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Unit of study_

CIVL2010: Environmental Engineering

Semester 2, 2020 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

This unit introduces students to the role of civil engineers and the historical development of the profession, and relates this to the Code of Ethics - Engineers Australia; impact of engineering on the human and natural environment; energy consumption, resourcing and renewal, dealing with variability in climate; definitions and practice of sustainability; environmental assessment tools and life-cycle analyses. As graduates, students may expect to find themselves in a position which touches upon a wide variety of Engineering fields (including legal, institutional, and environmental considerations). In both small and large firms they could be acting as agents and managers of technology-driven change which has social and environmental impact. Engineering decision-making and problem-solving are made more complex by technical, economic, environmental, social and ethical constraints. The goals of this unit are to introduce students to major problems of environmental deterioration and engage students in active reflection on the role of civil engineers in addressing these issues; to develop the students skills at quantifying the impact of engineering decisions within the broader economic, environmental and socio-cultural contexts; to develop communication skills through participation in group discussions, video production and written report writing. Lectures, group discussions, case problems and projects are all used in teaching and learning in this unit of study.

Unit details and rules

Unit code CIVL2010
Academic unit Civil Engineering
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge

MATH1023 AND ENGG1801. Strong calculus knowledge from 1000 level MATH, as well as the ability to program in MATLAB. Basic understanding of structural mechanics (CIVL2201) is also an advantage.

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Benjy Marks,
Lecturer(s) Benjy Marks,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Climate Investigation
10% Week 04 n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO6 LO1 LO2 LO3
Assignment group assignment Pollution and you
20% Week 07 n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO4 LO5
Assignment Computing assignment
20% Week 10 n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO4 LO5
Assignment Major project
40% Week 12 n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Participation Tutorial participation
Tutorial participation mark
10% Weekly 12 x one hour tutorials
Outcomes assessed: LO3
group assignment = group assignment ?

Assessment summary

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100



75 - 84



65 - 74



50 - 64



0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction Lecture and tutorial (5 hr)  
Week 02 Climate change Lecture and tutorial (5 hr)  
Week 03 Climate change Lecture and tutorial (5 hr)  
Week 04 Pollution Lecture and tutorial (5 hr)  
Week 05 Pollution Lecture and tutorial (5 hr)  
Week 06 Pollution Lecture and tutorial (5 hr)  
Week 07 Pollution Lecture and tutorial (5 hr)  
Week 08 Energy Lecture and tutorial (5 hr)  
Week 09 Energy Lecture and tutorial (5 hr)  
Week 10 Energy Lecture and tutorial (5 hr)  
Week 11 Energy Lecture and tutorial (5 hr)  
Week 12 Energy Lecture and tutorial (5 hr)  

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

All readings for this unit can be accessed on the Library eReserve link available on Canvas.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. analyse the role civil engineers play in addressing global environmental problems such as climate change
  • LO2. interpret scholarly literature in the context of engineering practice
  • LO3. communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing, on technical topics
  • LO4. apply the 1st and 2nd laws of thermodynamics to environmental problems
  • LO5. calculate the spread of airborne pollution
  • LO6. examine anthropogenic climate change including its causes, impacts and implications.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

Alignment with Competency standards

Outcomes Competency standards
Engineers Australia Curriculum Performance Indicators - EAPI
3.4. An understanding of and commitment to ethical and professional responsibilities.
4.5. An ability to undertake problem solving, design and project work within a broad contextual framework accommodating social, cultural, ethical, legal, political, economic and environmental responsibilities as well as within the principles of sustainable development and health and safety imperatives.

