Instituto Superior Técnico

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Thinking Green Project – Técnico

Tuesday, November 8th, 2022

Research, Development and Innovation ● 2022

Available in PT

The “Thinking Green” Project consists of a set of scientific experiments, linked to teaching and research from several Técnico R&D centres, which proposes to develop an integrated plan of small-scale initiatives to be carried out outside the Alameda Campus.

Pilot courses on “Life Cycle Assessment of Construction”

Tuesday, November 8th, 2022

Educação Superior● 2022

Pilot courses on “Life Cycle Assessment of Construction”


 Practice Implementation

The candidate become an expert on the environmental and economic Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of materials, assemblies and buildings (LCA of Construction) after completing his PhD in this area in 2012. After that, in 2015, there was an increasing interest of the students that the candidate was supervising, and of other MSc and PhD students of the Department of Civil Engineering, Architecture and Georesources (DECivil), in this area of knowledge and research, since it allows the estimation of the impacts and costs of the activities of the construction sector that they need to consider in their theses. However, there was no training offer that could meet this demand. For that reason, the candidate organized in 2016 the 1st pilot course in “LCA of Construction”, with the participation of 6 trainees,

in the classrooms of DECivil. This course, organised and participated in a voluntary basis by the candidate and the trainees, respectively, was mainly taught by the candidate as the responsible Professor, complemented by expert presentations from Eng. Ana Silva and Eng. Vera Durão, the latter being also a trainee of this course. This course had a total of 20 hours of theoretical-practical training. This innovative techno-scientific knowledge was integrated for the first time in a course in Portugal. To answer the continuous demand, and given the success of the 1st edition, two more pilot editions of this course were organised by the candidate:

  • in 2018, with the same duration and with the participation of 14 trainees, also in the classrooms of DECivil. The expert presentations were made by Eng. Vera Durão, Eng. Martha Demertzi (trainee of this course) and Eng. Rawaz Kurda (trainee of the 1st edition);
  • in 2020, with the same duration but totally online, and with the participation of 10 trainees. The expert presentations were made by Eng. Vera Durão and Eng. Rawaz Kurda, the latter live streaming from Iraq.

Results Achieved

The aim of the organisation of the referred pilot courses was to:

  1. train the maximum possible number of students and researchers from DECivil in-terested in this innovative techno-scientific area;
  2. test the syllabus, the structure and the evaluation methods, foreseeing:

2.1.      its integration in the 2nd and 3rd cycles of study of the DECivil offer;

2.2.      and its proposal as an advanced training course organised within FUNDEC/Técnico+.

30 trainees, with different backgrounds and including five non-Portuguese speaking students, participated in the three editions of this pilot course. Regarding objective 1, it was possible to test the knowledge that they acquired via an homework and three practical assignments that were developed by the students in groups of two, or individually, and corrected by the candidate. Moreover, the trainees filled a survey by the end of each edition of the course to express their opinion about the:

  • syllabus, including suggestions for additional topics;
  • organisation, duration and level of detail of the lectures, of each module and of the course;
  • sufficiency of their background to follow the course;
  • support and feedback given by the candidate;
  • learning and teaching documents, including the presentations used in the lectures and the references suggested;
  • duration and difficulty of the autonomous work required to follow and complete the course;
  • difficulty, extension and scope of the practical assignments.

The answers confirmed that the course satisfactorily answered most of the expectations and the learning need of the trainees.

The experience of the candidate on teaching this course, along with the answers to the referred survey, allowed to accomplish objective 2. In fact, from the 1st to the 2nd edition, and from the 2nd to the 3rd one, some changes were made to the syllabus, to the structure and to the evaluation methods, in order to improve the course and following the lessons learned from the previous editions.

Objective 2.1 was accomplished by the integration of modules taught by the candidate, dedicated to “LCA of Construction”, and with:

  • 14 hours, in a new elective course on “Construction Life Cycle” in the new MSc in Civil Engineering at IST from the academic year of 2021/22, in the 2nd quarter of the 2nd year of the Construction’s specialization area;
  • 6 hours, in the course “Advanced Topics in Construction” of the PhD Course in Civil Engineering of DECivil of IST in the 2nd semester of the 2020/21 academic year.

Finally, and to accomplish objective 2.2, the candidate is preparing a proposal of an advanced training course in “LCA of Construction” to be organised within FUNDEC/Técnico+.

These 3 pilot courses were also a major contribution to the creation and development of the research group that the candidate coordinates (PositiveCyclegroup@CERIS), as well as a benefit to teaching innovation and quality.

