Hillary Brown, "Infrastructural Ecologies: Principles for Post-Industrial Public Works" (2010)
Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins, "Tunneling Through the Cost Barrier", in Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution (1999)
Jaco Quist, Crelis Rammelt, Mariette Overschie, and Gertjan de Werk, "Backcasting for sustainability in engineering education: the case of Delft University of Technology", Journal of Cleaner Production 14(9:11):868-876 (2006)
Toby Hemenway, "Finding a Sense of Surplus" (2005)
(1) Choose an engineering project that you believe would further a sustainable society. About how much funding will it need, and how would you propose financing it? You may consider both traditional and alternative/new infrastructure funding approaches. You can look here on government cost-sharing and here on the MTA's fiscal planning.
(2) Choose an infrastructure sector, and indicate how backcasting might be used to plan for its sustainable future development. You can look here for some inspiration.
Paul and Percival Goodman, "Banning Cars from Manhattan", Dissent (1961)
John Pucher and Stefan Kurth, "Verkehrsverbund: the success of regional public transport in Germany, Austria and Switzerland", Transport Policy 2(4):279-291(1995)
Richard Gilbert and Anthony Perl, "Transportation in the Post-Carbon World", in The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century's Sustainability Crises (2010)
(1) What are some advantages and challenges of car-free cities? You can look here for inspiration.
(2) What are some transportation needs of this region, and possible sustainability-mindful solutions? See here and here about our region.
John H. Scofield, "Do LEED-certified buildings save energy? Not really...", Energy and Buildings, 41:1386-1390 (2009) (See also Scofield's testimony to Congress)
Colin MacDougall, "Natural Building Materials in Mainstream Construction: Lessons from the U. K.", Journal of Green Building, 3(3), 3-14 (2008)
P Raman, Sanjay Mande, and V.V.N. Kishore, "A passive solar system for thermal comfort conditioning of buildings in composite climates", Solar Energy, 70(4):319-329 (2001)
Amory Lovins, "The Super-Efficient Passive Building Frontier", ASHRAE Journal, 37(6):79-81 (1995)
Martin Holladay, "Passivhaus For Beginners: The History of a Superinsulation Standard" (2010)
(1) You are sustainability consultant for a mixed-use re-development of a block of townhouses. Prepare a list of six options for reducing the HVAC loads in the development that deserve to be looked into in detail, explaining the physical mechanism for how each option would work.
(2) Summarize how an existing rating system or code, such as LEED, CalGreen, England's Code for Sustainable Homes, or Victoria's Five-Star requirement, evaluates whether a building is 'green'. From a sustainability standpoint, what do you see as the most important modifications that should be made to this system?
J. D. Hanson, John Hendrickson, and Dave Archer, Challenges for maintaining sustainable agricultural systems in the United States, Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 23:325-334 (2008)
David Pimentel, Paul Hepperly, James Hanson, David Douds and Rita Seidel, Environmental, Energetic, and Economic Comparisons of Organic and Conventional Farming Systems, BioScience, 55:573-582 (2005)
David R. Montgomery, Soil erosion and agricultural sustainability, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104:13268-13272 (2007)
Dana Cordell, Jan-Olof Drangert, and Stuart White, The story of phosphorus: Global food security and food for thought, Global Environmental Change, 19:292-305 (2009)
Scott Stringer, Putting Food Policy On The City's Front Burner (2009)
(1) Consider a building or infrastructure project of your choice. What are its impacts on the production and distribution of food in its foodshed? You can consider impact categories such as loss of agricultural land, soil erosion and water supply, access to affordable food, and climate change. Can you think of a feasible way to make these impacts more positive?
(2) Is organic agriculture, as currently defined and practiced, sustainable? Why or why not?
Kris De Decker, "Recycling animal and human dung is the key to sustainable farming", Low-Tech Magazine (2010)
Richard Conlin, "Waste not: Seattle's road to zero trash", YES! Magazine (2010)
Bill Sheehan and Helen Spiegelman, "Waste: Climate Change, Peak Oil, and the end of waste", in The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century's Sustainability Crises (2010)
(1) What were some of the health considerations that led to current urban waste disposal practice (sewers, garbage collection, landfills, etc.)? Suggest one modification that would be preferable from the point of view of sustainability while continuing to protect public health.
(2) What are three steps that NYC could take to emulate the waste reduction and redirection initiatives of cities like Seattle and San Francisco? (See also here.) What are economic incentives for, and obstacles to, taking these steps?
Lester R. Brown, Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (2009), Chapter 2
Molden, David, Charlotte De Fraiture, and Frank Rijsberman, "Water Scarcity: The Food Factor", Issues in Science and Technology (2007)
Mark Pires, "Watershed protection for a world city: the case of New York", Land Use Policy, 21:161-175 (2004)
Terry Thomas, "Domestic water supply using rainwater harvesting", Building Research & Information, 26:94-101 (1998)
Central City Concern, Achieving Water Independence in Buildings (2009)Class syllabus
(1) How much water is used to produce the food you eat? You can base your estimate on the Water Footprint Network's calculator. Comment on the sustainability of this level of water use.
