Telford Apprentices 2006 07 Why should civil engineers address the Sustainability Agenda?


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Telford Apprentices 2006 07 Why should civil engineers address the Sustainability Agenda?

  1. 1. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers Engineering Sustainability 160 March 2007 Issue ES1 Pages 4–10 doi: 10.1680/ensu.2007.160.1.4 Paper 2007269 Why civil engineers should address the sustainability agenda ICE’s ‘Telford Apprentices’ are 13 young engineers from around My generation of engineers lives with ancient and modern the UK. Here they discuss sustainability and the role of young engineered infrastructure—the basis of our civilisation. From engineers in advancing and delivering the sustainability the workings of our water/wastewater systems—analysed agenda. publicly when problems arise—to the recently built flat I lived in that was chilly in winter and baking in the summer, decisions made by yesterday’s designers and contractors continue to 1. Foreword: Quentin Leiper, President, ICE resonate with today’s owners and users. We are educated by these During his presidential year, Gordon Masterton introduced the good and bad decisions. This is why engineers must address the apprentice scheme to enable young engineers to gain a greater sustainability agenda. Our exposure to existing buildings and understanding of the workings of ICE and the role of the infrastructure means we cannot be ignorant of the effects of our President. This initiative was a great success and one I wish to decisions. continue. This year is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Telford and therefore I decided to name the 13 successful At the start of a project, good development policies and candidates ‘Telford Apprentices’. careful consideration of how the project will work in its surroundings will affect its environmental impact. The chosen The apprentices were all eager to get off to a flying start, so task materials and construction processes also make a huge one was set: what can young engineers do to best promote and difference to the environmental impact of construction. deliver the sustainability agenda? They each produced an However, sustainability goes beyond the current environmental excellent response and their work is published in this issue of credibility of a project. The three drivers of projects are cost, Engineering Sustainability. This is an excellent result and a real time and quality. Cost and time are important to us; they example of how well they work together. reflect our design skills and success at managing projects. A more critical assessment will reveal the success of a project It is my full expectation that, as well as other tasks (and they are in terms of sustainability. It may be a decade or more into the currently on number eight), they will produce further life of a project before its ability to meet the needs of future contributions for publication. Later on in the year, the apprentice owners/users becomes obvious. Sustainability is a quality programme will be going international, with prospective criteria felt not only at the beginning of a project, but throughout apprentices joining from Australia and New Zealand. its life cycle. I congratulate them for becoming the successful candidates and Infrastructure from previous eras demonstrates the resilience of thank them for the enthusiastic way they have taken up the good design. Some of our engineering forefathers, by chance or challenges set them and for their contributions to date during my (over)design have created sewers that are coping with our visits. They have already developed into a great team and I’m sure massively increased flows, bridges that carry not only pedestrians will do well in the future. Finally, my thanks go to their and horses but lorries their designers could not have imagined. companies for allowing them to participate in the programme. Adaptability and the ability to modify extends the useful life of a They have already made a valuable contribution and will structure, making it more sustainable. continue to do so. Engineers are too well informed to have a defence of ignorance. It is not good enough to add environmental 2. Trina de Silva, London region performance targets as an afterthought. As engineers, it is our Sustainability, a current buzz-word, is not a new idea. Roman-era duty to really make the difference, create the buildings that stay drains, unearthed during construction of buildings at the cool with less effort despite rising temperatures, take Guildhall, show a silt trap—evidence the designer was brave decisions on our energy and water supply thinking about how to extend the life of the drain and make concerns and ensure our transport network continues to it easier to maintain. I believe this is an example of service our needs without creating problems for future sustainable thinking. generations.4 Engineering Sustainability 160 Issue ES1 Why civil engineers should address the sustainability agenda
