SustainabilitySustainability with CES EduPack

A "sustainable development" is one that contributes in an equitable way to human welfare, minimizes the drain on natural resources, complies with the rule of law, and is financially viable.

The challenge

Many civil, commercial, government and academic projects claim to do this, and many of them have implications for materials consumption and use—examples are:

  • developing biopolymers to replace those derived from oil
  • subsidising electric cars
  • promoting bamboo as a building material
  • requiring photo-voltaic (PV) panels on new residential buildings.

We refer to these as "articulations" of sustainable development. But how are they to be assessed? There is no simple, "right" answer to questions of sustainable development. Instead there is a thoughtful, well-researched analysis of a proposed articulation that recognizes the concerns of stakeholders, the demands created for materials and energy, the economic, legal and social constraints, and the environmental legacy.

Sustainable development

Meeting the challenge—the CES EduPack Sustainable Development Edition

The CES EduPack Sustainability Database (available in the CES EduPack Sustainable Development Edition) is designed to support the teaching of sustainability at all levels of study. The database consists of seven interlinked data-tables. They provide the data needed for engineering design and for the eco-audit of products. The Sustainability Database allows materials to be traced back to their countries of origin and enables exploration of possible supply constraints. The data includes relevant legislation and regulations that bear on the use and disposal of materials. The information on price allows cost comparison of alternative design choices. Finally, the database allows the investigation of the economic, environmental and social profiles of the countries from which materials are sourced or in which manufacturing takes place.Sustainable development

Because Sustainable Development is such a complex topic, and because curricula are already full, Granta Design and Mike Ashby have worked on developing a package of resources (Sustainability Assessment Tool Kit) to support the introduction of this topic. The methodology has been tried out and refined by educators at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of Cambridge, and the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Barcelona. You can use the case studies included, or develop your own, use templates, handouts and projects for groupwork, and introduce some key concepts to enable discussion.

The aim is not to define a single metric or index of sustainability; rather it is to improve the quality of discussion and debate on projects that claim to be sustainable developments.

More information

More information can be found in the White Papers Materials and Sustainable Development and Material Risk and Corporate Sustainability available from Granta's Education Hub and from the new text "Materials and Sustainable Development" ( ISBN ISBN-10: 0081001762, ISBN-13: 978-0081001769). These describe a 5 step methodology to help students assess articulations of Sustainable Development within a problem-based learning course. The methodology has been tested and refined on courses at The University of Cambridge, UPC in Barcelona and UIUC in the United States. Project packs with resources for both students and educators, including sample analyses and templates have been created for 3 case studies.

We welcome comments and suggestions on how we can develop better resources in this area in the future. You can find out more about our work on this here.