. Systems Thinking: Principle Concepts and Identifiable Models.
5. Systems Thinking: Tools.
6. Performance Indicators and Assessment.
The delivery is mainly project-based, with directed reading in each of the 6 key areas
listed above. Communication of information is mainly through informal group
sessions, with contributions from students, academic staff, and invited experts. A case
study approach is used to provide practical application of sustainability principles
developed within the systems thinking framework. Upon completion of the program
of work it is expected that each student will have an informed opinion of the state of
the world; is aware of the “scientific response” to the relevant issues; and have the
ability to apply at least one of the tools used for analysis and assessment of
sustainability performance.
The case studies used in the course utilise the features of the University of
Newcastle Callaghan campus, which is located 10 km from the town centre, occupies
about 150 ha of bushland, and accommodates approximately 2 1,000 staff and
students. Over the past 12 years, Facilities Management Services has striven to
develop an ecologically sustainable approach to the management and delivery of
campus facilities. In particular, the integration of indoor and outdoor space during the
design, construction, and operations of existing and new buildings, including
landscaping and other services. This approach has resulted in a “bushland” campus
G. Evans, P. &age, B. Maddox and K. Galvin
implementing a number of sustainability principles, and has been recognised by a
plethora of awards, including the prestigious Banksia Award for Environmental
Building Design for 2001.
As a consequence of the proactive approach towards sustainable development, the
University of Newcastle campus has a number of aspects that can be explored from a
“chemical engineering” context in the form of case studies. For example:
Building Design: All new buildings are designed to minimise energy usage and
environmental impact. Heat and mass transfer, and fluid mechanics principles
are used to design natural heating, cooling and ventilation systems. An
extensive life cycle analysis is also undertaken.
Onsite Water Management: Stomwater systems are designed to provide
efficient water utilisation, based on fluid flow principles and the interaction
between the built environment and the natural environment.
Before the case studies are introduced the students are given an ecological
footprint, whch reports the land use, energy consumption and greenhouse gas
emissions in a single aggregated indicator of land area, for the Newcastle Campus
[ lo]. The study provides an overview of the impact of the operation of the University,
and from it a number of interesting observations can be made, for instance, wine
consumption in the Staff House requires over one hectare of vineyards. While this
information is interesting, and assists the students to gain an overall appreciation for
environmental impacts beyond the campus boundary, the analysis aggregates other
factors, such as energy consumption. This aggregation hinders the identification of
improvement opportunities. Global issues (e.g. ozone depletion, global warming),
water consumption, local environmental emissions, and societal interaction are also
beyond the scope of the eco-footprint. These limitations are used to highlight the
importance of a “systems thinking” approach, which is explored in the case studies.
The learning outcomes from the case studies can be compared with those listed in
the position paper prepared by Azapagic [l 11 for the 1Chem.E Sustainability Steering
Committee, namely:
Knowledge and understanding of the wider engineering and social context;
Appreciation of technical, economic, environmental and social (including
ethical) aspects and their relevance to chemical engineering;
Ability to apply various approaches, methods and tools to help the problemsolving and decision-making process in the wider engineering and social
Appreciation and understanding of the role of society in corporate and public
decision-making ;
Transferable skills that will enable chemical engineers to promote the ideas
and practice of sustainable engineering and to communicate with the public.
These learning outcomes are broadly consistent with our systems thinking
approach, which focuses on the diverse interactions that occur within and between our
industrial process systems, and with other sections of the economy such as the built
environment. As such, they have been applied to defining and measuring the learning
benefits of the case studies. Finally, this second year course is only a part of the
educational process into sustainability, and other aspects such as detailed plant design
applications are considered in the 31dand 4’ years of the course.
“Campus as a Classroom Concept” to Highlight Sustainability Practice
Case Studies: For each study, the students are given a brief background and
description of the operation under consideration. A list of expected learning outcomes
is provided, as well as a description of the tasks to be completed. Additional resource
material and references are made available to assist the students. The following
sections describe the two case studies, including summaries of the students’ results
and overall outcomes of the activity.
1. Building Design: The Nursing Building at the University of Newcastle was
completed in 1997, and consists of a 450-seat auditorium, office space and seminar
rooms. The building’s life expectancy is approximately 100 years and it is considered
a world benchmark for environmentally sustainable design [ 121 due to the application
of advanced environmental concepts and energy saving design. The building contains
features aimed at reducing energy consumption and running costs, including:
A Geothermal Heat Exchanger is used to reduce heating and cooling loads.
This exchanger is made up of a system of pipework embedded 100 m deep in
the earth. It uses the inherent stability of the earth’s temperature
(approximately 19°C) to dissipate heat in the summer and collect heat in
winter. This is achieved by pumping water into and out of the pipes. This
technology can be used alone or in conjunction with reverse cycle air
conditioning to reduce energy consumption and eliminate the need for cooling
towers that require frequent maintenance.
