The Scottsdale Waterfront project makes Brad Allenby see green.
Not green as in money. Allenby is not an investor dreaming of profit from the big downtown retail, residential and office space going up along the Arizona Canal.
The Arizona State University professor is a leading player in the newly launched Center for Sustainable Engineering. Its aim is to raise awareness about the need for "green engineering."
More than $2 million in initial funding from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is going to the effort that partners engineers at ASU, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the University of Texas.
Their mission is to push the field to think beyond bottomline economics and pay attention to the environmental and social impacts of the way everything from consumer products to urban development is designed and built.
That’s what has Allenby thinking about the Scottsdale Waterfront.
The project illustrates why green engineering is increasingly crucial, he said.
It reflects the trend — in the Valley and elsewhere — of rapid urbanization that is altering environments and demanding more resources such as water and energy.
Green engineering is about sustaining growth while protecting ecosystems, Allenby said.
Fellow ASU engineer John Crittenden said it will entail learning how to produce, consume and use things without creating waste in the process.
"We need to do with the man-made environment what the natural ecology does," he said. "In nature, everything is recycled. Matter that breaks down becomes useful in other ways in the ecological system."
Human societies must reuse the materials in buildings, electronics and other products, he said.
Achieving that, Crittenden said, will require engineering and technology that is guided by a social conscience, not just financial priorities.
Allenby said the center isn’t being founded on "fuzzy ideas" about promoting green lifestyles. It will seek practical solutions that meld economic and environmental progress.
The early focus will be on integrating green engineering into university curricula and boosting research in the field. Next the center will look to carry its message to business, industry and government.
Getting public leaders to face environmental challenges will be the ultimate measure of the center’s success, said Carnegie Mellon professor Cliff Davidson.
"Some people don’t like to hear about climate change and limited resources, and that these things mean it can’t be business as usual anymore," Davidson said."The longer that thinking continues, the longer we’re going to have problems."