Environmental Protection

Villanova Launches Sustainable Engineering Research Center

The new center of research will aim to bring concepts of sustainability within the study and practice of engineering to life.

Villanova's College of Engineering has launched a new center of research that brings concepts of sustainability within the study and practice of engineering to life. The new Villanova Center for the Advancement of Sustainability in Engineering (VCASE) will house multi-disciplinary research and teaching in a number of emerging areas and seeks to protect and restore the environment through the systems-based integration of sustainability principles into engineering solutions.

"In the 21st century, engineering innovations will be judged not only on how effectively they solve a particular problem, but also on the net impact they leave on the planet. The importance of working across disciplines to mitigate that impact, while respecting the complexity of our environment, cannot be overstated," says Dr. Robert Traver, professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of VCASE. Traver is also the director of the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership and recently served on the National Academy of Sciences panel tapped to review the White House Council on Environmental Quality's proposed revisions to federal principles and guidelines for water resources planning.

VCASE draws together faculty and students from the college's four academic departments (chemical, mechanical, electrical and computer, and civil and environmental), whose research efforts are organized into five main research focus areas:

  • Biomass resources and conversion technologies,
  • Alternative and renewable energy,
  • Environmental sustainability,
  • Infrastructure materials and transportation systems, and
  • Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership, which has promoted a partnership approach to sustainable stormwater management for more than 10 years

In addition to the college of engineering's laboratories, VCASE student and faculty researchers also leverage Villanova's campus infrastructure, which serves as a living laboratory for conducting real-world experimental studies. The on-campus research sites include: stormwater wetlands; bio-infiltration and bio-retention basins; bio-swale; green roof; geothermal wells; rain barrels; pervious concrete and porous asphalt; and solar panels.

Recent VCASE research initiatives include:

  • Continuing studies on the long-term performance of stormwater control measures funded through Pennsylvania's Growing Greener and 319 NonPoint Source Pollution program.
  • Converting wastewater byproducts such as fats, oils, and grease into renewable energy sources such as methane gas for the Philadelphia Water Department.
  • Design of extremely efficient micro-scale heat exchangers to keep electronics, such as computer chips, cool.
  • Three university studies into the science of bioretention funded by The Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology.
  • An exploration of how pervious concrete and porous asphalt – both alternatives to conventional paving materials – can reduce negative stormwater runoff effects.
  • An investigation of the long-term performance of mature stormwater abatement systems to determine how well they reduce the toxicity of stormwater runoff and how long these systems can properly remove contaminants before maintenance will be required for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In addition to conducting research, VCASE faculty researchers also host industry and community outreach activities, collaborate across Villanova's other colleges, and build partnerships with other universities, engineering firms, and manufacturing organizations. In addition, VCASE members also serve in a counseling capacity to Villanova's facilities management office as it stewards changes according to the campus master plan. A recent result of this partnership was the retro-fitting of Fedigan Hall, an 80-year-old residence hall, which now boasts green amenities such as geothermal wells, porous asphalt, rain barrels, and rain gardens, among other environmental upgrades.

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