In the SE group we have worked hard to develop an innovative curriculum and are looking forward to future opportunities to further expand our efforts. The following is a presentation of the courses that are taught to our undergraduate and graduate students as well as a presentation of the research projects of our undergraduate students.

Sustainability Courses

Current Courses Taught by Dr. Bilec

Advanced Green Building Design and Construction (CEE 2620, Fall)

This course first provides an overview of all the major aspects of green building design and construction, including sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, innovation and the design process.  The course then focuses on green materials, energy audits, indoor environmental quality monitoring, and post-occupancy evaluations.

Advanced Life Cycle Assessment (CEE 3609, Spring)

Students learn advanced LCA topics such as allocation, hybrid LCA, sensitivity analyses, etc. The aim of this course is to enable graduate students to apply LCA to their research. Students typically develop a chapter of their thesis and/or a peer-reviewed publication after completing this course.

Engineering and Sustainable Development CEE 1610/2610

The goal of this course is provide students a thorough introduction to the broad fields of both sustainable engineering and industrial ecology. The concepts and tools necessary to understand this field of engineering will be introduced and then applied by students to elucidate problems with the current built environment.

Courses Now Taught by CEE Faculty 

Introduction to Life Cycle Assessment (CEE 1609 & CEE 2609, Fall)

Students learn to conduct an ISO 14040 process LCA. This is a project-based course; students conduct a comparative LCA for a client. Past clients have included Bayer, GTECH Strategies, UPMC, and the Urban Ecology Collaborative.

Design for Environment (CEE 1618, Fall) 

Design for the Environment (DfE) is a specific set of design practices aimed at creating eco-efficient products and processes. Incorporating sustainability into product and process design as a design constraint is clearly a necessity, as all engineers must understand the limits on natural resources. Students will be introduced to the DfE toolbox which includes design for demanufacture, LCA, and ecofriendly materials selection. Students will also be exposed to real world industry sustainability challenges and hands on lab experiences designed in conjunction with local industry and organization partners. Students can expect that labs will consist of a mix of field trips to partner companies and labs at the University. A major aspect to the course will involve student partnerships with local companies; students will be challenged to apply their DfE skills to projects that address sustainability challenges. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to participate in a summer residency to implement their project with their sponsor company at the end of the course.

Courses No Longer Offered

Research Methods for Sustainable Engineering (CEE 3207)

The goal of this course is to provide students conducting thesis projects with an introduction to research development and many different types of qualitative and quantitative research methods. Students are expected to take the course twice during their graduate studies. Students in their second semester of research methods will take an active role in mentoring and teaching.









Syllabus for ESD

Life Cycle Thinking Lecture 1

Food Desert

Building Lecture

Life Cycle Thinking 

Lecture 2

Intro Lecture

Educational Development



Collaborative Research: Developing a Framework to Better Engage students in STEM via Game Design

 Team Members: Kristen Parrish, ASU, Amy Landis, CSM, Melissa Bilec, UPitt, Renee Clark, UPitt 

We propose that game design in the classroom can achieve high levels of student engagement, create a sense of community, improve student metacognition, increase student retention in STEM, and be easily transferable and scalable. Thus, we propose to pilot game design in our courses and assess these courses to elucidate characteristics of successful approaches to game design and game play in civil engineering and construction courses. The compilation of successful approaches forms our framework. We pose that involving students in game play and game design not only better engages students, but also creates community and drives students to higher levels of metacognition. We have also found that following game play with game design easily moves students up the cognitive dimension of Bloom’s taxonomy (Krathwohl, 2010), from merely understanding, to reflection, creation, and evaluation. Board games and role-playing games are formats that create community; students interact with one another over intellectual, enjoyable, and memorable shared experiences. We have found that board game play engages 100% of students in our classroom compared to other types of active learning strategies. And finally, board games and role-playing games are an ideal format because any faculty or student can easily modify them. 

Beyond Design for the Environment: Improving Products, Processes, and Actions

Team Members: Amy Landis (PI), Melissa Bilec (co-pi), Joe Marriott (co-pi)

Funded by: NCIIA
The purpose of this proposal was to develop a Design for the Environment (DfE) course and residency into the undergraduate engineering curriculum at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering (SSOE). Our outcomes are to enable students to:


  • Become aware of sustainability challenges faced by organizations and society at large and understand the impact of engineering solutions

  • Develop tools and skill sets to address sustainability challenges within industry and organizations

  • Develop viable and marketable solutions that are both sustainable and practical employing DfE tools

  • Network with potential employers and gain exposure to green career opportunities

