In collaboration with the University of Plymouth, UK and UNEP/GRID-Geneva, Switzerland. With funding from the Academy of Medical Sciences (UK)

This conference aims to establish a transdisciplinary consortium to bring together researchers in multiple disciplines (engineering, materials science, business and public policy), practitioners (senior executives, owners, real estate developers, engineers, architects, project managers, sustainability managers, suppliers), NGOs (certifying bodies, sustainability consultants, industry associations) and policymakers (regulators, standards boards, incentive designers) so that we can devise solutions for the challenges and embrace opportunities involved in addressing the global sand crisis from the perspective of the international construction industry.

The United Nations published a comprehensive report on the crisis in 2019 and a follow-up set of recommendations in 2022. However, recent research published by our Northeastern University team found such information, as well as knowledge of sustainable sand substitutes, has largely failed to reach construction industry professionals in North America. Such lack of awareness may also be prevalent in other parts of the world.

The focus of the conference is to:

  • Identify the current status of the use of sand in key countries
  • Discuss challenges and potential solutions for the global sand crisis, focusing on the construction industry
  • Set the groundwork for creating a multi-country transdisciplinary consortium

Spots limited. Register by June 13, 2024. Please contact Professor Sheila M. Puffer with questions at

Tentative Agenda

Wednesday June 19th (invitation only)Description
6:30pmWelcome dinner for international delegates (invite-only)
VenueFive Horses Tavern
Thursday June 20th (REGISTER HERE) Description
Venue440 Egan Research Center, Northeastern University
8:15am – 9:00amRegistration and light breakfast
Welcome and Introduction to the Conference
9:00am – 9:10amWelcome by D'Amore McKim School of Business Dean David De Cremer
9:10am – 9:20amWelcome by College of Engineering Dean Gregory  Abowd
9:20am – 9:30amIntroduction by Dr. Sheila Puffer, Northeastern University, and Dr. Boksun Kim, University of Plymouth
SESSION 1: Keynote Address
9:30am – 10:30amThe Global Sand Crisis by Dr. Pascal Peduzzi, Director of UNEP/GRID-Geneva (UN Environmental Programme's Global Resource Information Database Geneva)
10:30am – 10:50amCoffee break
SESSION 2: Country Case Studies – Status and Awareness of the Sand Crisis, Barriers and Incentives to Sustainable Sand Substitutes
10:50am – 11:05amCanada and the USA by Dr. Adel Zadeh, Northeastern University, Toronto, Canada; Dr.Yunxin  Peng, Northeastern University, Boston; and Dr.Sheila Puffer, Northeastern University, Boston
11:05am – 11:20amIndia by Dr. Sandeep Chaudhary, Indian Institute of Technology, Indore, India
11:20am – 11:35amUnited Kingdom by Dr. Boksun Kim, Dr. Jonathan  Moizer, Dr. Minchul Sohn, and Dr. Stephen Childe, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK
11:35am – 11:50amChina by Dr. Yongqiang Li, Shenzhen University of Information Technology, Shenzhen, China
11:50am – 12:05pmKorea by Dr. Jae Hong Kim of Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, South Korea
12:05pm – 12:30pmQ&A Discussion
12:30pm – 1:00pmLunch and networking
1:00pm – 1:45pmCampus walking tour
SESSION 3Stakeholder Case Studies in Sustainable Innovation
2:00pm – 3:00pmPanelists from industry, government, and NGOs – Sublime Systems, others TBD
3:00 – 3:20pmQ&A Discussion
3:20pm – 3:30pmAfternoon break
SESSION 4Break-out Activities and Plenary
3:30pm – 4:30pmSustainable sand substitutes led by Dr.Yunxin Peng; stakeholder engagement led by Dr. Minchul Sohn
4:30pm – 4:50pmPlenary discussion of breakout sessions
4:50pm – 5:00pmSummary and close of the day
5:00pm – 6:30pmBreak
6:30pm – 8:30pmDinner for international delegates (by invitation only)
Venue TBD
Friday June 21st INVITATION ONLYDescription
Venue440 Egan Research Center, Northeastern University
8:30am – 9:00amLight breakfast
Session 5: Research Collaboration Opportunities 
9:00am – 9:20amReview of the previous day's activities
9:20am – 10:45amBreak-out sessions to explore research collaboration, future grant opportunities
10:45am -11:00amCoffee break
11:00am – 11:30amPlenary discussion of breakout sessions
Session 6: The Way Ahead and the Future of the Global Sand Observatory 
11:30am – 12:30pmPlenary discussion of building stakeholder relationships and the future of the Global Sand Observatory led by  Dr. Pascal Peduzzi
12:30pm – 1:00pmLunch
Session 7: Closing Keynote 
1:00pm – 1:30pmInvesting in Sustainable Materials and Innovations by Dr. Marlene Puffer, Chief Investment Officer, Alberta Investment Management Corporation  (AIMCo), Edmonton, Canada
1:30pm – 1:40pmClosing remarks
2:00pm – 4:30pmField trip to Sublime Systems, 28 Park Street, Somerville 02143
4:30pm – 6:00pmTour of ISEC and EXP Science and Engineering Buildings, Northeastern University; group activity in EXP Makerspace