Lyle School to offer Master’s in Sustainability & Development

SMU Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Lyle School to offer Master’s in Sustainability & Development

The Pallet House prototype by I-Beam Design
The Pallet House prototype created by I-Beam Design was featured in HRH Prince Charles’ Royal Gardens as part of an exhibition on sustainable design. The inspiration for the Pallet House Project came from the fact that 84% of the world’s refugees could be housed with a year’s supply of recycled American pallets. (Photo courtesy of I-Beam Design)

It’s going to take more than engineering to build a world of sustainable cities. That’s the challenge behind a new Master’s degree from SMU’s Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering that is already drawing multi-industry leaders to the intersection of engineering design, urban planning and environmental policy.

The Master of Arts in Sustainability and Development will be offered beginning in January 2012 through the Lyle School, with support from the Hunter & Stephanie Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity.

The Lyle School and the Hunt Institute will kick off the new degree program Friday, Dec. 9, with a special mid-day program featuring renowned London urban sustainability strategist Peter Bishop and the unveiling of an innovative, low-cost “pallet house” previously featured at a sustainability expo hosted by the Prince of Wales.

“The world’s population just hit 7 billion,” said Lyle School Dean Geoffrey Orsak. “The need to build livable, sustainable cities has moved beyond the critical stage. This new degree program creates a framework for partnerships between engineers and the architects, city planners and environmental policy experts needed to ensure the cities can thrive in the face of so many challenges.”

“With this population growth comes a tremendous strain on non-renewable resources, infrastructure, and energy sources,” said Betsy del Monte, SMU Lyle adjunct professor, and principal and director of sustainability at the Beck Group. “Providing access to clean water, clean air, housing, and transportation will shape public policy, redefine business, and engage a generation.”

Students pursuing the Master of Arts in Sustainability and Development will complete a 30-hour interdisciplinary program that will cover sustainability-related topics from policy to design in both developed and developing worlds.  The program will advance the wise use of environmental resources in urban development, with a goal of creating and re-building economically and environmentally healthy cities, both here and abroad.

The program offered through the Lyle School’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department will incorporate studies in:

  • Re-use and redevelopment
  • Urban transportation systems
  • Modernization of existing structures
  • Waste and sanitation

Classes begin in January 2012. Applications are now being accepted at smu.edu/lyle.

– Written by Kimberly Cobb

> Get the full story from SMU News
> Visit the Lyle School of Engineering homepage
> Learn more about the Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity

December 8, 2011|News|

Research Spotlight: Seeking solutions for unsafe water

Supported by a $270,000 grant from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and additional SMU funds, faculty member Andrew Quicksall and his graduate students in the University’s Lyle School of Engineering are collecting water samples in UNHCR refugee camps, bringing samples back to SMU for analysis, and training workers in and around the camps to test water supplies.

The group will integrate information from multiple sources to develop a database that will help UNHCR planners provide safer drinking water in existing and future camps.

“They’ve asked us to build out a whole picture, truly worldwide, for what’s in the drinking water in refugee camps,” said Quicksall, J. Lindsay Embrey Trustee Assistant Professor in the Lyle School. “So we’re going to go on-site, collect water, analyze some in the field and bring quite a bit of water back to our SMU laboratories and get a full picture.”

The database developed by Quicksall’s group will identify contaminants in drinking water and allow UNHCR officials to track water quality in the camps over time. Some water quality problems are indigenous to the regions where the camps are situated, some develop over time, and some are the nearly instant consequence of thousands of people collecting in unsuitable locations to escape war and famine faster than sanitary infrastructure can be built.

For example, the agreement with UNHCR commits Quicksall’s team to investigate critical water issues in Dadaab, Kenya – home to the largest refugee complex in the world. Nearly half a million people are concentrated in three camps there, many living in makeshift shelters of twigs, reeds and scraps. Refugees pouring across the border to escape war and famine in Somalia continue to face shortages of food, water, shelter and sanitation hazards there.

“The technical challenges of supporting refugee populations of this size will require that our teams stay engaged with the UNHCR for years to come,” said Geoffrey Orsak, dean of the SMU Lyle School of Engineering. “Fortunately, our new Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity makes it possible to lead efforts of this magnitude nearly anywhere on the globe.”

Some camps have safe drinking water available, but the taste is so off-putting that residents seek out other sources. In Nakivale, Uganda, for example, the high iron content in well water drives refugees to drink surface water that is frequently contaminated with coliform bacteria. Quicksall’s group also will investigate methods of improving the taste of such safe, but unpalatable, drinking water.

Preliminary research results have revealed problematic concentrations of iodide in drinking water at Dadaab and fluoride in both Southern Uganda and Kakukma, Kenya. Some types of contaminants may not create problems short-term, Quicksall explains, but create severe health issues for people over the long term – particularly children and the elderly. His study group will have the opportunity to both recommend and implement remediation methods for those problem water sources, he said.

“To work with the science in the lab and see it applied internationally — I don’t think there is an opportunity like this anywhere else,” said graduate student Drew Aleto, a member of Quicksall’s study team.

Written by Kimberly Cobb

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog

November 3, 2011|Research|
Load More Posts