  2. 2. 3. A. Feretzakis, West of Scotland region carried out well? The influence of engineers of the past andIt is essential for civil engineers to understand the duty of their present has had wide-ranging social benefits in transportation,profession in the contexts of the environment and society, and in natural and physical security, safety, resource managementunderstanding this duty they must try to create changes in and heritage, all of which improve the quality of life. Thethought and action. This essential change can come through social benefits of these are immeasurable but need to bedesign and construction processes but in order to be successful considered together with the impact on the environment and theeveryone involved needs to support and promote sustainable economy.thinking. Civil engineers have the potential to address all three facets ofDesign sustainability is not an easy process as it must be applied sustainability. We are in a privileged position because our workin every design principle. Starting from the conception of the involves a wide range of positions and responsibilities. In thesedesign and moving to the location, the structural materials, the various roles our profession is currently attempting to createstructural methods and finally the possible demolition of the sustainable environmental, social and economic conditions forproject, design sustainability must be applied in many areas. On tomorrow. The biggest challenge is to ensure that we attain athe other hand sustainable construction must aim to use less balance. It is dangerous to focus on one element to the detrimentnatural materials and also less energy to decrease the amount of of the other two, as has often been the case in the past. As civilwaste and minimise the environmental pollution without engineers, we must harness our profession to develop ourcompromising the quality of the projects. imagination—shaping projects by addressing full sustainability. We must actively use that creativity to ensure that today’s needsSustainable thinking, planning and acting must be involved are met without compromising tomorrow’ civil engineering to minimise the environmental impactprojects have over their entire design life. Only through this 5. Katerina Fytopoulou, North east regionprocess, and by adopting sustainable thinking at every stage in aproject, can a set of principles to improve the quality of life be The built environment is inevitably influenced by socio-politicalcreated. context. Sustainability as a series of ideals is a concept grounded in the ethics of environmental responsibility.All the relevant elements that go into the design and construction The techniques and technologies of green design are nowof a project must be considered, making it a hard task, but we generally understood. What is still lacking is an architecturemust all try in order to succeed. Clearly, it is going to be a long profession which gives priority to ecological issues and aand difficult process before these principles are established, since construction industry which puts sustainability at the heart of itsall the information, the values and the resources available to both and construction teams develop constantly, but fromproject to project it will become easier. Evidence that global warming exists appears to be increasingly overwhelming. It features frequently in the media as well as inThe civil engineering profession has a unique opportunity to multi-million-dollar Hollywood productions. Climate science hascreate a progression of change that will improve and sustain the established the correlation between burning fossil fuels,environment and our planet in the long term. These are the very planetary warming and weather instability. However, otheractions that make civil engineering a unique and very important human activities are also accelerating the rise in globalprofession for our planet and for our lives. temperatures, such as the creation of landfill waste or the destruction of rainforests, often to supply the construction industry and despite regular protests from organisations like4. Doug Forbes, East of Scotland region Greenpeace. This all creates an uncomfortable reality for manyThe environmental dimension of sustainability is probably the species, whose habitats are threatened by sea-level rise,most frequently discussed, and is the aspect which receives the desertification and so on.most attention. As civil engineers we are responsible fordesigning, constructing, maintaining, operating and changing Additionally, a drift to cities by the human population putsboth the built and natural environment. Civil engineers have pressure on housing land, water and energy supplies, and sewagebeen involved in many projects that impact on the environment, and waste capacity. The year 2000 marked the first time in humanaffecting individuals and organisations, both today and in the history that the urban population exceeded the rural one. This notfuture. These projects account for a significant proportion of the only entails an intensification of urban problems (pollution,world’s resource usage and impact. As civil engineers we must space, crowding and resource stress), but urban living also raisesaccept responsibility for our actions. expectations of an enhanced lifestyle. The personal goals of air- conditioning, cars and energy-consuming gadgets of variousThe economic component of sustainability has been the main kinds require resources whose supplies seem increasingly finite.driver of projects. As civil engineers addressing the sustainability So we consume more, waste more and pollute more, a realityagenda we need to consider more than today alone. It is vital to which inevitably shifts the emphasis from simple choices (such asaccount for costs over a whole life cycle and the impact on energy) to complex ones (such as sustainability) and from afuture developments. These costs must be considered in tandem profit-driven agenda to an ethical one. Global warming is anwith the social consequences and environmental impacts. uncomfortable fact for politicians, designers and the constructionThe social aspect of sustainability is one that has only industry, even though acting in accordance with sustainabilityrecently come to the forefront, but has this not been part of principles nowadays is a defining characteristic of being athe civil engineer’s role for many years—one which has been professional. Engineering Sustainability 160 Issue ES1 Why civil engineers should address the sustainability agenda 5