Energy Efficiency of appliances and water conservation has also been a
requirement for the design and fit-out of the Nursing Building. Hot water “heat
pumps” on the building’s roof operate using heat in the ambient air to heat
water for amenities. The office blocks were designed for optimal natural cross
ventilation and occupants can control ventilation and enjoy fresh air. The
buildings energy efficient auditorium air conditioning system supplies
conditioned air only to the occupied zone of the theatre. Human body heat and
other waste heat is caught in the ceiling and recycled for winter heating. A
summer night purge cycle uses the thermal storage of the theatres foundation
slab to pre-cool ventilated air. This cycle also removes heat stored in the
theatre during the day.
Water Conservation is an important issue for sustainable development and has
been incorporated into the design of the building. An open sloping metal flyroof allows rainwater collection in tanks which is then used for flushmg toilets.
An example of the type of information given to the students is listed in Table 1.
The table contains an energy and greenhouse gas breakdown for each stage of the
Nursing Building Life Cycle. These stages include Construction, Utilisation, Fitout
and Decommissioning. The breakdown describes the energy consumption and
greenhouse gas emissions during construction of the building, with the inclusion of
energy saving features such as a flyroof to stop excessive heat gain through the
ceiling, and a geothermal heat exchanger to reduce air conditioning loads. This is
compared to the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions over the entire
life cycle if the building were constructed without the energy saving features.
G. Evans, P. Scaife. B. Maddox and K. Galvin
Table 1. Example of building design LCA factsheet [13/.
( I ) Denotes resource energy in G& (2) Denotes greenhouse gas emissions in t COz-e
Desired Learning Outcomes: The Nursing Building demonstrates how the principles
of designing for thermal performance, waste minimisation, water conservation,
recycling options, and societal considerations can be successfully integrated into
building practice. It is relevant to today’s (Mark 3) chemical engineers because it is a
real world example of a systems approach to produce better environmental outcomes
from the design stage. The desired learning outcomes included:
Exposure to a real world example where a systems approach has been used
directly to minimise energy and water usage, and maximise recycling of
Introduction to a detailed Life Cycle Analysis (LCA).
Awareness of sustainability Key Performance Indicators.
Knowledge and understanding of engineering in the wider social context, in
order to promote the practice of sustainable engineering and systems thinlung
amongst the professionals and the general public.
Approach: The approach consisted of dividing the class into groups of two students,
and providing each group with two consultants reports: one describing the detailed
LCA for the building, and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modelling of the
building airflow. Each group was then asked to undertake the following tasks:
Consider the content of the reports and comment on how the modelling
approaches contributed to acheving the Key Performance Indicators.
rn Comment on how these approaches complement conventional chemical
engineering practice, i.e. cleaner production, waste minimization, and product
rn Compare the data for the Nursing Building with that for older style designs
(e.g. 30-year old building with air conditioning, little insulation, and artificial
rn Discuss how the design principles applied to the Nursing Building relate to the
“systems thinking” approach presented in class, and consider which approach
focuses on the importance of consultation with a wide range of professions and
end-user groups that have traditionally fallen outside the scope of engineering.
“Campus as a Classroom Concept” to Highlight Sustainability Practice
The students presented their results as a formal report, as well as an open-discussion
oral presentation to the whole class.
Results and General Observations: All of the students were able to understand the
computational procedure used in both the LCA and CFD analyses. This was not
surprising given their technical background in units such as material and energy
balances, fluid mechanics, and use of data spreadsheets. In general, the students
agreed with the findings of the LCA provided to them, and through their presentations
it was demonstrated that they saw the ability to understand and to use systems
analysis tools as a valuable addition to their skill base. When comparing this approach
to the design of the Nursing Building with older structures, the students found that
previously: (1) thermal performance was managed by retrofitting with air
conditioning; (2) rainwater was simply channelled into the municipal drainage system
with no reuse; and (3) waste was processed elsewhere. The analogy of the previous
design approach was made to that of the Mark 2 Engineer, who looked at end-of-pipe
solutions, and optimisation was based on minimum initial cost outlay, with
environmental and social considerations being a secondary issue.
2. Onsite Water Management: This is defined as the harvesting of rainwater and
reducing the pollution effect of stormwater for the maintenance of campus grounds.
Prior to 1991, the water management associated with the maintenance of the campus
grounds (including ovals, lawns, gardens and general bushland) followed
conventional practice. Water was sourced mainly from the municipal supply, and
stormwater was diverted directly underground into drains and culverts which were
connected into the Newcastle City Council stormwater drainage system. Following
receipt of funding from the National Estate Initiative in 1991, the University created
an artificial wetland from a previously degraded, low lying and reed vegetated area.
The rehabilitation work conducted along the edge of the wetlands created a natural
water flow from the adjacent campus, which led to the innovative development of the
“LandSofl’ landscaping approach to water management. LandSoft catchment
management is based on a combination of Permaculture [ 141 and Keyline Agriculture
Concepts [15]. Surface water is directed through a series of porous landscaped
mounds and swales in order to reduce the water velocity. Consequently, the
suspended solid material settles out, resulting in a clear flowing water stream.
