The importance of industrial ecology in engineering education for sustainable development
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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to show how industrial ecology can facilitate the achievement of sustainable development through its incorporation into an engineering curriculum. Design/methodology/approach – A model has been developed for assessing sustainability learning outcomes due to the incorporation of the concept of industrial ecology into undergraduate and postgraduate engineering programs. This model assesses how the Engineering Faculty at Curtin University has included a core engineering unit (Engineering for Sustainable Development) and four postgraduate units (Cleaner Production Tools, Eco-efficiency, Industrial Ecology and Sustainable Technology) in its undergraduate and postgraduate engineering program, to enable modern engineering education to reflect the benefits of industrial ecology in the implementation of sustainable engineering solutions and decision-making processes. Using this model, this paper demonstrates how the syllabus, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary assignment tasks, lectures and tutorials have been developed since 2006 in order to develop the concept of industrial ecology in undergraduate and postgraduate engineering education. The paper has also analysed the different teaching methods that have been applied since 2006 to generate increased student satisfaction in these new and challenging subjects.Findings – The university environment can temper the potential outcomes from increasing the sustainability content in engineering education, given the general lack of student maturity in understanding the value of sustainability objectives together with course limitations on sustainability content and the arduous and lengthy processes involved in changing course curricula. Research limitations/implications – Since the Engineering for Sustainable Development unit has been introduced only recently, it was beyond the scope of the research to interview graduate engineers who completed this unit to investigate how they have applied the concept of industrial ecology to achieve sustainability outcomes in their workplaces. Originality/value – This research is distinct in that it investigated the implications of the incorporation of industrial ecology into the engineering curriculum.
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