  3. 3. One of the principal barriers to the wider adoption of more to our prosperity, our public services and our quality of life. sustainable design and construction solutions has been the As engineers we possess the ability to influence and perception that they incur substantial additional costs; too shape society and, as such, should be leading the sustainability high to justify their application in this competitive market. agenda. As a result there has been a lag in the application of more sustainable solutions that improve performance Engineers are well equipped to play a vital role in ensuring the beyond that required by regulations. Reaching the highest longevity of the planet, being at the forefront of all new standards of current practice does incur some cost premium, development and capable of creating innovative solutions in but recent research and successful ‘green’ projects around the consideration of the following key aspects. globe show that careful consideration of designs and specifications at an early design stage can minimise these cost premiums. 6.1. Design (a) Energy: carbon targets: on-site renewable energy sources. Often the most powerful and direct driver for addressing (b) Environmental issues: biodiversity, open space provision, sustainability is that the client, funder or planning authority has contaminated land, flood risk, drainage strategy. made it a key project requirement. For example (c) Materials: embodied environmental impact. (d) Transport: access to other modes of transport, reduce need (a) the Housing Corporation requires an EcoHomes to travel. ‘good’ rating on any scheme they fund or English (e) Water: maximise grey water reuse, water efficiency, Partnerships require partner developers to achieve a rainwater harvesting, sustainable urban drainage schemes minimum Building Research Establishment environmental (SUDS). assessment method (BREEAM)/EcoHomes ‘very good’ ( f ) Waste: reuse demolition waste, segregate for recycling, ICE rating demolition protocol. (b) public sector contractors should achieve a BREEAM ‘excellent’ rating for all new buildings and their proposals 6.2. Construction are often critically evaluated according to the extent to which they address sustainability issues (a) Waste: on-site waste management, separation for recycling, (c) local authorities become confident to adopt sustainability in ‘just in time’ site management. transportation and other civil engineering projects (e.g. (b) Environmental: minimise impact during construction. Newcastle City Council achieved a sustainable design and construction approach related to the award winning 6.3. Operation development works of Scottswood Road) (a) Access: car parking standards and restrictions. (d) many high-profile private developers and landowners are (b) Economic benefit: national/regional/local strategies. seeking higher standards of sustainability performance from (c) Energy: sustainability performance—BREEAM. their partners (d) Environment: noise management. (e) investors are becoming increasingly interested in (e) Social capital: safe streets, fear of crime, affordable housing, sustainability and are engaging with major property quality of public realm. industry partners to understand how they contribute to the ( f ) Water: SUDS, long term water management. wider sustainability agenda. In order to succeed in addressing the sustainability agenda, Engineers have always been pioneers in society; they have driven engineers need to have a broader understanding of issues which advances in development and made things happen. There is impact on development and communities if they are to make significant advantage to be gained from actively addressing the better places, where people want to live and work. This means sustainability agenda, by accepting the ethical responsibility and today’s engineer will have to be knowledgeable in different understanding the financial and programming implications of disciplines as outlined in the Egan review, Skills for Sustainable committing to sustainability issues. Communities1 that recognises the need for better training. We should be encouraging students to follow such an influential More initiatives should be created from governments, cultural career path and support universities to provide the characteristics education promoted and additional research funded to explore required. how change can be achieved effectively in the industry within the short amount of time we have available before it is too late for the A multi-discipline perspective is being promoted by the future of the planet.” Academy of Sustainable Communities (ASC) and for engineers to influence the sustainability agenda it is imperative to gain such an appreciation. In this respect, Thomas 6. Christopher Paul Jones, Yorkshire and Telford practiced as an architect and engineer, and was an early Humber region exponent of a multi-disciplinary professionl, well ahead of his It is without doubt that a profession which designs, builds and time. manages the built environment, underpinning aspects of civilised society, has a key role to play in environmental performance and In conclusion, engineers are well placed to devise and implement meeting the challenges of sustainability. In addition, the strategies for sustainable development and drive worldwide construction industry consumes resources on a massive scale to collaborative input from a wide range of stakeholders. We are all create the infrastructure which society craves and is essential custodians of the environment and have a collective6 Engineering Sustainability 160 Issue ES1 Why civil engineers should address the sustainability agenda