  • Develop cross-discipline communication and presentation skills


Integrating Sustainability into the Civil Engineering Curriculum Through Three Courses at the University of Pittsburgh

Team Members: Amy Landis (PI), Melissa Bilec (co-pi), Piero Rizzo (co-pi)

Funded by: National Science Foundation
Within the context of sustainability education, we proposed to improve and connect three Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) courses: Design for the Environment (DfE), Introduction to Nondestructive Evaluation and Structural Health Monitoring (NDE), and Green Buildings: Design and Construction (GB). Our primary goal is to infuse sustainability concepts into civil engineering courses using experiential learning. We seek to improve upon existing courses by infusing concepts of sustainability via experiential learning and develop cross-course activities that involve students in research-quality and service-learning experiences.
Drs. Bilec, Landis, and Rizzo
Awarded Provost Innovation in Teaching Award
Featured in UPitt's Teaching Times (Sept. 2009)

Sustainable Metrics Module
This module is intended to introduce students to the concepts of design for ease-of-disassemble, design for end of life and design for environment by actively engaging students in the deconstruction of different decades of design, utilizing office chairs as a case study. In Part 1, students deconstruct varying decades of office chairs to compare and contrast how design and material choices have changed over time. In Part 2, students will analyze data collected in part 1 during the disassembly of decade’s office chairs and determine energy requirement for each chair. Students will begin to generate a report in Part 2. In Part 3, students will re-design an office chair based on experience disassembling in part 1 and analysis of data collected in part 2 and present their re-design along with data and analysis from part 2 in a report.

Undergraduate Research

Within the SGD group, we are very fortunate to work with talented, undergraduate students interested in learning about research and sustainability. The Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) generously supported the efforts of the majority of the undergraduates. A few students who have been part of these efforts recently include Abra Spisso, Elyssa Meszar, and Julissa Garcia. A list of our sample products follows:

The Role of Sustainability in Community Health: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Sustainable Healthcare (Summer 2014)
Delia Scoville, Cassandra Thiel, Nicole Campion, Melissa Bilec
Indoor Air Quality Assessment of Elementary Schools (Summer 2014)
Harold Rickenbacker, Bill Collinge, Cassandra Thiel, Melissa Bilec
Life Cycle Assessment of a Net-Zero Water System (Summer 2014)
Naomi Anderson, Cassandra Thiel, Bill Collinge, Melissa Bilec
Life Cycle Assessment of Streetlight Technologies (Summer 2009)
Douglas Hartley, Cassandra Jurgens, Eric Zatcoff, Melissa Bilec, Joe Marriott, Alex Dale
Critical Success Factors for Net-Zero Energy Homes (Summer 2010)
Katelyn Ryan, Michael Sweriduk, Melissa Bilec, Can Aktas
End-of-Life Compostables (Summer 2010)
Nicole Ostrowski, Nicholas Stamatakis, Amy Landis, Melissa Bilec, Kristen Ostermann
Biofuels grown on Marginal Lands (Summer 2010)
Christopher Rovensky, Emily Wolff, Amy Landis, Jason Monnell
Sustainable Development - A Multi-Faceted Approach - Larimer Neighborhood (Summer 2010)
Madeline Allen-Sandoz, Ryan Carmichael, Matthew Balsbaugh, Melissa Bilec,
Vanessa Gomes Da Silva, Maristela Gomes Da Silva, Scott Shrake, Cassie Thiel
Optimization and Life Cycle Assessment (Summer 2010)
Oliver Green, Kyle Shatzer, John Brigham, Melissa Bilec, Amy Landis, Alex Dale
Algae and Wastewater
Patrick Saboe, Julie Schalles, Grace Witter, Amy Landis, Willie Harper
Brazil Public Housing Design (Summer 2009)
Jonathan Bumstead, Bradley Harken, Eric Rowand, Melissa Bilec
Energy Analysis and Sustainable Solutions for a Large Distribution Warehouse (Summer 2009)
Matt Kaminski, Abigayle Sterle, Kate Kessler, Joe Marriott, Melissa Bilec
Waste Analysis of Phipps Conservatory Cafe (Summer 2009)
William Borroughs, Dan Jacobs, Amy Landis, Kristen Ostermann
Scientific Methods for Analyzing the Biodegradable Properties of Starch-Based Polymers (Summer 2009)
Daniel Jacobs, William Borroughs, Amy Landis
Decision Matrix for Selecting Algae Strains (Summer 2009)
Grace Witter
Life Cycle Inspired Chemical Design (Summer 2009)
Michaelangelo Tabone, James Cregg, Amy Landis, Eric Beckmen