Pitt | Swanson Engineering
News Listing

Feb

Feb
2
2017

Life-cycle assessment study provides detailed look at decentralized water systems

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (February 2, 2017) … The “decentralized” water system at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which treats all non-potable water on site, contributes to the net-zero building’s recognition as one of the greenest buildings in the world. However, research into the efficacy of these systems versus traditional treatment is practically non-existent in the literature. Thanks to a collaboration between Phipps and the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, researchers now have a greater understanding of the life cycle of water reuse systems designed for living buildings, from construction through day-to-day use.“Evaluating the Life Cycle Environmental Benefits and Trade-Offs of Water Reuse Systems for Net-Zero Buildings,” published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology (DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b03879), is the first-of-its-kind research utilizing life-cycle assessment (LCA). Co-authored by Melissa M. Bilec, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt and deputy director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI), collaborators at Phipps included Richard Piacentini, executive director; and Jason Wirick, director of facilities and sustainability management. Pitt PhD graduate student, Vaclav Hasik, and Pitt undergraduate, Naomi Anderson, were first and second authors, respectively. “As water becomes more of a precious resource around the globe, there is a greater focus on developing new methods of water efficiency and water conservation,” Dr. Bilec said. “We’ve worked closely with Richard and Phipps since the CSL was first designed, and its decentralized water system provides a unique opportunity to explore how these strategies can be an alternative to traditional systems.”According to Dr. Bilec, LCA scientifically analyzes the environmental impact of a product or process throughout the entire life cycle, from the materials used to build a system, to their transportation, construction, use, and, eventually, the estimated end of life. Although LCA has been used to compare centralized and decentralized water systems in different contexts, the Phipps CSL research is the first to consider both water supply and treatment at a comprehensive site or in the context of a net-zero energy/water building. “Using groundbreaking processes in the building of the CSL has allowed us to work with Pitt to conduct research and learn about their efficacy, and will allow others to use this knowledge to advance their own work,” said Mr. Piacentini, Phipps executive director. “The only way to make a difference is by providing the resources for others to succeed.”Dr. Bilec noted that while the research found that a decentralized water system operates well for a facility like the CSL, the environmental benefits or trade-offs for such systems are dependent upon their lifetime of use, and may not necessarily be practical or environmentally preferable.  For example, a similar system might be more environmentally and economically efficient for a development of multiple homes or buildings, rather than one structure. Conversely, the relative impact of a decentralized system built in a water-scarce region may be more beneficial than its environmental footprint. The decision of what water system to build and its scale, she says, should be evaluated within the context of the entire life of the structure or site it supports.She also noted that research such as this is valuable because of the community-minded approach shared between Pitt, MCSI and Phipps, and its impact on students. For example, PhD candidate Vaclav Hasik is utilizing the CSL study to inform his dissertation on resilient and sustainable systems, while summer undergraduate Mascaro Center researcher, Naomi E. Anderson, was a key participant, illustrating the success of MCSI’s summer program.“The CSL at Phipps is a tremendous case study because it has achieved four of the most sought-after awards in sustainable construction,” Dr. Bilec noted. “Richard, his board and employees are incredibly forward-thinking and committed to not only the concept of a living building but also supporting its evolution through research, and that makes Phipps a wonderful collaborator. Opportunities such as this not only advance research in the field, but also provide a tremendous experience and inspiration for students.” Other co-authors of “Evaluating the Life Cycle Environmental Benefits and Trade-Offs of Water Reuse Systems for Net-Zero Buildings” include William O. Collinge, postdoctoral associate, University of Pittsburgh; Vikas Khanna, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, University of Pittsburgh; Amy E. Landis, the Thomas F. Hash '69 Endowed Chair Professor, Glenn Department of Civil Engineering at Clemson University; and Cassandra L. Thiel, former postdoctoral associate, now assistant professor, New York University Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. ### Image above: The Center for Sustainable Landscapes exterior with constructed wetlands and lagoon at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Credit: Denmarsh Photography Inc. Image below: Diagram representing water circulation at the Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes. Reprinted with permission from "Evaluating the Life Cycle Environmental Benefits and Trade-Offs of Water Reuse Systems for Net-Zero Buildings," Environmental Science & Technology. Copyright 2017, American Chemical Society.
For information on Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, contact Connie George, Director of Marketing and Communications: 412-622-6915 ext. 3801 (market@phipps.conservatory.org)
Feb
1
2017