  4. 4. responsibility to ensure sustainability is achieved; but as Sustainability is every person’s responsibility and as engineersmembers of ICE our contribution is pivotal. we have the fundamental role of ensuring projects are intertwined with the reality of sustainability. In doing so we enable the sustainability agenda to be brought to the forefront of7. Ben Maltby, West Midlands region the design and delivery of all infrastructure projects in which we are involved. This needs to be from conception to implementationThe most vital elements of our economy and in fact much of the as the future of our planet depends on addressing the currentway we live our daily lives, are delivered by engineers, and in issues, ensuring that the sustainable agenda is approached andparticular it could be argued, civil engineers. Energy, power, that in all areas it is implemented. The construction industry iswater and travel are among many other vital services that the traditionally and by its very nature a high usage sector ofmodern world depends on. How can we best address these resources.elements, that are so key to our economic and natural survival,to provide them in a sustainable manner? In particular, As an engineer the first introduction to the concept ofwhy should it be the responsibility of civil engineers to sustainability was during civil engineering design. The conceptensure problems are tackled to a level not only to halt, but was simple; the sustainability agenda was to be included as anreverse, damage caused to our small and fragile planet integral part of the design process. As a concept sustainabilitythrough years of neglect stemming from ill-education? There was easy to define but when it came to the actual applicationis, of course, a short answer to the question posed in the to the project it became more difficult. In retrospect applicationoriginal specification for this article which would bring it to an of sustainability is more difficult than a definition.all too abrupt end. That answer is: ‘If we as civil engineers donot address the sustainability agenda, who else will?’ To put In achieving sustainable infrastructure we have the chance to useit into a simpler context, the question may be reformulated lessons learned over time from innovative high profileto: ‘Why should civil engineers design the first bridge, road, sustainable construction projects and to implement new andrailway or sewage system?’ Civil engineers have a vital role improved systems of construction to schemes in which we arein creating a world where there is no shortage of energy, involved. As engineers we have the opportunity to influencepollution is under control and unwanted climate change has been others by innovative and modern approaches to delivery ofreversed. projects and to forge the way ahead for other industries. This cannot be about appearing to fulfill the objectives, it must beThere is a grim reality that the economic risks of not dealing with a holistic approach for ideas to work and this will not happenthe environmental challenges faced by the modern world are overnight.unimaginable. As civil engineers struggle with some of theworld’s most pressing environmental problems, the general In the long term everyone is aware that adopting a more maturepublic must support their efforts by making sensible, informed and active approach to the sustainability agenda is really the onlychoices about personal lifestyle. sensible option. I do believe that it is essential that civil engineers address this issue as well. We are the designers and constructorsSomething must be done to make the world a better, less of the future infrastructure and as such have a greaterpolluting, place. The media will continue to argue, politicians will responsibility to the population and indeed the environment, butcontinue to set targets, protesters will continue to hold placards it is believed there is a bigger question to be posed to engineersand distribute leaflets, but ultimately civil engineers have the everywhere: ‘Why are we not?’skills and knowledge to provide practical solutions to the world’sgreatest environmental challenges. To do so is a ‘heroicchallenge’ which will take a blend of creativity from the greatest 9. Tim O’Brien, Wales regionartist, with the technical skill of the greatest mathematician. With The most efficient way of solving any problem, such as resourcemy early impressions of the civil engineering industry, it would use, is to tackle it at source. Engineers are in a unique position toappear as if there is an abundance of talent and skill waiting tackle sustainability as they have roles in both public and privateto meet the world’s problems ‘every step of the way’. sectors, being able to influence construction from conception to completion. As a profession we can use ICE to lobby and advise governments on sustainable development issues. Therefore our8. Patricia McElduff, Northern Ireland region position in society is a good reason why we should consider theWe are all witnesses and accomplices to the continual sustainability agenda.degradation of our local and global environment. Issues such asdeforestation, global warming, waste and rising sea levels are all Replacing and maintaining structures can be costly, and so it hastestimony to the fact. The management of sustainable been realised that a sustainable development would have in-builtconstruction must integrate the four dimensions: cost, time, longevity. A good example of longevity is Telford’s Menaiquality and the environment. There is a number of aspects suspension bridge, first built in 1829, which has so far lasted forinvolved in the area of sustainability. Each of which has local, nearly 200 years. Conversely the current average design life ofnational, international and global implications. In assessing the structures is around 50–100 years. We can do much to improvesustainability agenda many differing aspects of the project must the longevity of our designs and finished products by consideringbe addressed. In order to do this communication is required the ease with which buildings can be maintained or alteredbetween personnel, projects and companies to ensure the lessons alongside the quality of materials used. This should includelearned and the information gathered is passed on and used to weighing up the value of using materials that last longer againstaddress the issue of sustainability. those that require regular replacement, while considering the Engineering Sustainability 160 Issue ES1 Why civil engineers should address the sustainability agenda 7
