New Course Teaches Students Sustainable Design & Rating Systems for Transportation & Neighborhood Development

A 3-hour, semester-long course on Sustainable Design and Rating Systems has been developed and taught on the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) campus during the fall semester of 2014. The class, which had 19 students enrolled (eight undergraduate and 11 graduate students), was team-taught by Dr. Robert W. Peters, professor of environmental engineering, and Dr. Virginia P. Sisiopiku, associate professor of transportation engineering.  The course addressed both environmental and transportation-related aspects of sustainable design. A series of course modules were developed focusing on sustainable transportation, smart location and linkage, neighborhood pattern and design, and green infrastructure and buildings. Topics covered transportation planning for sustainability, site design in support of livable and walkable communities, sustainability rating systems for highways and neighborhoods, smart location selection, brownfields redevelopment options, elements of certified green buildings, building energy and water efficiency, and stormwater, wastewater, and solid waste management infrastructure. The course is a product of a STRIDE funded project titled Development of Educational and Professional Training Modules on Green/Sustainability Design and Rating Systems for Neighborhood Development and Transportation [see abstract].

Invited guest lecturers included Dr. Julie Price, coordinator of sustainability on the UAB campus from the Facilities Management Department, and Mr. Rip Weaver, executive director at Aldridge Gardens in Hoover, Ala. Dr. Price’s presentation related to sustainability operations on the UAB campus, addressed recycling activities, environmental and energy management, alternative transportation initiatives, solar powered electric cars on campus, campus community gardens, etc. A photograph of Dr. Price presenting to the class is shown in the image below.

Mr. Rip Weaver’s presentation dealt with developing a livable/sustainable community in a small community (the town of Mt. Laurel) near Birmingham, Ala., making use of the topography of the site. The town utilized the existing drainage patterns and swales by developing a storm water sewerage system that distributed runoff into the natural systems in multiple points. As a part of the class assignments students engaged in literature review and synthesis, group exercises, design activities, and practiced technical writing and communication skills. In a class project, students worked in teams of four to apply Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) principles for evaluation of proposed Community Development Plans or Redevelopment Projects. Each project team presented their results as a presentation to the class and as a formal report.

The course helped students to better understand the role of transportation in sustainable development and reviewed planning and design practices for implementing sustainable transportation systems. Moreover, it presented the principles of sustainability rating systems for transportation and neighborhood development and described how brownfield and greyfield redevelopment/revitalization ties in with livable cities principles.

For more information, contact Dr. Robert Peters at rwpeters@uab.edu or Dr. Virginia Sisiopiku at vsisiopi@uab.edu.