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Engineering Solutions for Sustainability: Materials and Resources

ISBN: 978-1-118-17585-9
88 pages
November 2011
Engineering Solutions for Sustainability: Materials and Resources (1118175859) cover image
A wealth of resources and topics of discussion from the Engineering Solutions for Sustainability: Materials and Resources workshop held in Switzerland in 2009

Natural resources are the lifeblood of agricultural and industrial endeavors that contribute to our social and economic well-being. Yet, even as these resources dwindle from mismanagement, there is still no clear consensus in the engineering community of what actually defines "sustainable engineering."

This publication offers the engineering profession a multi-disciplinary blueprint for action by presenting topics of discussion from the Engineering Solutions for Sustainability: Materials and Resources workshop held at the école Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, July 22–24, 2009. It includes an extensive bibliography and recommended readings section, and a summary of key, cross-cutting initiatives recommended as priorities because of their potential to create common principles for advancing societal sustainability through technological, educational, and public policy solutions.

The resources, tools, and concepts delivered in this report draw from the unique perspectives and expertise of an array of engineering disciplines, represented by delegates from the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers (AIME), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). The intent of this publication is to forge a better understanding of the role and responsibility of engineering in achieving global sustainability, while also laying the foundation for an ongoing and productive interdisciplinary dialogue in other forums.

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About This Report vii

About the Workshop Sponsors ix

Acknowledgments x

I Executive Summary 1

II Introduction and Process 6

III Human Needs (Water, Food, and Health) 12

Figure 1: Earth's Water Balance 15

Table 1: Water Consumption by Energy Type in the United States 16

IV Infrastructure (Transportation, Housing, and Urban Design) 23

Figure 1: The Brooklyn Bridge: An Example of a Pioneering and Sustained Urban Infrastructure 25

Figure 2: The Los Angeles Airport "Theme Building": Melding Art, Architecture, and Air Transport 28

V The Resource Cycle 30

V(A). Energy 30

Figure 1: Carbon Abatement Wedges 33

Figure 2: Populations Without Electricity Access 34

V(B). Mineral Resources 37

Figure 3: Expansion of the Scope of Concern about Mineral Supply 39

Figure 4: Assessing How a Mine Project Can Contribute to Sustainable Development 40

Table 1: Five Dimensions of Mineral Availability 41

Figure 5: The Scope of Material Stewardship Encompasses Process and Product Stewardship 42

Table 2: Opportunities for Research and Development in the Minerals Sector 43

V(C). Materials and Recycling 46

VI Human Resources 52

VII Linking Technologies to Resources 61

Figure 1: Technology and Resources Matrix 62

VIII The Path Forward 66

Appendix A: List of Delegates 68

Appendix B: References and Recommended Readings 70

Appendix C: Summary of Sector-Specific Advances 77

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