  5. 5. embodied energy of the materials from a whole life (and against deterioration of the natural world. Businesses must replacement) perspective. acknowledge that they exist within the earth’s eco-system, and rely on it for their profits. Unlike politicians, companies’ boards Our work covers many aspects such as infrastructure, transport, and directors have an obligation to act in the best long-term power generation and general construction. With such a wide interests of their firm, which must include addressing issues breadth of working areas, civil engineers are in a key place to about how that business interacts with its surroundings. influence sustainability issues having both the opportunity and As engineers, with our ability to analyse problems from first the knowledge to make a difference. principles, we need to highlight both the long- and short-term consequences of solutions to our clients. We need to highlight the In addition to the embodied energy of buildings, civil engineers potential financial rewards for investing in a design that are in a position to influence overall design of buildings. minimises future impacts, in other words, that sustainability Buildings can be designed to be very energy efficient in use, far is essentially good business practice. more efficient than the present average. The BREEAM ratings are one example where engineers should lobby clients and architects Engineers operate using the ‘precautionary principle’—that is, to meet high standards and go further than simply installing you do not hope for the best, but plan for the worst. This simple ‘super’ insulation. Consistently combining low energy principle has been expanded into an entire area of study, known construction, with buildings that have low lifetime energy usage, as ‘risk management’, now a key part of every business’ strategy would be a major advance towards sustainable development and formation. is another reason why civil engineers should consider the sustainability agenda. For civil engineers, ‘planning for the worst’ means that we are forced to consider the long-term impacts of solutions to Finally, civil engineers should address the sustainability problems, and mitigate the negative consequences on the issue to raise their public profile. Currently the civil engineer environment that will simply require more costly work down the has a poor status in society, being misunderstood and line. Take climate change as an example: some people may unable to command high fees. It is the responsibility of all welcome the prospect of a Mediterranean climate in the UK, but civil engineers to promote the profession and educate the public not many will relish the thought of living and working in about the contribution that civil engineers make to modern buildings designed for northern Europe. society. Our ability to look at the bigger, long-term picture means that engineers are in an ideal position to ensure sustainability is 10. Katie Symons, East of England region debated properly, and show that embracing sustainability is When planning and building the London to Holyhead road, essential to risk management. Thomas Telford would have had to make many decisions about the route that would have required analysis of the short and long term consequences. As the route forms most of the A5 trunk road 11. Sally Walters, South west region still used today, he obviously considered the latter as important, It is hard to answer or address a question, when the answer seems if not more important, than the former. so obviously to be within the question itself. Why should engineers address the sustainability agenda? Surely the answer Engineers benefit from having the analytical skills to use when must simply be, because we are engineers. solving problems, as we are trained to understand the physical principles that drive everyday processes. Our designs are the There are many reasons for believing that simply being engineers result of a solid understanding of the problem, and deciding on means we should address sustainability; from the fundamental the most effective, efficient and suitable solution. Through this, basic reasons to being an engineer through to the ethical codes we have the ability to look at the long term consequences of a and rule of professional conduct that any member of ICE agrees solution or policy, rather than just the short term results. We are to abide by. trained to think: is the solution sustainable? Examining the basic qualities of engineers, we have a skill, ability Contrast this with politicians, the traditional policy makers. or what could even be described as a talent for working with By the nature of democracy, their time frames are short and problems and challenges to provide the solutions. Engineers irregular, with no guarantee of power, and therefore often think beyond the convention, achieving the innovative. responsibility, beyond the next election date. At our core, is the fascination with investigating problems and a strong desire to solve them. The sustainability agenda poses one Commercial activity provides the link between engineers and of the biggest challenges facing modern engineers, the necessity policy makers. As designers of technology or infrastructure, to balance the needs