Model for faculty, student, and practitioner development in sustainability engineering through an integrated design experience

Michael Wolcott, Shane Brown, Melissa King, Deborah Ascher-Barnstone, Todd Beyreuther, Karl Olsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Sustainable development and the green building movement have been adopted faster than any recent movement in the engineering field. With over 40% of the total U.S. energy usage servicing the operation of commercial and residential buildings, this trend is well founded. Recent surveys of the industry indicate that within 4 to 5years, a vast majority of engineering firms expect their business will be significantly dedicated to green building designs. In contrast, current academic institutions are not well positioned to prepare young engineers for this challenge, and current faculty are not well trained in the tenets of sustainability or the roles of engineers in this movement. Change must occur if the engineering and design professions are to remain relevant and responsive to societal needs. To accommodate this challenge, the writers have designed and implemented the Integrated Design Experience (IDeX), a capstone course in which undergraduate and graduate students interact with faculty and practitioners on real projects with challenging needs in sustainability. The course is designed to provide an actual and virtual space for the multitude of disciplines to interact on real designs to foster both improved research and outreach efforts. Expected outcomes from the course include both student and faculty learning on the methods and value of sustainable design as well as the development of an interdisciplinary network of faculty and practitioners involved in sustainable design. Learning is being evaluated using a continuous authentic assessment of design products. First-year results indicate that students learned interdisciplinary teamwork and communication skills, and they see substantial value in the authentic design experience. In future years, the development of the interdisciplinary network will be tracked by using social networking tools and by assessing faculty attitudes toward involvement in IDeX. Both metrics will be investigated using the diffusions of innovation framework. The combined evaluation will lead to an in-depth understanding of how the IDeX model can be scaled and replicated at other institutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-101
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Industrial relations
  • Strategy and Management


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