Evaluation and Monitoring

One of the main contributions of the 30 trainees for these pilot courses corresponded to the opinions and suggestions that they provided in the survey distributed by the candidate, as referred in the previous section. That practice permitted the evaluation of the syllabus, structure and evaluation methods of each pilot course and the identification of potential improvement measures in the following edition. Based on that, and on the experience of the candidate on teaching this course, one of the changes that he decided to implement from the 2nd edition corresponded to a project-based learning approach, side-by-side with other active learning techniques and in line with IST recommendations ( – In Portuguese), being the lectures directed from the beginning to introduce LCA principles and procedures using a dedicated software that was bought by the research centre of the candidate, after recognising the importance and emergence of this research area. This approach is particularly suitable for an elective course like this one, in which the number of enrolled students is not expected to be very high. This permits a close interaction between the Professor and the students, with a better monitoring of their learning process.

These pilot courses offered therefore the opportunity for continuous improvement and fine-tuning of the course contents, organisation, and grading system, with active participation and recommendations by the students via final surveys. The methods of teaching and evaluation of this course were established in an articulated way in order to fulfil the goals set for this course.

A teaching and learning support document and supporting presentations (379 slides) for the classes were prepared in English by the candidate. He also prepared reference tables and schemes to distribute to the students, and schemes and detailed instructions to support the development of group assignments.

All course materials are already prepared for in person, remote or hybrid (with some students in the classroom and the remaining ones attending via a web-conference platform, e.g., zoom) modes, thus negating any limitations.

Innovative Character and Transferability

The area of this proposal in an emergent training area in which international reference Universities have increasingly created dedicated minors or courses. Moreover, the contents of this course can fulfil the training needs of students from seven MSc, and related PhD programmes, at IST, thus representing an important learning complement for a relevant and representative diversity of IST degrees. Regarding the existing offer of IST in related areas, there is a course on “Industrial Ecology” in the Mechanical and Environmental Engineering MScs, where LCA corresponds only to one out of five modules. Moreover, this course is not focused in the construction sector. In the Integrated MSc in Civil Engineering, there was a course on “Environmental and Sustainability Challenges in Engineering” in the 1st year of the 5-years degree. In line with the title, the content is significantly broad and introductory. In the same degree, there is also an elective course on “Built Environment and Impacts”, for the 5th-year students in the “Hydraulic and Water Resources” branch, but it does not include the LCA-related knowledge or applications.

This innovative techno-scientific knowledge was integrated for the first time in (pilot) courses in Portugal. The priority was to therefore to motivate autonomous working, but with immediate feedback from the candidate regarding the quality and correctness of the individual or group work developed by the students.

The three pilot courses that the candidate organised since 2016 with a similar title, scope and aim revealed the attractiveness of this knowledge area at national but also international level, and the feasibility of implementing a course with the syllabus, schedule and grading proposed. In fact, the first edition of the “Construction Life Cycle” course attracted 61% of Erasmus students.

These pilot courses were innovative not only due to their scope, but also because of the creation of a 10-minute interval in the middle of the 2-hour classes in which the candidate played a song related with the topics of the course in his computer and showed the corresponding lyrics in the screen. This practice fulfilled the expectations of the students, also permitting the simplification of some complex concepts.

The experience from the 3 pilot courses that allowed the accomplishment of the objectives described in this proposal can be replicated in other scientific areas following a similar process.

Social Innovation Lab (SILAB)

Monday, September 28th, 2020

Higher Education  2020

Ana Carvalho e Miguel Amaral (docentes DEG)

Practice Implementation

The Social Innovation Lab (SILAB) at IST was created to address current gaps in the educational system by focusing mainly on frugal innovation (do more with less) and social impact, aiming to solve problems experienced by vulnerable communities in the world. The SILAB involves makers, researchers and students from different backgrounds who develop their projects under supervision of professors and specialists and it encompasses: (i) a new educational model integrating an economic and human dimension of technology; (ii) a mobility program where students develop in-site solutions that potentiate the well-being of local communities; (iii) an international network of partners, and (iv) a physical laboratory where different stakeholders can interact and generate products that meet the needs of base-of-the-pyramid communities.

The planned activities involve (i) a summer school @ IST in partnership with Parul University, where Indian Students will come to IST to be part in lectures, teamwork, seminars, cultural activities and visits to organizations involved in social innovation/responsibility; (ii) a hackathon with national and international participants, focused on creating socially innovative solutions to worldwide problems; (iii) a competition for construction of recycled 3D printers, stimulating critical awareness to recycling and circular economy, while developing soft skills and motivating participants to causes and projects with social impact, (iv) a fundraising campaign for the Xavier Green School in India, aimed at selling drawings from indian students in order to reconstruct and refurbish the school’s computer lab, and (iv) a fundraising for the Zoya Rana Foundation, aimed at selling artwork made by Indian arts students who dream of advancing their careers. This foundation aims at supporting arts students and demistifying the prejudice against organ donation that is present in various (particularly religious) communities in India.