of a continually developing, fast-paced we contribute to, and influence our local, national and global world, with changing global conditions, while considering the economies, the drivers of government policies. The traditional needs of our future generations. These factors alone should surely business person’s view is that if pursuing a sustainable approach have any engineer eager to become involved. to business activity harms their commercial position, they are unlikely to adopt it unless forced to. Much of our world has developed, or is developing, at a rapid pace. Expectations of societies for better standards of living and Yet this ignores the environmental issues that need to be factored basic rights are continually growing, yet across the world our into mainstream business thinking, including how to mitigate climates are altering and land space is becoming more fiercely8 Engineering Sustainability 160 Issue ES1 Why civil engineers should address the sustainability agenda
  6. 6. competed for. The challenge is how to address all these needs for The engineering community and its associated policy makersnow and for our future. such as ICE should tackle the challenges of the sustainability agenda by enhancing their mechanisms and supporting theThere are social and ethical considerations and responsibilities training and education of engineers and investing in research andthat are part of being an engineer and why we should adopt innovation to aid their members who can make a difference tosustainability. We become engineers to solve problems and aid this global issue.the development of society. Part of a desire to become engineersis to utilise our skills to help others; this is also a value upon Once a well-educated industry is established, within markets thatwhich the Institution has developed and is permanently recorded environmental pressures such as global warming, investorwithin the rules of professional conduct. interest, competition for resources and legislation have grown, engineers can act to develop sustainable approaches andThe challenges that faced the great engineers such as Brunel technologies for their industry. Furthermore, engineers canand Telford are still the same challenges that face us today; educate both government and clients of the technologicalto meet the needs of a rapidly changing world with higher advances created and benefits in order to motivate them intoexpectations and daily demands. Engineers are now, just as devoting prominent precedence to sustainable development andthen, required to actively take hold of the challenge the business that governs its economy.with the same sense of pride, enthusiasm, commitment anddrive that saw Brunel and Telford become famous names In my opinion, engineers must act in a sustainable manner, as it isworldwide. they who, through providing the world with its modern requirements, can have the biggest influence upon how theseRather than the question being ‘why should engineers address the requirements are created and utilised. The ultimate aim must besustainability agenda?’ the question is surely ‘why would education, in order to develop a new generation of engineersengineers not address the sustainability agenda?’ within a sustainability-conscious industry that can develop and foster a new generation of living.12. Paula Farshim, South east England regionEngineers utilise vast amounts of energy and resources to create 13. James Wallace, North west regionwhat is required for the human race to live a 21st century On the 250th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Telford, we arelifestyle, and this makes the construction industry one of the reminded of his illustrious engineering legacy. In 1820, Telfordbiggest threats to the future security of our planet. What is worse designed and constructed an innovative iron bridge; one of theis the unavoidable realisation that everything engineers create earliest of its kind, carrying the West Coast Great North Road, tohas a finite life, therefore producing waste and compounding the span the main arterial link between North West England andproblem. Glasgow, the River Esk Bridge, known as ‘Metal Bridge’.The utilisation of resources and energy to create waste Telford considered and calculated not only the engineeringopposes the very basic rules of life, humanity and difficulties of the area, as the span at the River Esk is as wide assustainability. That is to say that even if the processes the Thames, but additionally, the huge tidal range of the Riverinvolved are necessary to provide for humans to live and Esk, which is over 5 m. He also assessed the socio-economicfunction, the end waste product is often more damaging than any needs of the region, in the middle of the UK’s industrialbenefit it may have given. revolution. Remarkably, the bridge lasted 95 years, before being replaced by Cumbria County Council in 1916, due to theThese simple facts portray the reasons why the work of engineers emergence of the automobile. This bridge is testimony to Telfordand their associated industries have a critical impact on the as a visionary of sustainability; he had comprehensively designedprinciples of sustainability. An engineer is responsible for the a project that would be sustainable in almost every, construction, maintenance and disposal of theinfrastructure required for today’s lifestyle. It is the duty of In his day, Telford recognised the importance of sustainabilityengineers to consider the concept carefully and aim to tackle the in engineering. In today’s world the importance ofassociated problems effectively and throughout the entire cycle. sustainability is becoming increasingly paramount, because ofAlthough the reasons behind the need for engineers to address issues ranging from carbon emissions, depleting natural energysuch