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Special Issue "Global Engineering and Sustainable Development"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Engineering and Science".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 July 2020) | Viewed by 22558

Special Issue Editor

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Evan Thomas
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Mortenson Center in Global Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
Interests: global engineering; global health; water; sanitation; agriculture; energy; ICT4D; remote sensing
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The role of engineers in contributing to global poverty reduction and the Sustainable Development Goals is evolving. Typically, the engineer’s role in addressing global poverty challenges has often been confined to community, regional or national scale service interventions and product design and development. Nevertheless, despite fifty years of these approaches, over half the world’s population still lives on less than $5.50 a day, the global burden of disease in low-income countries is overwhelmingly attributable to environmental health issues, and climate change is already negatively impacting people, most significantly in developing countries. The conventional engineering approaches to poverty reduction are insufficient to address the Sustainable Development Goals. The emerging field of Global Engineering can address these structural issues, through developing and validating methods, tools, and standards that are broadly useful. Global Engineering envisions a world in which everyone has safe water, sanitation, energy, food, shelter and infrastructure and can live in health, dignity, and prosperity.

The aim and scope of this Special Issue of Sustainability is to present and review emerging engineering methods, technologies, and evidence that work to address the unequal and unjust distribution of access to basic services such as water, sanitation, energy, food, transportation, and shelter. Examples may include technology and methods development and validation, data collection, and impact evaluations that can contribute to evidence-based influence on policies and practice. Examples may place an emphasis on identifying the drivers, determinants, and solutions favoring equitable access to basic services. 

Papers selected for this Special Issue will be subject to a rigorous peer review procedure with the aim of rapid and wide dissemination of research results, developments, and applications.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Evan Thomas
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Global Engineering
  • Sustainable Development
  • Global Health

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Research

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Article
Integration of Household Water Filters with Community-Based Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion—A Process Evaluation and Assessment of Use among Households in Rwanda
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 1615; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13041615 - 03 Feb 2021
Viewed by 2374
Abstract
Unsafe drinking water contributes to diarrheal disease and is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in low-income contexts, especially among children under five years of age. Household-level water treatment interventions have previously been deployed in Rwanda to address microbial contamination of drinking [...] Read more.
Unsafe drinking water contributes to diarrheal disease and is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in low-income contexts, especially among children under five years of age. Household-level water treatment interventions have previously been deployed in Rwanda to address microbial contamination of drinking water. In this paper, we describe an effort to integrate best practices regarding distribution and promotion of a household water filter with an on-going health behavior messaging program. We describe the implementation of this program and highlight key roles including the evaluators who secured overall funding and conducted a water quality and health impact trial, the promoters who were experts in the technology and behavioral messaging, and the implementers who were responsible for product distribution and education. In January 2019, 1023 LifeStraw Family 2.0 household water filters were distributed in 30 villages in the Rwamagana District of Rwanda. Approximately a year after distribution, 99.5% of filters were present in the household, and water was observed in 95.1% of filters. Compared to another recent water filter program in Rwanda, a lighter-touch engagement with households and supervision of data collection was observed, while also costing approximately twice per household compared to the predecessor program. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Engineering and Sustainable Development)
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Article
Identifying Water Crossings in Rural Liberia and Rwanda Using Remote and Field-Based Methods
Sustainability 2021, 13(2), 527; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13020527 - 08 Jan 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 931
Abstract
Safe and consistent access to essential services is critical for poverty alleviation in rural communities, but even significant physical transportation barriers, such as pedestrian water crossings, are poorly mapped, leaving the scope of need for rural trailbridges largely unknown. Field-based efforts to catalogue [...] Read more.
