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Unit information: Sustainable Systems in 2015/16

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Unit name Sustainable Systems
Unit code CENGM0033
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Godfrey
Open unit status Not open

Desirable: EFAC30002 - Prof Studies B or equivalent



School/department Department of Civil Engineering
Faculty Faculty of Engineering

Description including Unit Aims

This multidisciplinary unit is designed to prepare students to be able to provide creative innovation which will really make a difference in the sustainability of engineered products and services. The rigour of systems thinking applied to the provision of sustainability helps to deliver tangible benefits. The need for this course is well made in "Educating Engineers for 21st Century", RAEng (June 2007). Topics covered include: What is sustainability and how engineers deal with it. The relevance of systems to sustainability, metrics and measures for sustainability: enabling evidence-based decision making. Systems Architectures, models and tools. Natural systems, environmental economics, and qualitative research techniques. A wide range of case examples are used to provide a practical context. The sustainability equivalent of a business game is used to develop skills and reinforce learning, as well helping to create an exciting and enjoyable learning environment.


  1. To develop a deep understanding of sustainability and sustainable development problems and an advanced ability to investigate and frame them using systems thinking techniques;
  2. To deploy rigorous systems thinking processes to integrate the people and physical issues that are the essence of sustainable performance;
  3. To engage with examples of the major changes in industrial and economic systems that are needed to meet the sustainability challenges;
  4. To establish a performance regime that will measure improvement in sustainability and learning to be fed back;
  5. To develop the creative thinking processes which, allied with a deep understanding of needs and performance measurement principles, are required to plan/design substantial improvements in performance of a system.


  1. BioFuels debate
  2. What does 'system' mean in this context?
  3. What is sustainability? – concepts
  4. What is sustainability? – practicality
  5. Systems views and architectural frameworks
  6. Measures and metrics
  7. Models and tools
  8. Introduction to qualitative research
  9. Global systems
  10. Natural systems
  11. Entering the ecological age
  12. Environmental economics
  13. Management and delivery systems
  14. Systems integration for sustainable development
  15. Sustainability Game – formative assignments
  16. Case studies

Intended Learning Outcomes


On completion of this course, successful students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the key challenges inherent in changing complex systems to become more sustainable;
  2. Select and establish a measurement regime for a specified complex sustainability problem which is new to them;
  3. Select, develop and apply an appropriate systems architectural framework for the specified complex problem;
  4. Establish an implementation process that will recognise unintended consequences and provide opportunities for significant improvement in systems performance through synergy;
  5. Demonstrate creative and innovative thinking in their approach to systems design.

Teaching Information




Assessment Information

Assignment Report 100%

Reading and References

  1. Royal Academy of Engineering, (2007) 'Creating Systems that Work'
  2. Benyus J, (1997) 'Biomimicry' HarperCollins Publishers ISBN: 9780688136918
  3. Meadows D, (2004) 'Limits to growth – 30 year update' Chelsea Green Publishing ISBN: 9781931498586
  4. Anderson R,(1998) 'Mid-Course Correction: Toward a Sustainable Enterprise: the Interface Model', The Peregrinzilla Press, ISBN: 9780964595354
  5. Blockley D & Godfrey P, (2000) 'Doing it Differently, Systems for Rethinking Construction' Thomas Telford, ISBN 0727727486
  6. Senge P, 'The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization' (1990) Revised – (2006) Currency ISBN 0-385-51725-4