issues is very simple, the challenge in making the resources, continuing pollution of the environment, tonecessary changes in order to ‘meet the needs of today changing socio-economic world markets. It is imperative that wewithout compromising those of tomorrow’ may not be so engineers exercise our influence on society to addressstraightforward. sustainability issues, while advancing engineering knowledge. We must build upon the foundations laid by engineers such asThat is why even following the simple realisation that the Telford. Telford had engineering foresight; he constructedresources of our planet are limited and fast diminishing, it has projects for the needs of future generations.been difficult to establish and action a global strategy toencourage sustainable approaches to life. In fact, within the Today, a modern Telford is challenged with the same engineeringconstruction industry itself much has been said about principles, but must take in hand the many advances inthe principles of sustainability, but it is only very knowledge and sustainability. Presently I am concerned withrecently that the industry has been actively contributing ensuring the new River Esk Bridge is sustainable in everytowards its aims. element. We engineers are working on environmental, Engineering Sustainability 160 Issue ES1 Why civil engineers should address the sustainability agenda 9
  7. 7. geomorphological and hydrological studies of the new bridge’s debate we have now reached a world consensus that many of the impact (which was not a concern for Telford, apart from the high technologies in use today are unsustainable. It would be futile tides!) to ensure that the integrated engineering solution to attempt to restrict the expansion of the world’s growing minimises the environmental impact on tomorrow’s economies in order to save the planet. Through the power of environment. We have adopted new techniques to reduce risk sustainable technology, however, we can mitigate the impact to health and safety and improve productivity, by for instance of this growth. launching the steel deck superstructure across the piers. The project must also be economically viable; the early contractor At the other end of the economic scale, underdeveloped involvement team is set up to deliver value for money on countries desperately need affordable and appropriate behalf of the Highways Agency, funded by government. engineering solutions. These will form the foundations In conclusion, if engineers don’t address the sustainability on which to build and sustain a steady economy, essential agenda today, we pay the price tomorrow. to meet the basic requirements of the world’s poorest citizens. Solutions appropriate to the local population are needed to meet the global objective for 14. Joseph Roberts, East Midlands region sustainable living. When broken down to its most basic meaning, life is about survival. Whichever civilisation one considers throughout time, As outlined in ICE’s strategy and action plan, 2002–2003, engineering solutions have shaped the way people survive. From the business case for sustainability needs to be clear sanitation to power to transport and shelter it has been the task of and credible to ensure it is always considered. civil engineers to use the tools of innovation and knowledge to Environmental management systems can help companies implement solutions making the task of survival achievable. to cut waste and reduce costs. Ideas such as the use of local suppliers to cut down on transport costs will also cut carbon In the late 1700s the solutions provided by Telford and his peers emissions. included vast networks of canals and roads. The newly connected corners of Britain kick-started and sustained the country’s Politicians, activists and film makers can continue to raise industrial revolution. awareness of the dangers of climate change and push the sustainability agenda but it is the engineering community The engineering world has moved on since the time of Telford but that will address it. It is therefore the responsibility of the fact that we are still reliant on solutions provided by these each individual engineer to keep up to date with current master builders should provide inspiration to all designers. Civil practice through continuous professional development in order engineering solutions will often be required to outlive the to provide the sustainable solutions which legislation should designer. In this time of economic prosperity we must also build insist upon. with the needs of the future firmly in mind. The answer to the question above is simple: because we have to. This does not mean that every building or infrastructure project Our task, as civil engineers, is to continually answer the question needs to last forever, but through whole life costing the solutions how can the construction industry address the sustainability engineers prescribe can achieve a design life that justifies agenda? construction and eventual disassembly. Wherever possible, solutions should be adoptable with maintenance issues designed in at conception. REFERENCE The booming economies of China and India are modern day 1. OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER . The Egan Review—Skills examples of man’s insatiable thirst for growth. After years of for Sustainable Communities. ODPM, London, 2004. What do you think? To comment on this paper, please email up to 500 words to the editor at Proceedings journals rely entirely on contributions sent in by civil engineers and related professionals, academics and students. Papers should be 2000–5000 words long, with adequate illustrations and references. Please visit for author guidelines and further details.10 Engineering Sustainability 160 Issue ES1 Why civil engineers should address the sustainability agenda