Safe and consistent access to essential services is critical for poverty alleviation in rural communities, but even significant physical transportation barriers, such as pedestrian water crossings, are poorly mapped, leaving the scope of need for rural trailbridges largely unknown. Field-based efforts to catalogue those barriers can be effective but are costly and time-consuming. The study described here details field-based methods for identifying pedestrian water crossings in rural Liberia and Rwanda, as well as remote methods, to evaluate their effectiveness and potential application for assessing future rural infrastructure networks. The work highlights challenges, addresses components of the field-based method that limit scalability on a global level, and outlines a way forward for future endeavors to identify pedestrian water crossings. Overall, the most effective remote method applied in this study identified 16 percent of the crossings identified using field-based methods in the same area of interest in Liberia, and 72 percent of the crossings identified using field-based methods in the same area of interest in Rwanda. The field-based method remains the most effective method for bridge site identification, though the significant resources required for an effective field study underscore the need for greater investment in remote methods. Additionally, as neither method alone yields results that fully encapsulate bridge need, the authors recommend a blended approach that incorporates a more sophisticated remote method with streamlined field-based methods that leverage existing local knowledge and expertise. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Engineering and Sustainable Development)
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Article
Characterization and Prediction of Fecal Sludge Parameters and Settling Behavior in Informal Settlements in Nairobi, Kenya
Sustainability 2020, 12(21), 9040; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12219040 - 30 Oct 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1646
Abstract
The safe management of fecal sludge (FS) relies on different treatments, processes, and disposal options in different contexts. Waste transfer stations can improve FS management particularly in resource-constrained areas, including low-income urban informal settlements, by providing a safe discharge and treatment location. Low-footprint [...] Read more.
The safe management of fecal sludge (FS) relies on different treatments, processes, and disposal options in different contexts. Waste transfer stations can improve FS management particularly in resource-constrained areas, including low-income urban informal settlements, by providing a safe discharge and treatment location. Low-footprint options for FS treatment are sensitive to the characteristics of incoming FS, which are typically highly variable, difficult to predict, and differ significantly from the characteristics of traditional wastewater. The success of low-footprint technologies relies on the monitoring of incoming FS characteristics, such as total solids (TS), total suspended solids (TSS), chemical oxygen demand (COD), ammonia, electrical conductivity (EC), and pH. Monitoring the characteristics of incoming FS typically relies on the use of a laboratory, which can be expensive and time-consuming, particularly in resource-constrained areas. Useful correlations between easy to measure parameters and difficult to measure parameters may provide useful information related to the monitoring of FS, while reducing the need for laboratory analysis. In this paper, we describe a sampling campaign at a waste transfer station in Nairobi, Kenya managed by Sanergy Inc., to characterize and observe settling behavior of FS collected from manually emptied pit latrines. The investigation found that easy to measure parameters (e.g., TS, turbidity) could be used to approximate difficult to measure parameters (COD, TSS). Additionally, rapid measurements (turbidity) could be used to approximate time-intensive parameters (TS, COD, TSS) to aid in the design, operation and monitoring of FS treatment facilities in resource and space-constrained areas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Engineering and Sustainable Development)
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Article
Monitoring Methods for Systems-Strengthening Activities Toward Sustainable Water and Sanitation Services in Low-Income Settings
Sustainability 2020, 12(17), 7044; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12177044 - 29 Aug 2020
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 1389
Abstract
To address the complex challenge of sustaining basic water and sanitation services in low income settings, international organizations and local and national government entities are beginning to design and implement interventions explicitly aimed at addressing system weaknesses. Often referred to as “systems approaches,” [...] Read more.
To address the complex challenge of sustaining basic water and sanitation services in low income settings, international organizations and local and national government entities are beginning to design and implement interventions explicitly aimed at addressing system weaknesses. Often referred to as “systems approaches,” these interventions seek to understand, engage with, and positively influence the network of actors and the interacting factors that deliver services. As WASH sector assistance and support activities shift toward systems approaches, many associated intermediate results and desired outcomes become less quantifiable than those of more traditional WASH activities. This paper reviews systems approaches, evaluation methodologies, and several applications in East Africa, at varying geographic scales. Early findings from the application of outcome mapping and system-wide assessments within the USAID-funded Sustainable WASH Systems Learning Partnership (SWS) indicate the importance of including both within an overall monitoring approach to support systems strengthening of water and sanitation services. The views and opinions expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views and opinions of the United States Agency for International Development, or the U.S. Government. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Engineering and Sustainable Development)
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Article
A System Dynamics Model of Supply-Side Issues Influencing Beef Consumption in Nigeria
Sustainability 2020, 12(8), 3241; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12083241 - 16 Apr 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1524
Abstract
The per capita consumption of beef in Nigeria is reducing amidst a rising population that is dependent on beef as a major source of animal protein. In this paper, a system dynamics (SD) model was developed with the aim of testing exploratory policies [...] Read more.
The per capita consumption of beef in Nigeria is reducing amidst a rising population that is dependent on beef as a major source of animal protein. In this paper, a system dynamics (SD) model was developed with the aim of testing exploratory policies aimed at reversing this trend. The simulations of various policy tests showed that, of all the policies tested, having a higher carcass yield seems to be the most efficient solution, but its feasibility faces some steep biological and ecological challenges. However, a combination of policies that cuts across the land–cattle–market nexus is necessary to obtain a consumption level that almost meets the World Health Organization (WHO) standards for recommended animal protein intake. Complex inter-linked systems, like beef production and consumption, require a systemic approach that considers dynamic feedback to avoid fixes that fail or shift the burden when making policy decisions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Engineering and Sustainable Development)
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Article
An Integrated Sensor Data Logging, Survey, and Analytics Platform for Field Research and Its Application in HAPIN, a Multi-Center Household Energy Intervention Trial
Sustainability 2020, 12(5), 1805; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12051805 - 28 Feb 2020
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 1428
Abstract
Researchers rely on sensor-derived data to gain insights on numerous human behaviors and environmental characteristics. While commercially available data-logging sensors can be deployed for a range of measurements, there have been limited resources for integrated hardware, software, and analysis platforms targeting field researcher [...] Read more.
Researchers rely on sensor-derived data to gain insights on numerous human behaviors and environmental characteristics. While commercially available data-logging sensors can be deployed for a range of measurements, there have been limited resources for integrated hardware, software, and analysis platforms targeting field researcher use cases. In this paper, we describe Geocene, an integrated sensor data logging, survey, and analytics platform for field research. We provide an example of Geocene’s ongoing use in the Household Air Pollution Intervention Network (HAPIN). HAPIN is a large, multi-center, randomized controlled trial evaluating the impacts of a clean cooking fuel and stove intervention in Guatemala, India, Peru, and Rwanda. The platform includes Bluetooth-enabled, data-logging temperature sensors; a mobile application to survey participants, provision sensors, download sensor data, and tag sensor missions with metadata; and a cloud-based application for data warehousing, visualization, and analysis. Our experience deploying the Geocene platform within HAPIN suggests that the platform may have broad applicability to facilitate sensor-based monitoring and evaluation efforts and projects. This data platform can unmask heterogeneity in study participant behavior by using sensors that capture both compliance with and utilization of the intervention. Platforms like this could help researchers measure adoption of technology, collect more robust intervention and covariate data, and improve study design and impact assessments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Engineering and Sustainable Development)
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Article
Understanding Rural Water Services as a Complex System: An Assessment of Key Factors as Potential Leverage Points for Improved Service Sustainability
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 1243; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12031243 - 09 Feb 2020
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 2547
Abstract
Rural water supply services worldwide consistently fail to deliver full public health impacts as intended due to a low service sustainability. This failure is increasingly attributed to weak local systems composed of social, financial and environmental factors. Current approaches in the water, sanitation [...] Read more.
Rural water supply services worldwide consistently fail to deliver full public health impacts as intended due to a low service sustainability. This failure is increasingly attributed to weak local systems composed of social, financial and environmental factors. Current approaches in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector for understanding and improving these systems typically focus on the strength and capacity of these factors, but not the interactions between them. We contend that these approaches overlook the inherent complexity and context-specific nature of each local system. To assess this complexity, we conducted four participatory factor mapping workshops with local stakeholders across multiple rural water contexts to identify the factors and interactions that support service sustainability. We then evaluate the potential for factors to act as strategic leverage points based on influence, dependence and feedback metrics that arise from their interactions with other factors. We find that while participants across the contexts tend to identify a common set of factors, the interactions amongst those factors and their individual ability to influence service sustainability varies considerably across contexts. These findings suggest that a more intentional focus on factor interactions in WASH systems could lead to more effective strategies for improving service sustainability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Engineering and Sustainable Development)
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Article
Understanding Thermal Impact of Roads on Permafrost Using Normalized Spectral Entropy
Sustainability 2019, 11(24), 7177; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11247177 - 15 Dec 2019
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 939
Abstract
Permafrost is characterized by low temperature, and its thermal stability is key to geohydrological cycles, energy exchange, and climate regulation. Increasing engineering activities, i.e., road construction and operations, are affecting the thermal stability in permafrost regions and have already led to the degradation [...] Read more.
Permafrost is characterized by low temperature, and its thermal stability is key to geohydrological cycles, energy exchange, and climate regulation. Increasing engineering activities, i.e., road construction and operations, are affecting the thermal stability in permafrost regions and have already led to the degradation of permafrost and caused environmental problems. To understand the spatiotemporal influence of road construction and operations on the thermal dynamics in permafrost regions, we conducted a study in the Ela Mountain Pass where multiple roads intersect on the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau (QTP) and calculated the thermal dynamics from 2000 to 2017 using normalized spectral entropy (measuring the disorderliness of time-series data). Our results indicate that road level is a significant influencing factor, where high-level roads (expressways) exhibit stronger thermal impacts than low-level roads (province- and county-level roads). Our results also indicate that duration of operation is the most significant factor that determines the thermal impacts of roads on permafrost: the thermal impacts of the newly paved expressway are positively related to elevation, while the thermal impacts of the old expressway are positively related to less vegetated areas. The study provides an excellent method for understanding the spatiotemporal impacts of engineering activities on the temperature dynamics in permafrost regions, thereby helping policymakers in China and other countries to better plan their infrastructure projects to avoid environmentally vulnerable regions. The study also calls for advanced techniques in road maintenance, which can reduce the accumulated disturbance of road operations on permafrost regions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Engineering and Sustainable Development)
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Article
Product Design Supporting Improved Water, Sanitation, and Energy Services Delivery in Low-Income Settings
Sustainability 2019, 11(23), 6717; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11236717 - 27 Nov 2019
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1534
Abstract
Several approaches have been proposed in the literature supporting product design applied in low-income settings. These approaches have typically focused on individual- and household-level beneficiaries, with an emphasis on participatory, human-centered co-design methods. In this paper, we present a design approach that is, [...] Read more.
Several approaches have been proposed in the literature supporting product design applied in low-income settings. These approaches have typically focused on individual- and household-level beneficiaries, with an emphasis on participatory, human-centered co-design methods. In this paper, we present a design approach that is, in contrast, focused on supporting providers of improved water, sanitation, and energy services. We establish requirements for design in these contexts, especially addressing design iteration. We describe sets of feedback systems between designers and various sources of expert knowledge, codifying roles of design stakeholders in this context. We demonstrate these principles across three case studies: a sanitation service monitoring technology in Kenya; a water flowmeter technology in Kenya; and a water storage monitoring technology in Sierra Leone. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Engineering and Sustainable Development)
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Article
Engineering for Peace and Diplomacy
Sustainability 2019, 11(20), 5646; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11205646 - 14 Oct 2019
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 2360
Abstract
A sustainable world must be a peaceful world, or it will not be. Engineers in the twenty-first century need to be more than providers of technical solutions, they also need to play an active role in peacebuilding efforts and contribute to diplomacy. This [...] Read more.
A sustainable world must be a peaceful world, or it will not be. Engineers in the twenty-first century need to be more than providers of technical solutions, they also need to play an active role in peacebuilding efforts and contribute to diplomacy. This paper discusses the importance of developing peace engineering programs to educate global engineers with the attitudes, hard and soft skills, and knowledge necessary to work in the complex and challenging context of human development in their lifetime. There is an urgent need to develop an international community of practice in peace engineering and engineering diplomacy. The engineering profession must contribute to a culture of peace and take the lead in developing a peace-industrial complex. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Engineering and Sustainable Development)
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Article
Factors Influencing Revenue Collection for Preventative Maintenance of Community Water Systems: A Fuzzy-Set Qualitative Comparative Analysis
Sustainability 2019, 11(13), 3726; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11133726 - 08 Jul 2019
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 3103
Abstract
This study analyzed combinations of conditions that influence regular payments for water service in resource-limited communities. To do so, the study investigated 16 communities participating in a new preventive maintenance program in the Kamuli District of Uganda under a public–private partnership framework. First, [...] Read more.
This study analyzed combinations of conditions that influence regular payments for water service in resource-limited communities. To do so, the study investigated 16 communities participating in a new preventive maintenance program in the Kamuli District of Uganda under a public–private partnership framework. First, this study identified conditions posited as important for collective payment compliance from a literature review. Then, drawing from data included in a water source report and by conducting semi-structured interviews with households and water user committees (WUC), we identified communities that were compliant with, or suspended from, preventative maintenance service payments. Through qualitative analyses of these data and case knowledge, we identified and characterized conditions that appeared to contribute to these outcomes. Then, we employed fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA) to determine the combinations of conditions that led to payment compliance. Overall, the findings from this study reveal distinct pathways of conditions that impact payment compliance and reflect the multifaceted nature of water point sustainability. Practically, the findings identify the processes needed for successful payment compliance, which include a strong WUC with proper support and training, user perceptions that the water quality is high and available in adequate quantities, ongoing support, and a lack of nearby water sources. A comprehensive understanding of the combined factors that lead to payment compliance can improve future preventative maintenance programs, guide the design of water service arrangements, and ultimately increase water service sustainability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Engineering and Sustainable Development)
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Opinion
Toward a New Field of Global Engineering
Sustainability 2019, 11(14), 3789; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11143789 - 11 Jul 2019
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 1995
Abstract
The Engineer’s role in addressing global poverty challenges has often been confined to village and community-scale interventions, product design and development, or large-scale infrastructure design and construction. Yet despite fifty years of these approaches, over half the world’s population still lives on less [...] Read more.
The Engineer’s role in addressing global poverty challenges has often been confined to village and community-scale interventions, product design and development, or large-scale infrastructure design and construction. Yet despite fifty years of these approaches, over half the world’s population still lives on less than $5.50 a day, the global burden of disease in low-income countries is overwhelmingly attributable to environmental health contaminants, and climate change is already negatively affecting people in developing countries. The conventional community, product or infrastructure focuses of development engineering is insufficient to address these global drivers that perpetuate poverty. The emerging field of Global Engineering can work to identify and address these structural issues. Global Engineering should be concerned with the unequal and unjust distribution of access to basic services such as water, sanitation, energy, food, transportation and shelter, and place an emphasis on identifying the drivers, determinants and solutions favoring equitable access. Technology development and validation, data collection and impact evaluation can contribute to evidence-based influence on policies and practice. Global Engineering envisions a world in which everyone has safe water, sanitation, energy, food, shelter and infrastructure, and can live in health, dignity, and prosperity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Engineering and Sustainable Development)
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