(2) Estimate the magnitude of water uses in a building of your choice. (Check utility bills, if available.) How does it compare with the rainfall rate on the building? List any obvious design improvements related to the water flow in and through the building.
David JC MacKay, Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air (2008)
(1) New York City currently uses 6.1 GW electricity (sources: 50% natural gas, 30% nuclear, 10% hydroelectric, 10% coal); 5.1 GW gasoline and diesel fuel for cars, trucks, and buses; and 13 GW natural gas and fuel oil for heat and hot water (adapted from here). How would you propose NYC obtain energy without using fossil fuels? What are the approximate requirements in area and investment capital if your proposal is followed? (You might want to include a small spreadsheet for keeping track of the numbers.)
(2) Choose a building or other piece of infrastructure of interest to you. What are its energy requirements (quantity and type of energy) for operation and maintenance? Suggest ways in which it could be retrofitted for these energy requirements to be reduced or made more flexible.
Susan Svoboda, "Note on Life Cycle Analysis" (1995)
Geoffrey P. Hammond and Craig I. Jones, "Embodied Carbon: The Concealed Impact of Residential Construction", in Global Warming: Engineering Solutions, pp. 367-384, Springer (2010)
Mathis Wackernagel et al., "Tracking the ecological overshoot of the human economy", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 99:9266-9271 (2002)
John Ehrenfeld and Nicholas Gertler, "Industrial ecology in practice: The evolution of interdependence at Kalundborg", Journal of Industrial Ecology 1(1):67-79 (1997)
K.-H. Robèrt et al., "Strategic sustainable development — selection, design and synergies of applied tools", Journal of Cleaner Production 10(3):197-214 (2002)
(1) Use the Inventory of Carbon & Energy from the University of Bath here and/or the NIST BEES software, which have estimates of the energy requirements and CO2 emissions associated with using different materials, to roughly assess the CO2 emissions associated with constructing a building or piece of infrastructure of your choice. What are some ways for the environmental impacts associated with this item to be reduced?
(2) What makes industrial ecology "ecological"? Describe how your engineering field or area of interest could adopt industrial ecology principles.
George W. Kling, "The Flow of Energy: Primary Production to Higher Trophic Levels" (2008)
A D Barnosky et al. "Approaching a state shift in Earth's biosphere", Nature 486: 52-58 (2012)
Göran Wall and Mei Gong, "On exergy and sustainable development—Part 1: Conditions and concepts", Exergy, 1:128-145 (2001)
Robert Socolow and Stephen Pacala, "A plan to keep carbon in check", Scientific American (2006)
James Hansen et al., "Target atmospheric CO2: Where should humanity aim?", Open Atmospheric Science Journal, 2:217-231 (2008). (See here for Hansen's message in a condensed form.)
(1) What are some connections between thermodynamics (including concepts such as energy, exergy, and entropy) and life on earth? How might these connections be relevant to thinking about sustainability?
(2) List five steps that, in your view, have the potential to significantly help in mitigating and/or adapting to global warming, and briefly explain why each is a good idea. Also, discuss one or more ideas that have been proposed as solutions to global warming that, in your view, are ineffective or harmful.
K.-E. Eriksson and K.-H. Robèrt, "From the Big Bang to sustainable societies" (1991)
Gus Speth, "Towards a new economy and a new politics" (2010)
Penn State University Center for Medieval Studies, "Colonial America's pre-industrial age of wood and water"
David JC MacKay, Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air (2008), Chapters 1-4 (Pages 1-34)
Göran Wall, Exergetics (2009), Pages 1-50
(1) Why didn't societies without fossil fuels, such as 18th-Century Pennsylvania, build steel-framed structures?
What resource utilization practices were facilitated by low population density (~4 people per km2) in 18th-Century Pennsylvania? If the population density were comparable to today's Pennsylvania (100 people per km2), what would have been the alternatives?
(2) Both the Eriksson and Speth articles question the value of economic growth. What are their arguments that economic growth can be destructive? How would you expect engineering practice to be different in a world that did not see economic growth as the main goal of society?
(3) Summarize the concept of energy quality and how it relates to building design. Use as sources relevant sections of Wall's book, as well as the Annex 49 project website on "Low Exergy Systems for High-Performance Buildings and Communities" – this document (esp. the case studies in pages 49-68) might be particularly helpful.
(4) New York City's utility is concerned about being able to meet peak electricity demand, which is on hot summer afternoons. Suppose that you're doing a feasibility study of several different methods of reducing peak demand. For each method, estimate the order of magnitude of the (a) cost and (b) space required for this method to be able to reduce city peak demand by 10%. The methods are: (i) battery storage (reference); (ii) Rooftop solar photovoltaic generation (reference, another); (iii) Demand reduction enabled by smart meters (reference). What do you see as the biggest uncertainties in your rough calculations?