Sustainable Construction Education using Problem-Based Learning and Service Learning Pedagogies


Incorporating the concepts of sustainable development in engineering education is becoming a necessity in order to prepare future professionals with the dynamic mindset and broad knowledge needed to effectively and efficiently solve the interdisciplinary challenges of the 21st century. To this end, utilizing the principles of active learning towards sustainable construction education leads to stronger learning outcomes and development for students. The objective is to enhance the undergraduate student skill-set that is required to make them more enabled, aligned, and supported to design, construct, and operate our infrastructure systems. In this paper, the authors provide the associated course development principles grounded in problem-based-learning (PBL) and service-learning (SL) pedagogies, course management strategy, as well as the educational and learning philosophies. To this end, the course PBL activities utilized interrelated and mutually supportive assignments and projects where the assigned problems were not created equally (i.e., varying in complexity and structuredness). Through the evolution of problem-based course activities, the students were engaged in a service-based assignment in relation to the LEED certification process for a new on-campus building. Also, the associated student work was shared with the project developers for potential usage, and resulted in a peer-reviewed journal paper that is forthcoming in the Journal of Management in Engineering. The results and analysis associated with this study were comprised of PBL activity characterization, instructor evaluation of student performance, and student self-reflections of the course. The results suggest that even with increased complexity of PBL activities, students' performance increased throughout the semester. Although arriving with some resistance, students ultimately took ownership of the entire educational experience and completed a final open-ended, complex, and authentic service learning activity. Through engaging students in discussions and guiding their reflections on scientific material, instructors are regarded as facilitators and collaborators rather than sources of authority. This paper provides an example that could be followed by other engineering faculty in setting and planning big goals for engineering students.


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Artificial intelligence; Curricula; Education; Engineering education; Philosophical aspects; Planning; Sustainable development; Teaching, Active Learning; Educational experiences; Infrastructure systems; Instructor evaluations; Problem based learning; Service learning; Sustainable construction; Undergraduate students, Students

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1052-3928; 1943-5541

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2015 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jan 2015