Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Elaway, Islam H.

Committee Member

Truax, Dennis D.

Committee Member

Martin, James L.

Committee Member

White, Thomas D.

Committee Member

Civil Engineering

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Civil Engineering

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


James Worth Bagley College of Engineering


Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering


Sustainability means providing for the necessities of today without endangering the necessities of tomorrow within the technical, environmental, economic, social/cultural, and individual contexts. The assessment tools available to study the sustainability of the built environment are limited in their approach and lacking in their content due to several reasons: (1) differences amongst the actors within the industry; (2) fragmentation as represented by lack of communication and understanding between the industry and those whom it serves; and (3) regionalism as represented by the disconnection between the construction projects and their host community systems. The narrow focus of the currently available assessment methods does not collectively address the technical, environmental, economic, social/cultural, and individual sustainability indicators as well various aspects of sustainability. To this end, this research develops three innovative system-based concepts to assess sustainability of civil infrastructure projects: (1) work, (2) nature, and (3) flow. The “work benchmark” defines the socio-behavioral relationships amongst the products and the actors of the built environment. It also attempts to delineate how the end-product is affected by how well the producers are connected to the product. The “nature benchmark” focuses on the effects of the built process on the environment through studying the interaction between the construction actors, their associated processes, and the end-products within their host systems. The “flow benchmark” identifies the overall system changes within the host systems and the effects of these changes on the natural environment and the socio-economic setting. For testing and evaluation of “nature” and “work” on five different types of civil infrastructure projects, the author utilized a three-step methodology comprising: (1) structured survey; (2) data collection; and (3) analysis. In order to avoid being unrepresentative of the industry, the author chose projects with different scopes representing a wide spectrum of construction projects. This process provided an improved understanding of the environmental, social, and economic effects of these projects from a systems perspective. For future work, the concept of “flow” will be further explored using macro-level system dynamics modeling, micro-level agent-based simulation, and multi-objective optimization to measure the overall system change.