University of Pittsburgh set to launch Master of Science in Sustainable Engineering major and professional degree this summer

All SSoE News, Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (February 1, 2017) … Answering a demand for professional programs that help students find sustainable solutions to regional and global engineering issues, the University of Pittsburgh this summer has designed a new Master of Science in Sustainable Engineering (MSSE) program. The major and professional degree will utilize a systems-based approach to help students identify and address complex environmental and socioeconomic problems.Housed within the University’s Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) with the degree granted from the Swanson School of Engineering, the 30-credit MSSE integrates with nine current masters’ degree programs in engineering, and provides students the opportunity to complete two M.S. degree programs with a limited time increase. The MSSE curriculum combines an engineering technical formation with the study of sustainability from multiple perspectives such as business, policy and economics. “Sustainability is integrated throughout our engineering curriculum, especially at the undergraduate level, and this new master’s program complements and builds upon this foundation,” noted Eric J. Beckman, Distinguished Service Professor and MCSI Co-Director. “Industry, government, non-profits and even the military today understand that sustainability impacts the triple bottom line of environmental, societal, and economic problems, and is much more than recycling materials or “going green.” The MSSE will give our students a distinct advantage in pursuing sustainable solutions in various professional settings.”According to Dr. Beckman, the MSSE may also integrate community-based service-learning opportunities to help students develop regional and nationally scalable sustainability solutions. This provides students with experiences that enable them to address actual issues up close while learning to communicate sustainability issues and solutions to multiple audiences.“MCSI has a proven track record in connecting faculty research with underserved populations in the Pittsburgh region, and so this degree program will not be limited to the classroom and lab, but will also reach out into the communities that Pitt serves,” Dr. Beckman said. “Sustainability is a global issue, but its strength lies in community engagement and helping the average person understand how sustainability impacts daily life.” For more information, contact David Sanchez, Assistant Professor Civil and Environmental Engineering and MCSI Assistant Director for Education and Outreach at davidsanchez@pitt.edu or 412-624-9793. ###

Feb
1
2017

CEE’s Leanne Gilbertson Wins 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH, PA (February 1, 2017) … Leanne Gilbertson, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, is a recipient of the 2017 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award, which recognizes outstanding faculty on the basis of research, experience and academic leadership.“I am honored and grateful for the support from 3M, which comes at a critical point in my early career,” Gilbertson says. In addition to the recognition, the award provides financial support of $15,000 annually, for a total of three years, and includes an invitation to 3M’s Science & Engineering Faculty Day in June. Funds may be used for any purpose related to basic research. The 3M company established the Non-Tenured Faculty Award to encourage the pursuit of new ideas among non-tenured university professors and gives them the opportunity to interact with their peers and 3M researchers.Dr. Gilbertson’s research group is engaged in projects aimed at informing sustainable design of existing and novel materials to avoid potential unintended environmental and human health consequences while maintaining functional performance goals. Her research includes both experimental and life cycle modeling thrusts. The 3M award will support a new research direction focused on ‘Leveraging Nanomaterial Design for Next Generation Antimicrobials.’   Dr. Gilbertson earned her PhD in environmental engineering from Yale University in 2014 with support from a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and an Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowship. She joined Pitt in 2015 after completing her postdoctoral research in Yale’s Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering. Dr. Gilbertson received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Hamilton College in 2007 and was a secondary school teacher for several years before going to graduate school. ###
Author: Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Feb
1
2017

