The environmental impact of engineering education in Australia

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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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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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Author's version deposited in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Engineering and Surveying - Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering (Up to 30 Jun 2013)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Engineering and Surveying - Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering (Up to 30 Jun 2013)
Date Deposited: 15 Nov 2009 08:47
Last Modified: 27 Jun 2014 00:29
Uncontrolled Keywords: building energy; engineering education; environmental impact; external student; graduate output; laboratory operations; on-campus student; university operations
Fields of Research (2008): 05 Environmental Sciences > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050204 Environmental Impact Assessment
13 Education > 1301 Education Systems > 130199 Education systems not elsewhere classified
13 Education > 1302 Curriculum and Pedagogy > 130212 Science, Technology and Engineering Curriculum and Pedagogy
Fields of Research (2020): 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410402 Environmental assessment and monitoring
39 EDUCATION > 3903 Education systems > 390399 Education systems not elsewhere classified
39 EDUCATION > 3901 Curriculum and pedagogy > 390113 Science, technology and engineering curriculum and pedagogy
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): D Environment > 96 Environment > 9606 Environmental and Natural Resource Evaluation > 960603 Environmental Lifecycle Assessment
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