Results Achieved

The SILAB has been implementing the new educational model, throughout the past three years, through the development of socially innovative projects in curricular courses.

In the Industrial Engineering and Environment course, students have been assessed solely through a semester-long project, consisting of improving senior mobility. All together, 22 projects have been presented. One of these is DETU, a platform that helps senior mobility in public transportation, which won the Impact Category award on Grace Academy – an world-wide annual prize for students that present the best projects on Corporate Social Responsibility. Additionally, to validate the DETU platform, the SILAB invited a group of senior citizens to not only test the prototype but also visit the IST – Alameda campus, namely the Civil Engineering Museum and the Institute for Systems and Robotics at IST. The success of the event demonstrated the importance of integrating the community with univerisities and students by promoting an interchange of information and experience that is beneficial for society. Other projects involved bracelets that give information of traffic lights through sensors, in order to give them more time to cross streets or a service that provides monthly physical exercises that seniors can do at home to keep fit.

On the other hand, in the Technology Based Entrepreneurship course, students from different nationalities and backgrounds (Industrial Engineering and Management, Electronics Engineering, Computer Science and Engineering) were involved also in a semester-long project but addressing the topic “Social Innovation: Developing goods/services to address the needs of vulnerable individuals and communities in the world”. Students tackled challenges coming from different regions in India. Throughout the process students had the chance to learn about a completely different context, benefit from external mentoring from five different Indian universities, and develop solutions for real complex problems within specific communities with the potential of generating social impact. Students were involved in the E.Awards event at IST and one team won an honorable award (500€). This team developed E-MITRA, an app for illiterate farmers that facilitates the participation in public supporting schemes. At the end of the semester, students were given the opportunity to travel to India to attend a Summer School and to implement, hands-on, what they had been working on. This accomplishment served as validation of the SILAB model and good practice to be replicated, namely the involvement of students in challenges with social impact over a semester (or more) and the mobility of students to validate and implement these concepts in loco. Additionally, these types of projects enhance, among other things, soft skills, learning-by-doing, project-based learning, networking at an international level and real social impact through interventions with vulnerable people and communities.

Evaluation and Monitoring

The SILAB operational model encompasses evaluation and monitoring processes and activities. There is an internal evaluation and follow-up process, developed continuously by SILAB’s stakelholders (teachers, students, researchers, companies, NGOs) and also an external validation by end-users involved in the various projects and external entities (acting as observers, not directly involved in the projects). Accordingly, the SILAB circulates all the information on the outputs among its network and schedules follow up meetings every 2 month swith internal partners and every 4 months with external partners. KPIs include: the number of projects undertaken, number of events organized, number of student mobility programmes occurred, number of new partners, number of members involved in each project, number of individuals / communities served. More than the frequency and quantitative appraisal of all these activities, there is considerable effort in evaluating their social impact (from a more qualitative standpoint). The SILAB organizes an annual meeting with all partners to present and discuss the KPIs and to discuss current and future strategies..

Inovativ Character and Transferability

Engineering Schools have been enabling students to develop the skills needed to identify technology-based business opportunities and implement them within new and established organizations. Many of these technologies bring new ideas that meet social needs, create social relationships and form new collaborations – social innovations. However, these specific social challenges are still not being explicitly included at the core of many engineering courses curricula and, in general, on educational strategies at engineering schools globally.

The SILAB discusses the importance of Higher Education Institutions (HEI) connecting engineering with social impact; and uses SILAB as an innovative case-study to show how it can be done. The SILAB is a pilot for a new educational model that can be successfully implemented by other HEI. The innovative character of SILAB is the fact that it constitutes an integrating model of several activities that already exist in several universities in the world, but which are traditionally separatel, namely: (i) in the classroom (Curricular Units – CU); (ii) outside the classroom (in the laboratory, at IST events); and (iii) outside the university and the country (in fieldwork and interaction with local and international partners). This integrating model implicitly observes several dimensions: CUs, IST, and HEI (the way in which engineering can be taught), which can boost strong international networks at an individual and institutional level (as it is already occurring with the SILAB).

In terms of transferability, one of the objectives is to serve as a pilot and source of good practices for establishing a network of SI Labs at both national and international level. The creation of more labs can function as a decentralized network and become a world-wide grid of students, professors, universities, companies, and social enterprises promoting solutions towards the well-being of the population in the world. This goal requires that one keeps a mindset of “looking from the outside in” to guarantee systematization of the processes being implemented in order to validate and improve the model (which is what the SILAB has been doing). With regard of sustainability, SILAB has institutional support from IST, as well as from other national and international partners (Universities, companies, NGOs), moreover it relies on a frugal philosophy, which grants all the resources needed to fulfill the project’s mission and vision in the long run.