Parsons, David (2009) The environmental impact of engineering education in Australia. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 14 (2). pp. 175-183. ISSN 0948-3349
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Official URL: http://www.springerlink.com/content/w6j14659664711vu/
Identification Number or DOI: doi: 10.1007/s11367-008-0045-5
The process of producing a graduate is a complex one involving major effort usually by large institutions such as universities. The Faculty of Engineering and Surveying at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia produces several hundred engineering and spatial science graduates each year using both on campus and external modes of study. The purpose of this study is to determine the major causes of environmental impact in this process with a view to targeting areas where improvements may be made. Materials and methods: An inventory of all major inputs to and outputs from the faculty was compiled from a mixture of measurements, real data, and financial data for the calendar year 2006. Data for graduate output were also compiled. These data were then assessed using SimaPro software, mainly Australian data and predominantly the Eco-indicator 99 (E) method of impact assessment. Results The analysis shows that environmental impacts are many and varied as might be expected from a complex operation like a university. However, energy inputs in the form of electricity from black coal, staff and student travel and the embodied impact of buildings were dominant. Discussion: The results obtained may point the way towards future consideration of areas where environmental impact might be reduced by changes in institution strategies such as the way external students are taught and the way the electricity usage in our buildings is managed. Conclusions: The environmental impact of undergraduate education is complex and involves many different areas of activity. However, the use of energy in various forms is of major significance in this impact. Recommendations and perspectives: It is recommended that university managers consider the results presented in this paper and use them as a starting point in developing strategies to reduce the impact of their institutions.
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