The University maintains three sporting ovals comprising a total land area of
approximately 6 hectares. The conventional watering strategy uses municipal town
water held in a 20,000-litre holding tank and an 11 kW pump (for each oval). The
ovals are then irrigated using a rotating surface irrigation system. Innovative process
improvements to the system resulting from the Landsoft water management system,
resulted in the creation of dams for irrigation water harvesting to minimise the usage
of town water. Thus two dams (1000 m3 each) were created to feed the 20,000-litre
holding tanks for two of the ovals. Water from the dam is pumped into the holding
tanks using a 3.5 kW petrol pump. As a result of the applied onsite water management
principles, the University has achieved an average (for January) monthly saving of:
Oval No. 1 (town water only)
Oval No.2 (dam + some town water)
Oval No.3 (dam + some town water)
1,896 kL
61 kL
226 kL
G. Evans, P. Scaife. B. Maddox and K. Gaivin
More generally, the University population has increased by 66 percent over 8
years with a substantial increase in built-up area and new buildings including an
Olympic pool. Water consumption (town water) has effectively not increased. The
gains from this initiative include an annual 10,000 kL saving of town water, which
benefits the environment and the University has a $10,000 economic benefit.
Desired Learning Outcomes: As a life cycle analysis had not been undertaken
previously, key learning outcomes were for the students to be able to define an
appropriate system and boundaries (as a basis for calculation), identify and collect the
necessary data, apply key indicators, and to interpret the results. Other learning
outcomes included:
Ability to compare two systems providing the same product or service, in this case
two methods of watering an oval.
Gain an appreciation of how simple measures can enhance the overall
environmental and social impact on the University community.
Demonstrate the role that engineering can play in the implementation of
environmental protection and natural resource utilisation methodologies, as
demonstrated by the Land&# technique.
Approach: The class was divided into groups of two students. Their task was to
compare the Land&# approach to managing onsite water flows and water supply for
campus grounds maintenance with the conventional approach of sourcing irrigation
water from the municipal supply and also directing rain and stormwater into the City
Council's stormwater drainage system. In particular, the students were asked to:
Become familiar with the two approaches to providing a watering system for the
University's sporting ovals. Obtain water usage figures and costs through the
Facilities Management Department.
Define the life cycle analysis (LCA) basis for the two watering systems. Source
data as needed, and use a suitable LCA package (PEMS" was used).
Perform the LCA analysis and make comparisons between the impacts of the two
systems using the appropriate performance indicators.
Identify areas for improvement, including data quality and other options such as
the use of renewable energy for water pumping.
More generally, provide a critical (technical, social and economic) analysis of the
LandSofi approach. Where possible, quantify the benefits in terms of
economics, resource usage, and impact on the social and physical environment
of the campus.
Results and General Observations: Following significant discussion and background
research, each group successfully defined a system boundary, obtained the necessary
data, and undertook the calculations to produce a quantitative life cycle analysis using
the PEMS" software package.
Figure 1 shows a typical flowsheet produced by students to describe the water
supply options at the University of Newcastle site. The software package was then
used to undertake quantitative analysis of the defined systems. The impacts, in terms
of Key Performance Indicators, for both watering systems were compared directly.
More generally, it was found that a significant cost saving could be acheved by
replacing municipal supply with water recovered onsite. It was readily recognised by
all students that the LandSofi approach provided direct financial, environmental, and
“Campus as a Classroom Concept” to Highlight Sustainabilio Practice
social benefits, to the University.
The main educational benefit was the experience gained by the students in
assessing the performance of such a system, based on a number of considerations
which fell beyond a traditional chemical engineering approach. In a number of
instances, they had to rely on their own judgement when data was either not available
or limited.
Water to
Figure 1. P E M P LCA flowsheet depicting water supply options.
A number of general conclusions can be made from the student involvement in case
studies based on campus activities. There was an overwhelmingly positive response
by the students to applying their traditional chemical engineering slulls to a broader
range of problems. The students enjoyed the challenge of being given a system whch
was different from the standard distillation columns or chemical reaction vessels. In
the first instance, the students quickly became competent in the implementation of life
cycle analysis, including defining the scope of the analysis, collection of data, and
assessing outcomes in terms of Key Performance Indicators. The students had more
difficulty in addressing broader issues not covered by LCA. It was found that the ecofootprint analysis for the University campus was a useful starting point for the
discussion. It was not easy for the students to relate their quantitative analysis to the
other aspects, such as social impacts, since these were not readily quantifiable.
However, these extra dimensions were recognised by the students as being an
essential part of systems thinlung. Finally, there was a general change in outlook
amongst all of the students once they had completed the case studies. They were
clearly supportive of the holistic (systems thinking) approach taken by the designers
and saw it as a useful skill to be applied more generally.
G. Evans, P. Scaife, B. Maddox and K. Galvin
To Philip Pollard, Latha Lewis, David Alexander and Mim Woodland, fiom Facilities
Management, for their assistance in providing information to students and their ongoing efforts in sustainable management of the campus.
I I.
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