Watch: Two For A Few With Dr. Dipanjan Basu And Edoardo Zannoni

Increasing sustainability content in university curriculums and a better framework to measure infrastructure performance, are key ways to help geosynthetics positively impact the planet.

That’s according to Dr Dipanjan Basu, who spoke to IGS Secretary General Edoardo Zannoni for our Two For A Few interview series.

Edoardo stole a few moments to chat to Dr Basu at the recent 17th African Regional Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering in October 2019.

The conference was organized by the South African Institution of Civil Engineering’s Geotechnical Division, part of the International Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE). Dr Basu is Chair of ISSMGE’s technical committee on sustainability and geotechnical engineering.

Dr Basu, Associate Professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada, said: “We need to introduce sustainability in the curriculum of civil and geotechnical engineering for undergraduate and postgraduate courses. We also need to establish a robust sustainability assessment framework, which I don’t think exists right now in geotechnical practices.”

He continued: “Geotechnical engineering practices require knowledge of sustainability to a great extent because we use a lot of resources, we generate a lot of waste and emissions. Therefore, as geotechnical engineers working in a multidisciplinary framework, it is necessary we understand how sustainability affects our profession and how we affect the world in general from a sustainability point of view.”

During the three-day conference in Cape Town, South Africa, Dr Basu delivered a short course on ‘Sustainability in Geotechnical Engineering’, sharing the latest developments in this important area. His talk described the connection between sustainability and engineering, examples of principles in action including the re-use and recycle of materials, construction methods to reduce carbon footprint, and the use of geotechnics for renewable energy.

Edoardo asked the sustainability ambassador what barriers he had faced in trying to bring the issue to the fore.

Dr Basu acknowledged there was some skepticism amongst peers at the beginning, and even initial resistance during the formation of his technical committee, but over time likeminded advocates rallied to give this important issue prominence.

The geotechnical engineer admitted: “I also had doubts; is [sustainability in geosynthetics] important or is this a buzzword? I convinced myself there is value in understanding sustainability and connecting it to our practices.

“I feel more resonance among people.”

Edoardo asked how sustainability could become integral to course curriculums. Dr Basu explained how it worked at his institution.

“In Waterloo we have three geotechnical courses. In the third I can freely introduce sustainability because this course is about case studies, so it’s much more flexible. Sometimes I also offer independent study courses to graduate students. We look at what sustainability means, how it is connected to geotechnical engineering, and how we can use the different tools to quantify sustainability for geotechnical engineering,” he said.

Dr Basu welcomed the change in mindset which allowed a greater acceptance for sustainability teaching.

He said his research also contributed to improving understanding as it focused on renewable energy in geotechnics and developing a combined sustainability and resilience assessment framework for geotechnical engineering.

He added: “The impact will show up at some point in time. I’m quite optimistic about it.”

Dr Basu also quizzed Edoardo about what the IGS was doing to impact sustainable development.

Edoardo said it was IGS’s mission to continually develop this aspect, giving examples of replacing granular and related natural materials with geosynthetics, the role geosynthetics have in helping to preserve water reserves as barrier systems in ponds and lagoons, the containment of waste, and preventing erosion which is becoming an increasing challenge with climate change.

Dr Basu added that research from a life cycle assessment aspect of geosynthetics found them to be more environmentally-friendly than alternatives.

The video can be found below and on our YouTube Channel.

Watch: Two For a Few With Dr. J P Giroud and Dr. Nathalie Touze

The IGS Vice President made a rallying call for using the human touch to improve understanding of geosynthetics during an interview with industry pioneer Dr. J P Giroud.

Dr. Nathalie Touze gave the prestigious Giroud Lecture at the recent International Conference on Geosynthetics (ICG) in Seoul, Korea. Dr. Giroud called her talk “absolutely outstanding”.

In the interview, part of the Two For A Few series, Dr. Touze said the IGS had a vital role to play in raising awareness among all stakeholders.

“The IGS is a human society and we tend to forget that. People attach more importance to social connections and values. The IGS can show the way to many people. For example, in environmental justice, the IGS can show the way by bringing more environmental justice, sharing resources and information,” she said.

Titled ‘Healing the world: a geosynthetics solution’, Dr. Touze’s lecture, which she said was inspired by philosopher Frédéric Lenoir’s book La Guérison du Monde, suggested ways geosynthetics could improve the socio-economic, environmental and resource challenges faced by the modern world.

An example was the issue of pollution and environmental sustainability.

“Geosynthetics play an important role in the protection of the environment but in many countries the economic situation is not so good so the tendency is to reduce the budget for measures aimed at protecting the environment. There is a belief protecting the environment costs money but at the same time geosynthetics can protect the environment and save money on the projects. This is a very important statement,” Dr. Touze told Dr. Giroud.

“Pollution controls economic development is a wrong statement. Pollution prevention can yield large net gains. For example, reducing waste and the cost of imported materials. Using natural materials brings more sustainability to geosynthetics.”

But Dr. Giroud played Devil’s Advocate.

“There is a potential risk of pollution by geosynthetics themselves,” he said. “They have long durability, can be around for centuries and well beyond their service life. Is there a risk the public one day could consider geosynthetics are like plastics today, and undesirable?”

Dr. Touze said it was true geosynthetic materials contained additives and these could leak into the environment but their advantage was they were buried or inside works. However, she acknowledged more research and answers were needed.

“We should get out of our box and address the real questions. It’s time for action,” she said.

She added: “Teaching is repeating but repeating always the same message in the same way you do not always succeed. We need to multiply the way we communicate with people.

“The IGS can no longer work on its own. If we want people to appropriate knowledge we need the help of human and social sciences that would facilitate the appropriation of the knowledge. Get out of the box and be open to other disciplines.”

Dr. Giroud said: “You gave a special new dimension to our discipline by showing how geosynthetics can address the issues of our times. The human touch was the special touch of your lecture.”

Dr. Touze’s full paper will soon feature in Geosynthetics International.

A short video highlighting the main topics in Dr. Touze’s full lecture can be found here below and our YouTube Channel.

Dr. Robert Koerner presents results from a long-term geosynthetic aging and performance study

In April 2016 Dr. Robert Koerner of the Geosynthetic Institute (GSI) presented results from a long-term geosynthetic aging and performance study. The lecture, “Lifetime Predictions of Exposed Geotextiles and Geomembranes,” was delivered as a keynote address at GeoAmericas 2016, the 3rd Pan-American Conference on Geosynthetics (Miami). Dr. Russell Jones, President of the International Geosynthetics Society, sat down with Dr. Koerner during the conference to discuss the beneficial impact of the study. Watch the video interview.

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You can view the full webinar below or on Youtube by clicking here.