ASCE Pittsburgh Names Andrew Bunger 2016 Professor of the Year

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH, PA (February 1, 2017) … The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has chosen Andrew Bunger, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, as the 2016 Professor of the Year for the Pittsburgh Section. Bunger will receive the award at the Pittsburgh Section’s Engineer’s Week Banquet on February 18 at the Engineer’s Society of Western Pennsylvania.The ASCE Section Award Committee stated it selected Bunger for his continual excellence in teaching, contribution to professional guidance and the development of civil engineering students by reinvigorating the geotechnical engineering program at the University of Pittsburgh, among other criteria.Bunger’s research interests include the mechanics of hydraulic fractures, interaction between shale formations and drilling fluids, the emplacement dynamics of magma intrusions, core discing and poroelasticity. His experience includes research for the oil and gas industry, geothermal industry, mining industries and carbon sequestration.The National Science Foundation also recognized Bunger earlier this year by awarding him a $310,000 grant to study how naturally-occurring dikes swarms can lead to improved methods of oil and gas reservoir stimulation. The study will look at the 1,900-mile-long Mackenzie Dike Swarm and other ancient geological features to determine the mechanics of the self-organizing behavior within swarms. Bunger will investigate why naturally occurring dike swarms organize themselves uniformly across great distances, but man-made cracks associated with hydraulic fracturing tend to localize to one or two dominant strands.Bunger received his PhD and MSc in geological engineering from the University of Minnesota. He also received a bachelor’s degree in geological engineering from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor of arts degree in physics/engineering science from Bethel University. He has a second appointment in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at Pitt. ###
Author: Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Jan

Jan
19
2017

Geosciences-Inspired Engineering

Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (January 19, 2017) … The Mackenzie Dike Swarm, an ancient geological feature covering an area more than 300 miles wide and 1,900 miles long beneath Canada from the Arctic to the Great Lakes, is the largest dike swarm on Earth. Formed more than one billion years ago, the swarm’s geology discloses insights into major magmatic events and continental breakup. The Mackenzie Dike Swarm and the roughly 120 other known giant dike swarms located across the planet may also provide useful information about efficient extraction of oil and natural gas in today’s modern world. To explore how naturally-occurring dike swarms can lead to improved methods of oil and gas reservoir stimulation, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Earth Sciences awarded a $310,000 award to Andrew Bunger, assistant professor in the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering. Dike swarms are the result of molten rock (magma) rising from depth and then driving cracks through the Earth’s crust. Dike swarms exhibit a self-organizing behavior that allows hundreds of individual dikes to fan out across large distances. Although petroleum engineers desire to achieve the same effect when creating hydraulic fractures for stimulation of oil and gas production, the industrial hydraulic fractures appear far more likely to localize to only one or two dominant strands. This localization leaves 30-40 percent of most reservoirs in an unproductive state, representing an inefficient use of resources and leading to unnecessary intensity of oil and gas development. In the study, “Self-Organization Mechanisms within Magma-Driven Dyke and Hydraulic Fracture Swarms,” Bunger will take a novel approach to understanding the mechanics of fluid-driven cracks, which he refers to as “geosciences-inspired engineering.” Like the growing field of biologically-inspired engineering, Bunger will be looking to processes in the natural world to better understand the constructed or engineered world. “I would like to challenge myself and the geoscience community to look at naturally occurring morphologies with the eye of an engineer,” says Bunger. “The first part of the study will involve developing a mechanical model to explain the behavior of the dike swarms. We are borrowing from a theoretical framework developed in biology called ‘swarm theory,’ which explains the self-organizing behavior of groups of animals.” Swarm theory, or swarm intelligence, refers to naturally and artificially occurring complex systems with no centralized control structure. The individual agents in the system exhibit simple or even random behavior, but collectively the group achieves emergent, or “intelligent,” behavior. “One of the hallmarks of self-organizing behavior within swarms was recognized by swarm theory’s earliest proponents, who were actually motivated by developing algorithms to simulate flocks and herds in computer animation,” Bunger explains. “They proposed that all swarming behavior can be tied to the presence of three basic forces. One of these leads to alignment of the members with each other – it is what makes a flocking bird fly in the same direction as its neighbors. A second force is associated with repulsion – it keeps birds within a flock from running into each other and knocking each other out of the air. The third force is attraction – an often instinctive desire of certain animals to be near other animals of their own species, typically for protection from predators.” “If you look at dike swarms,” Bunger continues, “They have been called ‘swarms’ for decades, but there has never been an effort to identify the mechanical origins of the three forces that are known to be present any place that swarming morphology is observed. When we view dikes in this way, we see that the alignment and repulsive forces have been recognized for years, although never placed in the broader context of their role in swarming. However, the origin of the attractive force is problematic. Why do all these dikes have any mechanical impetus to grow near each other? Because the mechanical origin of the attractive force has not been known, it is unclear why natural fluid-driven cracks – dikes – tend to exhibit swarming behavior while such an outcome is far less commonly observed in man-made fluid-driven cracks associated with hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas reservoirs.” “We will use computational models and analogue experiments, which use artificial materials to simulate the Earth’s processes, to develop a new theory of fluid-driven crack swarms,” says Bunger. “Through this advance, we would like to improve the stimulation methods used for oil and gas production. This will be a win-win for both industry and our society that depends upon the energy resources they produce. Industry will benefit from more efficient methods, and society will benefit from lower energy costs and a decreased environmental footprint associated with resource extraction.” In addition to a deeper understanding of the geological process that occur throughout Earth’s history, Bunger also sees his research impacting planetary research of Mars and Venus. Both rocky planets contain a large number of giant dike swarms. Understanding how the geometry of dike swarms relates to the conditions in the Earth’s crust at the time of emplacement will lead to a new method for ascertaining the little-known geological structure and history of Mars and Venus though analysis of the geometry of their many giant dike swarms. ### Photo above: Dr. Bunger in his Benedum Hall lab with the newly-installed compression frame he uses to simulate the high-stress environment deep inside the Earth.
Author: Matthew Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Jan
4
2017

