(328c) Integrating Sustainability into Chemical & Biological Engineering Curricula at Ubc | AIChE

(328c) Integrating Sustainability into Chemical & Biological Engineering Curricula at Ubc

Authors 

Bi, H. T. - Presenter, University of British Columbia


Sustainable development means industrial progress that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The current practice of society and the world is obviously unsustainable, reflected by those major issues on population growth, energy consumption, global climate change and resource depletion. Sustainability has four basic aspects: the environment, technology, economy, and societal organization. Conventionally, engineers are taught to deal with technology development and economic analysis to assess the economic viability of a process, a product or a project. They are not familiar with the optimization of the human benefit from the technology development and the environment where materials and energy are available. In the past 20 years, there has been a rapid evolution of academic and industrial approaches for integrating environmental and social considerations into process and product development and business decision-making toward sustainable development, with many inter-disciplines or fields proposed across different scales such as green chemistry, pollution prevention, cleaner production, green engineering, ecological engineering, industrial ecology, earth systems engineering, natural engineering, to list a few.

To incorporate the sustainability into the curriculum of the Chemical and Biological Engineering program at the University of British Columbia, we introduced a 4th year elective course on pollution prevention engineering (CHBE484) in 1996, with focus on the source reduction and process recycling for chemical processes. This course supplemented our traditional environmental engineering courses such as Water Pollution Control (CHBE373), Air Pollution Control (CHBE485) and Hazardous Solids Waste Processing (CHBE480), and gaining increasing interest from students with enrollment increased from 6 in the first year to 30 by 2000. To address the sustainability at a larger scale, the CHBE484 course was revamped to a Green Engineering course by introducing topics on sustainability, life cycle analysis, environmental systems analysis, green engineering and industrial ecology, which go beyond the boundaries of traditional chemical processes. Meanwhile, the pollution prevention concepts have been gradually integrated into other pollution control courses. For example, the Air Pollution Control course has been revamped to Air Pollution Prevention and Control by incorporating components on air pollution prevention and greenhouse gas emission reduction.

Since its inception, two unique features of the Pollution Prevention and Green Engineering course at UBC have been developed. One is invited lectures on industrial practices of green engineering ranging from life cycle analysis on clean and renewable energy to eco-industrial parks/networks. On the other hand, students were required to undertake a term project or term paper, preferably in a group of 3 people, with the subject covering broad areas of pollution prevention and sustainability. Over years, students have been working on various hand-on projects related to regional energy issues such as energy exchange network for municipal waste incinerators, life cycle analysis of fuel cell vehicles, energy efficiency in green houses, and specific issues such as the storm water management, waste solvent recycling, used chemical exchange programs related to the campus sustainability by involving the UBC Sustainability Office and the Department of Health, Safety and Environment. This presentation will cover a brief history and the experience of the sustainability program at UBC, and the future planning for incorporating sustainability into the Chemical and Biological Engineering Curricula.

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