471802 A Framework for Considering Synergies Between Nature and Engineering from Process to Planetary Scales

Tuesday, November 15, 2016: 2:10 PM
Union Square 14 (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
Xinyu Liu, Tapajyoti Ghosh, Varsha Gopalakrishnan and Bhavik R. Bakshi, William G. Lowrie Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

Two major requirements for designing sustainable systems include considering all the systems through the entire life cycle to prevent the shifting of impacts to different scales; and to account for the role played by nature while making decisions in order to stay within the carrying capacity of ecosystems to prevent unintended harm or ecological degradation.

The recently developed Process-to-Planet (P2P) modeling framework [1,2] integrates fundamental engineering models and key processes in the upstream supply chain with macroeconomic systems. It improves upon conventional Sustainable Process Design (SPD) methods by incorporating the entire upstream life cycle while solving a process design problem, thus reducing the chances of shifting of environmental impacts across narrow system boundaries. The Techno-Ecological Synergy (TES) framework [3], on the other hand takes into account the carrying capacity of ecological systems by quantifying the demand and supply of ecosystem services, accounting for all the interactions between technological and ecological systems at multiple scales. Including ecosystems within the boundary of traditional engineering design decisions is expected to identify design solutions that aim to keep the impact of engineering activities within the regenerative capacity of ecosystems, depending on the scale of relevance of ecological systems. While the TES framework is the first of its kind to account for interactions between engineered systems and ecological systems, the framework lacks connections with life cycle models and while the P2P considers a comprehensive analysis boundary, it does not consider ecological systems at any scale.

This work introduces the methodology of “Process-to-Planet Techno-Ecological Synergy” (P2P-TES) for designing sustainable systems. The objective behind developing this framework is to make design decisions at the local scale by capturing the entire upstream life cycle boundary. The Structural Path Analysis algorithm (SPA) embedded within the P2P framework helps to distribute the processes or sectors in the system among the different scales. Inclusion of ecosystem services through TES within the P2P framework will expand the solution space and help to discover optimal solutions which enhance both the environmental and economic profitability of the system. In other words, P2P-TES framework is expected to provide “win-win” solutions to the process design problem compared to one where ecosystem services are not included. In addition, accounting for the imbalance between the demand and supply of ecosystem services will enable making design decisions that keep human activities within the carrying capacity of ecological systems. Ecosystem services that will be included in the framework are carbon sequestration, within the national boundary and air quality regulation service within a regional serviceshed.

P2P-TES framework will be applied to two separate case studies which present their own different set of challenges. Successful application to both of them will prove the robustness of the framework as well expose existent deficiencies.


[1] Hanes, Rebecca J., and Bhavik R. Bakshi. "Process to planet: A multiscale modeling framework toward sustainable engineering." AIChE Journal 61.10 (2015): 3332-3352.

[2] Hanes, Rebecca J., and Bhavik R. Bakshi. "Sustainable process design by the process to planet framework." AIChE Journal 61.10 (2015): 3320-3331.

[3] Bakshi, Bhavik R., Guy Ziv, and Michael D. Lepech. "Techno-ecological synergy: A framework for sustainable engineering." Environmental science & technology 49.3 (2015): 1752-1760.

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See more of this Session: Fundamentals of Sustainability Science and Engineering
See more of this Group/Topical: Environmental Division