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

The message below was sent out in response to USS feedback to students in 2019: Hi all, I would like to thank you for what I thought was a very enjoyable semester. From my perspective, many of you were really engaged with the content and produced fantastic work. I hope you felt the same! Here you will find attached a summary of the mark breakdown for the whole course, and also a summary of your USS responses, although not the written comments. In terms of the comments, I would like you to know how seriously we take it, and so I will try to summarise the main points that you raised and what changes will be implemented in 2020 that follow on from these comments. My main takeaways from your feedback were: The matlab assignment. We asked you to do the USS just after this assignment was due, and so there is (at least in my mind) a predominance of comments related to this question because of the timing. Over 90% of your comments related directly to this assessment task. Notwithstanding, I definitely take on board that many of you felt a bit adrift when working on this assignment, and that I was asking too much of your matlab skills. I understand your comments and would like you to know that I take them strongly on board. In 2020, there will be much greater support for specifically matlab-related issues (unrelated to understanding of the course material). I will endeavour to set up drop in tutors which are available in PNR so that students can just walk over and ask for matlab support in person during the week leading up to the assignment being due. At the same time, I strongly believe that this assignment allowed a significant number of you (I would say over 75%) to perform at an exceptionally high level in the final report, producing work that is both rigorously based on complex fundamental mathematics, and also directly relevant to a current engineering work. This isn't a small thing! I hope you are all proud of being able to produce such work - I am definitely proud of what many of you achieved. In terms of the rationale for the assessment, I hope that with a bit of reflection you can see how we were able to directly link the fundamental equations with a real world example by using MATLAB. It is something that would have been impossible to do without a sophisticated computer simulation. Alternatively, I could have asked you to do a few hand calculations during an in-class quiz (such as in 2018) or by a take home assignment (such as in 2017). The advantage of developing your programming skills, however, is that having solved the problem once, you could then go on to use it in a very real design situation (i.e. in your major project). This kind of problem solving using a computational approach is exactly what future employers are looking for in graduates (as we and others have found in a variety of surveys of employers recently), and is something that I urge you to continue to develop over the course of your degree. Unclear assessment criteria. Many of you commented that you didn't know what to do to be able to address the assessment criteria and earn the mark that you were targeting in the assessments. This issue is a bit of a double edged sword. In class we discussed the vagueness of the marking criteria on a few occasions, and I tried to make my rationale on this clear, but for those that were not there (most of you) I will try to make it clear here. In my opinion, which seems to diverge from many of yours, this vagueness was an intentional feature of the assessment design. I attempted to allow you to be creative in your choice of methods and structure in responding to a relatively open ended assessment. It is unfortunately impossible to be both exact in setting specific marking criteria and also allow for open ended work to be completed. Where I was vague, that was with the intention of allowing freedom on your part. This definitely translated into some excellent creative work from many of you, but appears to have also caused significant distress amongst many. Following your comments, I will in 2020 change the marking rubric to explicitly include creativity as a criteria. The idea is not to punish you for not reading the mind of the marker, but attempts to allow you creative freedom in how you address the problem. I hope that this will alleviate this issue. Feedback. Many of you indicated in question q6 below that the feedback you received was not helpful for your learning. There were only two written comments which delved a bit deeper into what exactly you were looking for in terms of feedback, but one was related to the timeliness of feedback, and the other to the lack of feedback given between assessments to help you gauge your progress. The timeliness I can definitely improve on, as assessment marking took an unnecessarily long time in 2019 - which is my fault and not your tutors. I will attempt to restructure the marking process in 2020 so that feedback is given more rapidly after each assessment. For the second part, of giving feedback outside of the assessments themselves, I am not sure exactly what to do on that front. If any of you have ideas, please feel free to email me or drop by my office to have a chat. I genuinely would like to hear from you. Tutorials. I received about a 50/50 split in comments on the usefulness of the tutorials. For about half of you, these were the highlight of the course. For the other half, they were of limited usefulness. From your comments, I gather that those who were attending the tutorials with the idea that the attendance would improve their performance in the assessment tasks were those that were disappointed with them. I understand this philosophy, and I see where you are coming from. I am, however, a bit unsure as to what I can do for each specific tutorial to try to improve this situation. I welcome any further comments you have on the topic, so please email me or drop in if you have any further opinions or specific improvements in mind. Finally, I would like to thank all of you again for an excellent semester. I wish you all the best of luck in the future and hope to see you around the university, If you're ever looking for a chat and a cup of tea to discuss your degree, your career or anything else, please drop by my office, I always try to be free (although in semester one I'm much freer!). Benjy


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