International Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (EESD) (7th : 2015)

Use of steep framework as basis for sustainable engineering education Schmidt, Karl; Lee, Ross; Lorenz, William; Singh, Pritpal; McGrail, Michael Jun 30, 2015

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EESD’15    The 7th International Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development Vancouver, Canada, June 9 to 12, 2015  USE OF STEEP FRAMEWORK AS BASIS FOR SUSTAINABLE ENGINEERING EDUCATION Karl Schmidt, Ross Lee, William Lorenz, Pritpal Singh, Michael McGrail Villanova University, USA Abstract: Understanding the dynamic and complex nature of sustainability requires a healthy appreciation for the intersection of global trends with environmental, economic and social aspects. When coupled with technology and political issues, a more thorough analysis of interdependent sustainable engineering challenges and opportunities is possible. This paper discusses the Graduate Sustainable Engineering program at Villanova University with specific focus on use of the STEEP Framework. This unique interdisciplinary program employs a whole systems approach to problem solving through a life cycle lens using engineering principles. After a brief overview of the core curriculum, the STEEP learning aspects and outcomes are described, as well as the methodology employed and a brief case study highlighting use of the framework. 1 INTRODUCTION  As the global community strives to attain sustainable growth levels, the myriad challenges (and opportunities) also grow. While environmental factors have certainly garnered more attention (e.g., climate change, water scarcity and biodiversity loss), the ecological footprint represents a large, but still only partial picture of the health and wellness of the planet. Rising social and economic drivers of change have been incorporated in many models (i.e., the triple bottom line) as evidenced by the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs, 2006), increasing transparency requests and corporate responsibility reports. These issues and impacts are often viewed, however, in a vacuum without a whole systems approach and understanding of interdependencies. When Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental and Political aspects (STEEP Model) are combined, students can thoroughly identify and assess a more complete picture of the sustainability challenge. Based on many years of staff operational experience and consulting models (ARUP Foresight, 2006), Villanova University’s Masters of Science in Sustainable Engineering (MSSE) has furthered the use of the STEEP Model in its curricula, research and outreach programs.   In 2011, the MSSE program adopted the STEEP framework for use in the core curriculum to provide a more holistic perspective for students. While traditional engineering programs focus on environmental and economic aspects, inclusion of social, technological and political aspects enables students to better appreciate interdependent sustainable engineering challenges and opportunities.   Many of these challenges are extensively documented (KPMG report, 2012) as megatrends like climate change, resource and water scarcity, population growth, and ecosystem decline are colliding and interacting, increasing the complexity of impacts. The STEEP methodology helps students understand and address these challenges using a multi-variable approach.   072-1 1.1 MSSE Program Objective and Curriculum The MSSE objective is to apply a whole systems approach to problem solving through a life cycle lens using engineering principles.  The program is characterized by its interdisciplinary nature, incorporating four core courses with five technical and research tracks: Alternative and Renewable Energy, Sustainable Materials, Environmental Sustainability, Watershed Sustainability, and Sustainable Infrastructure and the Built Environment. The foundational core courses include:  • Climate Change & Sustainability – This course provides an introduction to the current state of science and public policy directives, while addressing the sustainability challenges and opportunities resulting from global climate change. It also introduces the comprehensive STEEP framework for evaluating these impacts and opportunities. • Life Cycle Impact Assessment – This course presents methodologies to assess impacts of process and product development or new project construction, across the entire life cycle, based on the STEEP sustainable engineering framework. The industrial ecology and circular economy concepts are also addressed in this course.  • Economic and Social Equity Integrators – This course provides an approach for identifying and evaluating the balance of environmental, economic and social equity issues and the impacts of a product, process or infrastructure project. Specific tools for evaluating and measuring the impacts are introduced, with additional focus on systems thinking, risk management and resiliency.  • Sustainable Materials and Design – This course provides a comprehensive, systems-focused basis for selecting materials for new uses and as sustainable alternatives. A whole systems perspective, coupled with the understanding of the STEEP aspects, help in designing eco-efficient, renewably sourced, recyclable alternate materials; technologies to reduce material intensity; and material solutions inspired by nature (biomimetic).  The program is interdisciplinary, weaving theory, assignments, guest lecturers and case studies with team project experience. The core courses also use interactive critical thinking sessions to build students’ awareness and gain better appreciation of the STEEP issues that are inter-related on most product, process and system views. Students graduate from the MSSE program by completing either a capstone project or thesis. 1.2 STEEP Framework and Learning Outcomes The STEEP framework is a scalable model that can be used with products, processes (e.g., supply chains) and capital projects. Students conduct an impact assessment for key stakeholders, assessing and prioritizing STEEP impacts and interdependencies throughout the product, project or process lifecycle. The resultant priority issues are then addressed accordingly. Figure 1 highlights an overview of the STEEP framework and impact assessments.     