This project supports a planning visit for the US PIs (Gallagher, Spatari, and Bartoli), three graduate students and one undergraduate student to meet with UK Professor Soga and his graduate students at the University of Cambridge. Both groups are pioneering the use of life cycle assessment (LCA) methods in geotechnical engineering. During this visit the PIs will catalyze collaboration and explore the synergies of developing, adapting, and integrating LCA methods in geotechnical decision making, particularly as they relate to geotechnical engineering?s role in designing resilient and sustainable infrastructure. A follow on 2011-2012 workshop is planned. Because geotechnics involves using relatively large amounts of materials, at times employs heavy construction equipment that consumes large amounts of fuel and at times changes the natural landscape, successful incorporation of LCA into geotechnical engineering could have a significant impact on the environmental sustainability of major projects. This project also integrates research and education by providing US students with the opportunity to discuss research that is at an early development state with their peers at a foreign university.

Project Report

This project enabled US Professors Gallagher, Spatari, and Bartoli, two graduate students and one undergraduate student to travel to the University of Cambridge to meet and initiate research on sustainable geotechnics and smart infrastructure with UK Professor Soga and his graduate students. During February 2012, the US participants traveled to Cambridge, UK to meet with Professor Soga, his collaborators, and doctoral students at University of Cambridge to exchange research ideas through a planned set of meetings, seminars, and panel discussions. Both research groups are pioneering the use of life cycle assessment (LCA) methods in geotechnical engineering. The US participants in this grant also engaged in a day-long meeting with industry in London at the consulting company Arup headquarters. The researchers were involved in extensive discussions and meetings focused on the use of emerging sensing technologies for the monitoring of civil infrastructures and their role on LCA of geotechnical systems. Drexel researchers were exposed to the recent studies of Prof. Soga that leverage state of the art distributed strain measurements through fiber optics, wireless sensors, micro electro-mechanical sensors and power harvesting to monitor and inspect underground structures. The February visit was instrumental for catalyzing collaboration with Professor Soga and his colleagues as the two research groups are exploring collaboration on joint research papers on LCA of different geotechnical "objects" and developing a proposal for a workshop on sustainable geotechnics to be submitted to NSF. The workshop proposal will involve US experts in geotechnical engineering and industrial ecology, international experts from Europe and Asia, and stakeholders from academia, industry and government/public policy. Over the summer of 2012, PI (Gallagher) and co-PI (Spatari) planned a follow-up meeting with Professor Soga and then visited his group with two Drexel students (one graduate, Marcellus; one undergraduate, Cordi) in October to develop plans for the workshop proposal. In March, 2013, PI Gallagher attended the Thermo-active Geotechnical Systems for Near-surface Geothermal Energy International Workshop at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. The purpose of the workshop was to explore the use of these systems as a sustainable geoengineering practice and to discuss and identify the technical and non-technical barriers involved in the implementation of thermo-active geotechnical systems. PI Gallagher explored the synergies between the topics covered in the Thermo-Active Geotechnical Systems workshop and the workshop that is being developed based on this grant. The two visits to Cambridge UK were highly valuable to the researchers as they allowed them to define key research areas for development as focused research themes in geotechnical engineering. A two by two matrix was developed that outlines key geotechnical "objects" (x-axis) for analysis within a life cycle framework (y-axis). Selected geotechnical/geoenvironmental applications include retaining walls, foundations, roads, tunnels, excavations, and landfills. The matrix was a focus for the follow-up meetings in October 2012 for planning research discussion and workshop tasks to be outlined by invited participants. During the October 2012 visit the researchers developed an outline and drafted a workshop proposal to be submitted to the Geotechnical Engineering Division at NSF. Briefly, the proposed workshop identifies US researchers in geotechnical engineering, industrial ecology, and building/construction management specialists engaged in sustainable buildings research to participate in a 2-day workshop to be held at the University of Cambridge in 2014. Intellectual Merit. Two research groups are pioneering the use of life cycle assessment (LCA) methods to incorporate sustainability metrics in geotechnical engineering, one in the US and one in the UK. This visit brought them together to catalyze collaboration and explore the synergies of developing, adapting, and integrating LCA methods in geotechnical decision making, particularly as they relate to geotechnical engineering’s role in designing resilient and sustainable infrastructure. The visit will result in the submission of a workshop proposal to the Geotechnical Engineering Program in the Resilient and Sustainable Infrastructures Cluster within CMMI. Broader Impacts. This planning grant included the participation of two assistant professors, two PhD students, and two undergraduate students. Four of the participants are women. The collaborative knowledge transfer between the two research groups has created a synergy that will facilitate rapid incorporation of life cycle methods in geotechnical engineering decision making. The participants learned about international trends and business practices with respect to incorporating sustainability in design. The experience was broadened by inclusion of an expert in structural health monitoring, who elucidated the potential of novel sensors and wireless sensing networks for condition monitoring of underground infrastructures. By its very nature, the activity provided the researchers with a rich foreign experience that enabled them to broaden their research perspectives and engender a greater cultural awareness. It integrated research and education by providing the students with the opportunity to discuss research that is at an early development state with their peers at a foreign university; thus, it enabled them to include an international perspective as they complete their research.

Agency
National Science Foundation (NSF)
Institute
Office of International and Integrative Activities (IIA)
Type
Standard Grant (Standard)
Application #
1132960
Program Officer
Alexandra Stepanian
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
2011-08-15
Budget End
2013-07-31
Support Year
Fiscal Year
2011
Total Cost
$32,130
Indirect Cost
Name
Drexel University
Department
Type
DUNS #
City
Philadelphia
State
PA
Country
United States
Zip Code
19104