IRES: A Global Perspective on Engineering Sustainable Building Systems

Project: Research project

Project Details


The Principal Investigator, Dr. Esther Obonyo of the University of Florida, will lead 15 US undergraduate and graduate students in carrying out research in construction engineering in partnership with Eco-Build Africa in Nairobi, Kenya.

There is a global interest in issues such as design and management of buildings, materials and building performance, energy and resource consumption. The aim of this proposal is to create International Research Experiences for Students in construction engineering. The focus of the program will be on giving undergraduate, Masters and Ph. D. students an opportunity to acquire a global perspective on developing innovations that can make construction processes, products and services more sustainable, in the context of building in Nairobi. The specific research objectives are: 1) To characterize the differences in approaches to sustainable construction engineering between developed countries, such as the USA, and developing countries, such as Kenya, and define a framework for global learning; 2) To investigate the appropriateness of construction engineering approaches used by the different types of builders in developing economies using suitable assessment models; 3) To contextualize innovative and low cost use of building materials, water and sanitation systems that are both sustainable and affordable; 4) To demonstrate sustainable building systems that exploit cross-fertilization of ideas across the different regions in the research.

The corresponding education plan will prime construction engineers for the challenges associated with globalization by 1) improving their understanding of contextual issues through international experiences; 2) facilitating problem-focused and team-based learning; and (3) developing new educational materials based on the students research. Existing courses in Sustainable Construction provide the forum for implementing the proposed pedagogy and integrating elements of the research program into the classroom. The plan for the research will promote active and cooperative student learning, which develops important engineering and management attributes. Finally, this initiative will create specific educational products including web-based and multimedia curriculum modules for use by a wider audience including industry based professionals.

The project will advance scientific knowledge by enabling scholars in the United States and Kenya to combine complementary talents and share research resources in areas of strong mutual interest and competence.

Intellectual merit: Contribution to improving construction engineering practices both in Kenya and the US through capturing best practices, the evolution of a new framework for assessing the suitability of various construction engineering strategies and the incorporation of internationally tested sustainable construction methodologies in construction engineering education.

Broader impact: Contribution to the worldwide inventory of possibly appropriate tools and technologies, establishment of the appropriateness of such tools and technologies, definition of the required adaptation and the required research and development support of such adaptation. The program will also specifically set out to recruit minority students. In addition, the experiences will facilitate early career introduction of U.S. graduate and undergraduate students to leading scholars and professionals within the international research community who are involved in the advancement of sustainable practices within the Built Environment.

Effective start/end date5/1/084/30/12


  • National Science Foundation: $148,104.00


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