Specific learning objectives for the STEEP framework include: • Understanding the major aspects of sustainability and its interdependencies, going beyond the environment to include social, technological, economic and political factors • Reviewing common frameworks for measuring and reporting impacts • Appreciating the role of different stakeholders, including international organizations, governments, private business and NGOs, in responding to sustainable growth challenges    072-2 Table 1: Supply Chain Example of STEEP Impacts Stage of Supply Chain/ Life Cycle Example Considerations/Relevant Impacts Procurement Social:  Supplier certifications/ training, local community issues Technological: Emerging technology for more effective resource extraction Economic: Price volatility of material (to extract and within buying markets) Environmental:  Scope 3 emissions, energy, air, water impacts  Political: New zoning issues, off shore labor issues  Manufacturing/  Assembly Social: NGO campaigns regarding production, workplace conditions Technological: More cost efficient technologies for design (i.e., 3-D printing)  Economic: Direct manufacturing cost changes; production scaling issues Environmental: Carbon footprint, energy, air, water, emissions  Political: New regulations for hazardous materials/chemical usage Delivery Social: Local/regional traffic impact on community  Technological: Fuel type/ efficiency upgrades (i.e. truck fleet modifications) Economic: Fuel type prices dependent on different volatility timetables Environmental: Climate change disruptions, carbon footprint Political: Compliance with local/regional/international regulations Service & Usage Social: Human health impacts of product usage, educational messages Technological: Disruptive technology that performs similar functions Economic: Customer demand for green products, pricing issues Environmental: Significant energy usage due to recharge cycles Political: Compliance with numerous local codes/regulations for recycling Reuse, Recovery, Disposal Social: Lack of consumer awareness of recyclability or recycle programs Technological: New infrastructure required to recycle, product redesign Economic: Recovery systems may add costs, circular economy options Environmental: Closed loop systems, DfE, final disposal options/impacts Political: Extended producer responsibility issues/compliance 2.2 Impact Assessment:   During the initial stages of assessment where data is available to denote both negative or positive benefit, impacts are quantified or estimated using numerical scales (i.e., 1 = minimal/no impact , 5 = very high). Impacts can also be estimated using qualitative data and reflected through use of a clearly defined color scheme (i.e., red, yellow, green). Later in the evaluation process, ratings can be weighted based on significance of each particular stakeholder to the evaluation objective.    Once they are rated, the most critical impacts are viewed from a whole systems perspective where students discuss interdependencies among impacts and stakeholders. Risks associated with these impacts are also identified. An important aspect of the risk management process is to discuss the likelihood of each impact occurring and any degree of preparedness in place. 2.3 Address Impacts:  For the most critical impacts, root cause analysis is encouraged to drive sustainable change. The students learn to consider various scenarios as a means to address the impacts. A “no change” scenario can also be evaluated to check for any unintended consequences. Recommended solutions are based on various tools that the students explore during the entire course of the program. They include, but are not limited to: • Sustainable materials and product design, including design for environment, biomimicry; • Lean thinking, energy and eco-efficiency;  • Closed loop systems 072-5 3 CASE STUDY EXAMPLE   An MSSE student team conducted a study of the proposed construction of a new light rail transportation system for Baltimore, Maryland. Using the STEEP model, they evaluated two scenarios: construction of a new light rail line and a no-build scenario. For both scenarios, benefits and issues for each STEEP aspect were identified and analyzed. The study identified perspectives of key stakeholders such as commuters, residents, taxpayers, businesses, developers and the state transportation department with input gathered from existing literature and MTA surveys. The team included the construction and operation phases as the primary stages of the project life cycle.  As the team analyzed each benefit and issue, it identified the impacts as red, yellow or green, based on the severity (negative, moderate or positive). The team then assigned numerical values (-3, -1, 3) to help quantify the impacts. Figure 3 below shows the final result of the analysis. The gray rating represents no impact, and was assigned a value of zero. As can be seen, even though the negative impacts during the construction phase are high (due to tunneling, land use, expense, etc.), the positive impacts of the operation phase greatly outweigh the no-build scenario. The no-build scenario accounts for the existing automobile transportation and bus transits.  Based on the results, the team provided recommendations to minimize negative impacts. For example, expanding community engagement to all affected areas would reduce resistance from various stakeholder groups. Inclusion of sustainable urban planning practices (parking management, pedestrian and bicycle access, mixed land use) would reduce impacts as well. Better use of technology advancements would reduce overall project cost and reduce land use during the tunneling phase. In summary, use of the STEEP framework enabled the team to provide an integrated, coordinated solution that will benefit the project design team.              Build   No Build Life Cycle Stage Stakeholder S T En Ec P   S T En Ec P Construction Phase Commuters                       Residents                       Tax Payers                       Business & Developers                       State Dept Transportation                                                         Operation Phase Commuters                       Residents                       Tax Payers                       Business & Developers                       State Dept. Transportation                       Key 3 -1 -3 0 Total 4 -8 3 5 -2   -4 -12 -8 -3 -5  Figure 3: STEEP Impact Assessment Report for Light Rail Transportation Options 072-6 2.0 CONCLUSION Use of the STEEP framework enables engineering students to gain a deeper appreciation of the interdependent sustainable engineering challenges and opportunities. The framework is easily adaptable to product life cycles, business processes, and capital projects, and is especially useful for analysis of alternatives. An additional benefit of the framework is identifying risks that may not otherwise be addressed when using typical project planning/implementation techniques. This can help reduce a variety of financial costs from a product, process or project perspective and improve the decision-making process. In summary, inclusion of the STEEP framework within critical thinking sessions has provided students with rich cross discipline discussions in class and with their team projects, thereby leading to more holistic solutions from a sustainable engineering perspective.  References United Nations (2006), Millennium Development Goals Report, United Nations Dept. of Public Information, ARUP Foresight Consulting (2006), KPMG International (2012), “Expect the Unexpected: Building Business in a Changing World”  International Standards Organization ISO 14040 (2010), Technical Committee TC207, Subcommittee SC5, Gilardi,B; Walker, N; Hunt, I, Cuadros, H; (2014), “Baltimore Red Line: A STEEP Analysis of the Proposed Light Rail Corridor” presentation , Villanova University   072-7 


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