CEE Graduate Student Lisa Stabryla Inducted into Carson Scholarship Fund Hall of Fame

Civil & Environmental

BALTIMORE, MD (January 4, 2017) … The Carson Scholars Fund (CSF) has announced Lisa Stabryla, graduate researcher and teaching assistant in the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will enter its second class of inductees to the Carson Scholars Hall of Fame. Stabryla will join four other Carson Scholar Alumni at the Maryland Awards Banquet in spring 2017 for recognition of their success and excellence in professional, academic and community efforts.The CSF has an alumni network of more than 4,000 members and introduced the Hall of Fame with 20 inductees last year in celebration of its 20th anniversary. Stabryla received a $1,000 college scholarship from CSF in 2010 for academic excellence and her dedication to serving the community. She earned a B.S. in engineering science from Pitt and is currently pursuing a PhD in environmental engineering under the advisory of Dr. Leanne Gilbertson, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering.“We are very proud of Lisa and delighted that her dedication as a student, researcher, teacher, mentor and leader continues to be recognized by the Carson Scholars Fund,” said Gilbertson.About Lisa StabrylaStabryla joined Dr. Gilbertson’s lab in 2016 as a graduate researcher and teaching assistant. Previously she worked as an undergraduate student researcher in the Bibby Lab and the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI). During a co-operative education position with Cardno ChemRisk in Pittsburgh, PA, she co-authored a scientific publication published in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology. She has also interned with the Allegheny County Office of the Medical Examiner and the McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine at Pitt.In addition to her many academic accomplishments, Stabryla volunteered for the Fund for Advancement of Minorities through Education as a MATHCOUNTS instructor. In this role, she developed creative methods for teaching inner city African American middle school students in Pittsburgh. She volunteered with the INVESTING NOW Summer Enrichment Program at Pitt and helped introduce underrepresented high school students to sustainability concepts through building miniature wind turbines and solar cells. Stabryla also participated in the MCSI Teach-the-Teacher Workshop to help engage middle school teachers to adopt sustainability and engineering practices into the classroom. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer