EME 807
Technologies for Sustainability Systems

1.0 Overview


This first lesson of the course reviews some important definitions related to sustainability and sustainable development. We start with very general concepts and then narrow it down to specific principles and how they apply to technologies. Understanding the role of technology in sustainable society is central to this course. As we go from one topic to another, we will always return to the practical question: Is this particular method, product, or design good for our future or should we better look for alternatives? This lesson sets the context. We get introduced to the principles of sustainable design and sustainable engineering and see how they can direct our thinking, innovation, and eventually lifestyle. This lesson also includes introduction to the systems analysis, which becomes an effective tool in understanding interactions between environmental, economic, and social factors in sustainable development.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Understand definitions and prinicples of sustainable development;
  • Understand how these principles apply to design and engineering;
  • Recall the basics of the systems analysis and apply this approach to a simple system as an example;
  • Identify the role of technology in sustainability framework.


You will be asked to read the following items throughout your lesson. Look for these readings in the required reading boxes throughout the lesson pages.

Book chapter: C.U. Becker, Sustainability Ethics and Sustainability Research, Ch. 2. Meaning of Sustainability, Springer 2012, pages 9-15.

UN Document: Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future, Chapter 2, Geneva, Switzerland, March 20, 1987.

Web article: Daly, H., From a Failed Growth Economy to a Steady-State Economy, in The Encyclopedia of Earth, 2009.

Web article: Ellis, E., Overpopulation is not the Problem, New York Times, Sept.13, 2013.

Book chapter: F.M. Vanek and L.D. Albright, Energy Systems Engineering. Evaluation and Implementation, McGraw Hill, 2008 – Chapter 2 Systems Tools for Energy Systems, pp. 23-45. (this chapter is on electronic reserve)


The directly linked materials are available on the web. The items that do not contain direct link can be accessed electronically through Penn State Library system.


If you have any questions, please post them to our Questions? discussion forum, located on the the Modules page in Canvas. You can use this space to chat about course topics or to ask questions. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses if you are able to help out a classmate.