Sustainability means utilizing environmental resources in an efficient way and reducing impact on the environment. It’s a concept that is becoming ever present at a time when climate change and renewable resources are at the forefront of political and news conversations. At Johnson College, sustainable principles are taught in almost all program areas. It is important to teach students how to minimize waste and utilize materials in a smart way. Two programs that have made great strides in the area of sustainability are Architectural Drafting and Design Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Technology.
“As the people that are primary users of materials, raw material into refined material, it is very important for us to think sustainably,” said Cole Goldstein, department chair of Advanced Manufacturing Technology. John DeAngelis, department chair of Architectural Drafting and Design Technology says that this topic isn’t just important to his field but it’s important to the world. Both of these programs bring green practices into the classroom.
Mr. DeAngelis established his sustainability course because he saw that designers were beginning to incorporate sustainable strategies into their designs. In the course, he focuses on the six guiding principles of green building, which are comfort, health, energy efficiency, resource efficiency, longevity, and environmental impact. Incorporating features like sunshades, solar panels or earth roofs might not always be practical or look traditional but thinking about the orientation of a building, windows and the inclusion of a retention pond for runoff all fall under sustainable practices that students need to consider when creating their own designs.
In Advanced Manufacturing Technology, recyclability and design are two of the major practices that are taught. “I try to push my students to work out as many kinks as they can on the computer in CAD (computer-assisted drafting) because in a virtual work space you aren’t using any materials,” Mr. Goldstein explained. Within the CAD program students can test the strengths of their designs with stress tests before 3D printing them. Once the parts are designed, students can print parts with less infill, the inside part of a 3D print, which saves material. Mr. Goldstein continued, “I stress to my students all the time that they need to think about how much material they’re using and why are they using it.” Johnson College uses biopolymers for 3D printing. These plastics like PET, a type of thermoplastic polymer resin, are made from vegetable starches and are both recyclable and biodegradable.
When it comes to building design, Mr. DeAngelis said, “Every building uses a little bit of sustainable practices.” Large companies like Geisinger, who are LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, are leading the way but a lot of smaller companies are also doing what they can to reduce their carbon footprint. Mr. DeAngelis thinks the idea of sustainability is slow to catch on because of how much it can cost upfront and many of the ideas are not entirely practical or traditional. He said, “People don’t want to put an earth roof on their house, it doesn’t look like what they’re used to.”
Advanced Manufacturing classes are project based, so Mr. Goldstein likes to share real world examples with his students. He said that companies like Volkswagen are using 3D printers in their factories now. “They are being sustainable about that process. It takes them less time, less material, and less cost to actually make add-ons to their tooling.” He also mentioned that Ford 3D prints sand molds for their engine block designs. Mr. Goldstein said that the practice of sustainability is only going to grow. He said, “We’re going to see a continued explosion. Sustainability in industry means cost savings.”
Mr. DeAngelis explained that future jobs in engineering, architecture and contracting will all be thinking about environmental laws because they will have to. “The idea that you can throw something away is not a real idea,” said Mr. DeAngelis, “It’s either in a landfill or some other place.” The process of getting a building site approved can take up to 2 years. All the environmental impact questions need to be answered before that. He says that graduates from the Architectural Drafting and Design Technology program will be involved with the environmental conversation and will be using sustainable practices with every project they do. “So they might not be putting an earth roof on a building but they will be answering questions about ‘why not’.” They will be able to make suggestions that benefit the client as well as our ecosystem.
“The sky’s the limit for our students,” Mr. Goldstein says, “We’re not teaching them how to make a certain part, we’re teaching them how to use certain skills to manufacture anything.” This makes Johnson College graduates more competitive in the field. “When students graduate from here with a two year degree and they understand processes that four year engineering students do – such as understanding how to use artificial intelligence to modify design, to make it lighter and stronger and use less materials, they’re more sought after by employers and industry as a whole.”