Global Sustainable Industrial Systems (GSIS)

GSIS examines the ecological impact of everything that keeps industrialized nations running.

Solar Power: Bill Hutzel, an associate professor in mechanical engineering technology, discusses solar power on top of Knoy Hall of Technology with undergraduates Darryl Carstensen, civil engineering, and Keith Gossman, electrical and computer engineering and political science.

Human industrial activities—the use of fossil energy, production of food, acquisition of raw materials, and the human transformation of about 25 percent of the earth’s land surface—have grown exponentially in only the past 50 years, and have global effects. By developing eco-friendly products, assessing and monitoring their environmental impact, and getting business plans to consider global ecological consequences, Purdue hopes the GSIS signature area will contribute to a secure and prosperous future.

“To begin addressing problems associated with coastal hypoxia, climate change, regional water scarcity, and allocation of finite resources, engineers must now incorporate ecological, social, legal, and economic constraints into their designs,” says Suresh Rao, the Lee A. Rieth Distinguished Professor of Environmental Engineering and the associate dean of engineering for Graduate Education and Interdisciplinary Programs. Conceptually, he says, a sustainable society must live off the interest of our global ecological trust fund while preserving our ecological capital. GSIS aims to transform this concept of sustainability into a systematic academic discipline.

GSIS takes an unflinching look at the cradle-to-grave-to-cradle ecological, social, political, and economic impacts of industrialization.

By integrating and overlapping the study of industrial systems with the study of natural and managed ecosystems, researchers will better understand and manage the flow of materials and energy for sustainable utilization of both renewable and nonrenewable resources.

There are three subareas within GSIS:

Water-powered Mower: Michael Thomas, an agricultural and biological engineering student, operates a water-powered, environmentally friendly lawn mower designed by a senior design group. Working under the direction of Gary Krutz, a professor in agricultural and biological engineering, the team benefited from much industry support.

  • Sustainable Product Design and Manufacturing Systems is directly concerned with developing eco-friendly products. One multidisciplinary group working in the Sustainable Systems Engineering Laboratory, for example, is looking for ways to significantly increase plastics-to-plastics recycling.
  • Ecosystems Monitoring, Modeling, and Assessment (EMMA) integrates ideas from the first subarea with engineered environments and managed ecosystems. Monitoring, assessment, modeling, and management are tasks fraught with considerable uncertainty and significant difficulties; EMMA adds a new set of constraints to engineering design, development, and processes.
  • Policy Architecture and Financial Engineering provides a critical link between the institutional control of governments and economic markets and the desired outcome of ecological sustainability.

The distribution of existing GSIS expertise and momentum in industrial engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, and agricultural and biological engineering is significant. On campus, there is a large interdisciplinary group of faculty with expertise in ecological science and engineering that spans engineering, natural, and social sciences. The engineering faculty within GSIS will work with other groups at Purdue to develop other signature areas to address related issues.