P3 Design Project for an Interdisciplinary Team of Graduate Students: Development of Appropriate, Sustainable Construction Materials

EPA Grant Number: SU831818
Title: P3 Design Project for an Interdisciplinary Team of Graduate Students: Development of Appropriate, Sustainable Construction Materials
Investigators: Mihelcic, James R. , Dam, Thomas Van
Current Investigators: Mihelcic, James R. , Abdi, Solomon , Betz, Kristen , Dam, Thomas Van , Eatmon, Thomas , Harris, Ronald A. , Muga, Helen , Pranger, Curtis , Seifert, Christopher , Vidor, Andrew , Walker, James , Womack-Richardson, Edith
Institution: Michigan Technological University
Current Institution: Michigan Technological University , Southern University and A & M College
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: September 30, 2004 through May 30, 2005
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2004) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemicals , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


As academic thinking has progressed in the decade that followed the Earth Summit, one thing that is clear is that engineers and other technical professionals need to be educated to consider the social, economic, and environmental limitations of engineering projects. Accordingly, the overall goal of this project is to challenge students to identify and incorporate these limitations into their solutions. For this project, the students will be required to forgo "high tech" solutions, which are not sustainable on a long term basis in most of the developing world, and instead apply "appropriate technology" to solving the stated problem.

The design problem will investigate the use of natural pozzolans that can be used in construction of buildings and infrastructure. The use of a natural pozzolans for hydraulic cement began in prehistoric times. Unfortunately, in the early 1900's, most of the world adopted the use of western-based portland cement concrete technology. Students will determine the global prevalence of natural pozzolans and then identify and evaluate their usefulness using a set of environmental, social, and economic indicators that are applicable to the developing world. Students will then develop a testing protocol for the pozzolans that is simple, yet based on sound scientific principles that ensure accuracy. Once a suitable protocol is developed, guidelines will be written that clearly describe how to apply the test method(s) to evaluate the suitability of native materials.

We propose to use two existing graduate curriculum structures to create an interdisciplinary team of graduate students. One group has their education and research focused on sustainability issues in the industrialized world; the second group is more focused on sustainability in the developing world. It is expected that integration of these two groups of students will enhance their overall education and research experiences by making the curriculums more global and interdisciplinary in their delivery.

For Phase I, we plan to utilize the close relationship we have with dozens of our graduate students who serve in the U.S. Peace Corps as part of their graduate study in three distinct Master's International Programs, along with resources provided by Michigan Tech's Sustainable Futures Institute and Transportation Institute.

Our evaluation methods will include determining the diversity of the team in regards to major, gender, race,and curricular emphasis (i.e., developing or industrialized world). We will also monitor the number and diversity of academic staff (on and off campus) that are engaged by the student team. Other measurable results include: a) total number of natural pozzolans identified and their global extent; b) number of natural pozzolans that pass the material characterization procedures described in Task 3; and c) number of applicable sustainability indicators identified to evaluate the pozzolans.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 1 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

sustainable development, global climate, community based, transportation, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Energy, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, Chemistry and Materials Science, Environmental Engineering, Atmosphere, environmental monitoring, environmentally preferable products, cleaner production, sustainable development, green design, natural pozzolans, clean technology, alternative materials, green home building, energy efficiency, pollution prevention design, product life cycle, construction material, hydraulic cement, environmentally conscious design, clean manufacturing designs

Relevant Websites:

Michigan Tech Sustainable Futures Institute Exit
Michigan Tech Peace Corps Exit
Project Description

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report